Change Myself –
The older I get the less knowledge and wisdom I think I possess. They say the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is two-fold; fearing God and knowing you know nothing. As each year passes the second part seems to get easier.
There was a time when I believed I knew much. Not just about myself but also about others. I could perceive motives both inward and outward, judge with impunity, and thought myself better and more able to live a life pleasing to God and myself than most other people. Then, I began to grow up.
The word growing brings with it a sense of serenity but growing is painful. It is bursting through old barriers, going places that are uncomfortable and unknown, daring to die in order to live, braving the challenges and elements that surround you.
With growth comes the realization you cannot force others to change. You do not have that power. You cannot stop the world from spinning out of control. You don’t have that ability. You can’t even get past your own hurts, habits, and hangups most days. You, I, am a perfect example of imperfection.
Wisdom and knowledge. They are as different as night and day but compliment each other when embraced and allowed to exist mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact, please you.”
Born Again –
I desire to be born again, each day emerging from a blanket cocoon, different from the person I was yesterday. Each day we take steps toward who we will eventually be at the end of our lives. Some are making progress toward love, grace, kindness, and peace, others walk in another direction.
What we do today determines who we will be tomorrow. This is a truth I try to live by. What we put our minds to, invest our emotions in, allow our spirits to inhabit, shapes the person we’ll be tomorrow and in the future. We underestimate the “big” and “little” experiences we encounter each day. We dismiss character flaws, hidden hurts, negative habits, and other behaviors and attitudes that either place chains on our souls.
To emerge, new each day, takes work today. We choose where our path will go, not what our path will go through, but its destination. We can’t make our path easy or difficult but we can decide how we handle both. The decision isn’t on tomorrow’s agenda but today’s.
The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.
the Other –
Last night I was speaking to a group of men and we were discussing the needs men have to develop self-awareness. I told them; “Self-awareness is the ability to look into a mirror and see yourself for who you truly are, the good, the not so good, areas where you excel and places in you which need improving. The ability to know yourself is the first step in understanding what needs to be done to become the man you should be.”
Knowing, accepting and loving yourself is also the key to loving others. Unless we’ve learned to see ourselves; flaws, hang-ups, habits, hurts and love ourselves we will be incapable of truly loving others. Often times our shortcomings and failings cause us to judge ourselves more harshly than we’d ever do to others. We stew in our self-hatred and weaknesses. This corrupts us from the inside out and results in a distorted view of ourselves which bleeds over into the way we see the world and the people in it.
It is only when we accept who we are, all of who we are, and love what we like and don’t like can we be free of a soul that is bitter and barren. Released from the prison which contains our hearts we find that others, like us, are frail and broken. We recognize the same limitations and discover in each other the strength to travel the path of life together.
True Selves –
I listened to a speaker today talk of our “impostor selves.” He said these are the people we present to the world. They aren’t our true selves but the image we think others want us to be or what we want to appear to be. There are many problems with these impostor selves but the biggest one is they can never bring us peace. The reason is the impostor self is always changing, shifting, moving, playing catch-up, making excuses or apologizing for not meeting the expectations they have set for us.
To be our true selves is to be vulnerable and refuse to try to be all things to all people. It’s the acceptance that we aren’t perfect. There are more talented, better equipped, more able-bodied people and we’re okay with this truth. We have hurts, habits, and hangups. We let people down, don’t always do our best and are far weaker than most will ever believe, much less admit.
Allowing others to see us, the real us isn’t easy in a world which seems ready to tear down anyone who flashes signs of shortcomings and imperfections. However, most often the biggest critic isn’t found in our family, friends, or co-workers. Usually, the one we can’t please and have the hardest time outing the impostor to is ourselves.
The Cycle –
I thought of someone today, a person I haven’t thought about in a long while. It was a song that stoked images, feelings, pain and regret. It’s been years since we’ve laid eyes upon each other and both of us have moved on but it is amazing how quick hurts begin to ache, old wounds begin to bleed, prejudices come out of the dark. After the song was finished, the emotions faded too and the rest of the day was typical.
Wisdom teaches us that forgiveness isn’t a one-time act, a single recitation of a phrase. Forgiveness is an ongoing process that takes years, perhaps even a lifetime. Forgiving the other is to also recognize our own injured ego, the part of us that still longs for revenge or recompense. When we forgive, especially those who have grievously mistreated us is not just accepting and then letting go what was done to us but recognizing and releasing what were still holding on to.
This morning I had to pull up a part of the porch we’ve been working on. The problem was that a particular spot was weak. If you didn’t step in the particular place one would never notice the “give” but when you hit it just right there was no missing the lack of stability. I unscrewed the section of flooring and discovered there wasn’t cross beam to aid the support of this portion. So, I added a couple of two by fours, dropped the wood floor back in place, added a few extra screws and; “viola!” no more weak spot.
