“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are” – Norman Vincent Peale
As Indie Irie sang so beautifully and poignantly to every black girl and woman across the world that, “I Am Not My Hair” (click title to see video), I take a part of her message and apply those words to my post for today. Except I am not talking about hair, but I am speaking to everyone and anyone that has ever complied more than a few failures over the course of their life. Whether you choose to call it a bad decision, a mistake or simply being human, we can all agree it is usually something we can reflect on as a time in our lives that was embarrassing, difficult or challenging and the outcome(s) were not always favorable for us or someone we were close to. For some, erasing this from our complete existence would be preferable, but as we live and learn we come to understand that there is no lesson to be learned in that. We discover that avoidance does not support healing or rectify unresolved circumstances, no matter how many years have gone by. Avoidance only attempts to suppress emotions that will eventually find a way back to the surface of our lives, resulting in the return of pain and disappointment that we thought were gone, but they never really left at all. As we grow we also come to understand that “doing the work” is a critical piece in learning who we are and how our choices have affected others. We learn that growth is not simply symbolic of strength, but it is also having humility and the acceptance of responsibility, and becoming whole is not only recognizing where the broken pieces fit and how to put them back together again, but studying each piece until there is an understanding of each one and a measure of its worthiness and how it should fit into our new beginnings.
As we make decisions, we don’t always have the luxury of understanding or know how the outcome will play out. We may have hopes for the best, but life has a way of teaching us hard lessons that we aren’t prepared for. Whether we have intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone, life does go on and how we respond to that will indeed determine how we live, love and navigate throughout our world for the rest of our lives. Will those of us that have hurt others walk through life with the proverbial scarlet letter on our foreheads, feeling the shame of the past or do we break free, and celebrate the goodness that can lie before us? Again it’s all about doing the work that needs to be done. It’s not simply praying things away. It is facing the sin, owning what belongs to you and one day at a time working towards amending the wrong where and when you can. There is nothing weak about this, but society will certainly tell men this is a sign of weakness. And those that accept this as their truth will inevitably remain in darkness, missing some of the greatest moments you can experience as human beings, which is to authentically love and to be authentically loved in return for who you truly are, not who you will become.
We men struggle with this. We have been bred to not feel, to not cry and to not become vulnerable. We perpetuate these thoughts with our own sons. “Stop crying and quit acting like a girl”, are some of the things fathers tell their sons when they’re boys. I get it and have been guilty of it myself with my own son. We want them to be strong, tough and capable of leading their families, but unfortunately so many of us have missed the mark with what real strength and leadership looks like within a family structure. In some cases we have effectively stunted some of our son’s greatest potential to become a whole man who understand empathy, therefore they cannot connect with others in a meaningful way, they believe feelings are for the weak, therefore their true thoughts remain dormant and suppressed and since emotions are for girls, we resort to objectify women versus express how we really feel about them because that is what is cool and acceptable in society.
How does all this tie into mistakes you ask? Well, we all have to begin somewhere and I don’t know where your new start will begin or if you are truly ready for it to happen, but what I am aware of is your past can truly be your past the moment you decide to bury it yourself. A great friend once told me that our lives are like a song and a dance. What we have heard and listened to all of our lives will eventually play out in our later years. The question is once we begin to recognize that the (proverbial) music we’ve been listening to for our entire lives was a damaging song, therefore sending us the wrong messages, will we dare to take the courageous steps to rectify our (proverbial dance) actions no matter how jacked-up our lives have been? Will you take thoughtful and meaningful steps that defy your history as broken and hurt people? Will we own the real hurt that we inflicted on people we claimed to love with our whole hearts, but really didn’t because when we’re honest we realize that type of love was absent from our lives as well, therefore we were incapable of giving it to anyone, including ourselves? Will you have the courage to take the broken pieces and frame them as a part of you were, not as an act of pride or arrogance, but as an act of humility and a significant reminder of your former self? Will you believe that all things are possible as the Bible states, but you also recognize that all things are not a possibility until you take steps of faith that seem all together ludicrous and crazy to your surrounding world? Will you choose to in vision and embrace, that although those around you may never see the real potential, beauty and strength that lies within, you are not the sum of your failures. You are a perfect creation with some sharp edges that may have cut and hurt others, but now those same edges will carve out a new and better legacy for you and those around you simply because you choose to live for what lies ahead versus what was behind.
Obviously we all fall short, miss the mark or just plain blow it, but what we do after will establish the true definition of who we are or who we will become. As we look into the mirror of our past, it can either hurt us and remind us that we were once seemingly heartless people or we will prove to ourselves and others that we indeed have moved beyond a place of guilt and self persecution. It is hard work and will prove to be one of the most challenging things that you will ever do, but isn’t the reward of your true freedom worth the blood, sweat and tears. I say it is! As you still have breath in your lungs, the sum of you remains undetermined and no man, woman, boy or girl is capable of defining that for you.