Reflecting on the weak spot I thought about the areas of weaknesses in our own lives. Sometimes the vulnerable places are well-known to us and those who care for us. These are hurts, habits, and hangups, which are easily visible and not difficult to find. Then there are those hidden areas that unless the precise place is touched, a name is mentioned, temptation beckons, fragility exposed, we give, perhaps even believe in, an image of strength and control.
Knowing and adding support for our vulnerable areas takes first a willingness to see the soft spots and allow others to view them as well. Then, in humbleness, we seek guidance in how best to make strong areas which are weak. Many times our frailties are revealed to us by others. Though we may be uncomfortable with others knowing our flaws, defects and shortcomings, many times it is the keen eye, and strong support of a friend, that helps put us on the road to true inner wisdom and strength.
No Matter How Slow –
My pickup truck was full and almost overflowing today on the way to the county dump. I drove slowly for fear of losing some of my load and hoped no one in a hurry came zooming up behind me. The nearest refuse and recycling center is only three miles from our house but it took an extra long time to get there. As I kept one eye on the road and the other on the junk in the bed of the truck I reflected on things in our life that we need to get rid of that slow us down on our journey of life.
There’s something about going to the dump that’s cathartic. As I kept one eye on the road and the other on the junk in the bed of the truck I reflected on things in our life that we need to get rid of that slow us down on our journey of life. The hurts, habits, hangups, shallowness, selfishness, sinfulness we all have and need to unload so we can navigate our way to grace, love, peace, kindness, acceptance and contentment. Our human drive for perfection tries to convince us that we get rid of the refuse as quickly as possible but most times it doesn’t work that way and we must carry parts of our load longer than we’d prefer.
When I arrived at the center the gates were closed and they were changing out the large canister where I needed to put my junk. I waited and waited for almost thirty minutes. Finally, the center reopened and I was able to unload. As I threw away the last of the unwanted stuff and hopped back in the truck it was a relief to not have to go so slow, worry about the extra stuff and made it home much faster.
Plato teaches; “never judge another’s progress, no matter how slowly.” I like this quote, especially on days when the going is slow, the delays are many and the junk keeps piling up.
My face has several areas of dry skin. I try to keep it moisturized but often, during the day, these areas become flaky again and need more lotion applied. To this end I keep moisturizer at home, work and in the truck. The last few weeks, however, when driving around, I’d notice a dry spot reach for and apply the lotion but after putting it back in the holder somehow there would be moisturizer on my pants, the steering wheel, cup holder, floor board and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Finally, yesterday, I noticed there was a crack in the bottom of the white lotion tube. I didn’t see it before because the lotion and the plastic are the same color. Once I spied it, the messes made sense. I grabbed some duct tape (one of the greatest inventions ever!) and fixed it.
Shaking my head and laughing at my confusion I wondered why I hadn’t seen the crack before. The simple answer was because I never looked for it. I just cleaned up the mess and kept going. I reflected on this and wondered how often we just keep cleaning up the messes that spill into our lives without ever checking to see to where they come from? We get so used to habits, hurts, hangups and learning how to live with them. What if, instead of cleaning the mess, we fixed the problem?
YouTube seems to be very random in what it recommends for me to watch. Sometimes its videos of practical jokes on unsuspecting people, then science facts; “that will blow my mind!”, life hacks to “make house cleaning fun!” (yeah right), and this video about Komodo Dragons hunting a Water Buffalo in Indonesia.
Last week at one of my addicted father groups we talked about the lure of drugs and alcohol. It’s always an interesting discussion with men who are coming to grips with the deadly hold this disease has on their lives. Some are still fighting acceptance. They don’t see their substance use as an addiction but more of a hindrance. “It’s just a little out of control. Once I’m clean it won’t be a problem.” They’re convinced the drinking and drug use isn’t a real threat and they can outrun it, out muscle it, out man it.
Other men in the group understand their addictions are stalking them, hunting them, never far behind them and waiting for a chance to strike. If the opportunity is there, defenses are relaxed, one strike is all that’s needed. Like the Komodo Dragon in the video, all it needs is an opportunity to inject the deadly venom.
While watching this tough, virile, powerful Water Buffalo and the sneaky, scheming, deceptively lethal slayer, I thought of all the dads I know who are doing their best to escape the deep hurts, deadly habits and persistent hangups that threaten them and the lives of their families.
I also thought about how easy it is for all of us to fall victim to things which don’t seem to be a real threat to our sanity and spirits. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re strong enough to handle all that life sends our way. We don’t need rest and recovery for our spirits, minds and bodies. We can bear the load of everyone and everything around us. Life will never get the best of us. We can escape the danger at anytime.
All the while the hunter stalks, biding it’s time, looking for an opening, waiting for a moment of weakness, whispering with forked tongue; “Everything’s okay. Nothing to worry about. No threat here. Just let me get a little closer.”