Wow… at the beginning of the Christmas season, if you’d asked me what I would be up to over the break, the last thing that would have sprung to mind would have been writing. Yet, here I am pounding away on my keyboard. I’m grateful for a comfortable laptop, a great cup of coffee, willing family and friends who challenge me in a good way, my fantastic and patient new dog and to God! I’m truly blessed.
I just finished writing an article about singleness, loneliness and choosing the right partner and because of some of the comments and emails I’ve received, I thought a follow up might be in order.
So… where to start? Well, I will start by sharing something with you. Anything you read by me is not fiction. It’s definitely from my perspective and understanding, but it’s truthful and factual as I understood it at the time. It’s about my personal experience and what I’ve learned as a result. I guess that statement is what I want to focus on in this article…. Growth.
Growth. What is it in the context of human development? Well… physically, we change shape. We’re dynamic structures (beings) that continually change throughout the course of our lifetime. There is a very interesting paradox in human development and that’s a separation between physical, mental and emotional development. Physically, we continue to grow until we’re roughly 24 years old when at that point, our cells begin to die off faster than our body produces them. Our skin becomes less elastic and we start the very slow process of decay. What’s still cool though is that we continue to grow, though eventually, it all comes to an end.
Mentally, if we’re lucky, that’s not necessarily the case. We can continue to grow in knowledge and ability to learn, but sadly in many of us, that too goes into a state of decline. This is not a paper on geriatric cognitive progression so I’ll shut up now. The point here is that our ability to think or learn is not necessarily tied to our physical growth cycle. I suppose another illustration of this is people who suffer from the various palsy afflictions. Their physical bodies do not function in a way where they have full mobility or control, but the mind of the individual is fully developed, capable and continues to grow in what we might call a “normal” manner.
It’s the emotional part I want to focus on. This part seems to somehow be separated from any sort of linear growth pattern. In the two former examples, growth is somewhat progressive and predictable, however, emotional growth seems to take on a life cycle and pattern of its own. That has certainly been the case in my experience. There have been many times in my life where I knew (intellectually) that a choice I was making was wrong, and yet, I still chose to engage in doing what I knew was wrong! That’s just bizarre… or it certainly occurs to me that way now!
Why didn’t I say no at the time? What compelled me to choose the wrong thing especially when I knew better? I will be honest and admit to you that I have the answer to that question now… or at least as it applies to me in my current understanding. My answer is that I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t open to learning that in order to make a choice, I had to understand where I stood in that choice and my motivations were selfish! I just wanted to make me feel good or better. In my circumstance, my motivation was the need for acceptance and validation. I just wanted to be accepted or wanted. I wanted people to like me. I needed validation in the form of praise and acceptance and that overrode my intelligence or ability to discern truth in the decision making process. My self-esteem and self-worth were completely skewed. I really didn’t value myself and so I sought that validation in the eyes and actions of others. The sad part though is that I became something of a door mat. I didn’t respect myself so why should anyone else respect me? I’m certain that a portion of what I received was out of sympathy. I can honestly tell you that when I actually received genuine acceptance and love from people, I became an endless emotional vacuum and sucked the validation out of that person to a point where they began to feel used, disrespected and disgusted by me. The best relationships I was able to engage in at that time were ones where people were just as emotionally screwed up as I was.
Now… before you think that I’m on a self-righteous high horse here, let me say this… I walk humbly in my life right now. I walk humbly because I’m broken in and from my life. You see, in order for me to recognize this behaviour in myself, I had to first acknowledge that what happened, happened. Then I had to learn to look at the truth in the situation and then to accept full responsibility for making the choice or choices that I did. I can’t blame God or anyone else in my life for the choices I made… I MADE THEM! I chose to ignore the truth and turn a blind eye to things that I saw but not to acknowledge. I have chosen to add God into this discussion because He plays an important… no, an essential role in this process. At least, He does in my value system. I guess the thing I needed to do was to finally be ready to listen to the truth that so many people had been subliminally trying to tell me for years. Once I did finally realize and accept the truth and recognize that what I do or how I do it isn’t nearly as important as what’s in my heart when I do changed the person I am today. That’s what’s changed who I am as a person, as a Son, a Brother, a Friend, as a potential Husband and as a Child of God. What I needed to know but didn’t was that what I choose do or say and what I base that choice on is what’s important. If I choose to make a decision, it needs to be based on some foundational principles that I can rely on. Here are a few:
Is it the truth?
Is it consistent with my values and goals (do I know them well)?
Is it consistent with my character?
Is it what God would want me to do?
Is it consistent with his character?
These are just 5 quick questions that you can ask yourself that may save you years of heartache and grief. Again, I mentioned God in my reflection set and why did I? God is my Heavenly Father and I know He absolutely has my best interest at heart and His character is absolutely consistent. To know that, I needed to have a relationship with God and the best way to do that was to read the Bible, to learn to pray to Him and to listen. It’s about being humble and that’s a very good thing. It took me years to figure that one out, but boy I’m glad I finally did. God fearing does not mean you need to be afraid of Him, but rather to respect Him for who He is. He is our Father who can see everything and who only wants the very best for us. That’s a topic for another day however. When I finally realized that in those 5 questions I could answer nearly any life question with a very high degree of confidence. I realized that I might not like some of the answers, but if I didn’t, that made me recognize that I needed to give the situation a much closer look! When I looked honestly at the answers to those questions, I very quickly knew if I needed to be cautious or if I had a green light in the situation. I don’t ignore the answers to those questions anymore and what’s more… I always ask the questions now. I didn’t before and I’ve paid some pretty serious consequences as a result.
I don’t usually make snap decisions, but I always try to challenge myself to do a quick situation review first and I always try to see the truth in every situation. Even if I don’t like the answer, especially if I don’t like the answer! The hardest part about living life is living in truth. It can also become the easiest! I’m not just talking about being honest, but really seeking to look at a situation and accept it for what it truly is. When you learn do that, you may not like the choices that remain for you, but in the long run, you’ll probably find yourself in a better and healthier situation. I lived in or believed in ignorance, half-truth or outright lies for many years and that’s why I find myself living the consequences of those choices now. I don’t mind so much though because of one very important thing. I now know the difference and I can’t blame anyone else for it and I’ve forgiven myself. I realized that I am just as in need of grace, forgiveness and understanding as anyone. We all need to learn and that’s just a part of life.
Don’t be afraid of the truth! It’s inescapable anyway. It will always catch up with you, so it’s better that we learn to live in it sooner rather than later. We can make all kinds of excuses, but if we’re honest, we always know the truth deep down. That’s where God comes in once again. He knows me inside and out. I can’t hide anything from Him because there is no place I can hide from Him. He sees everything and that’s become comforting to me. I know I can bring anything to Him and He’ll help me see the truth and what’s awesome is even better… He’ll love me no matter what! No condemnation, no berating, just love!
If any part of what I’ve written here is what you have experienced or are currently experiencing, please ask for help. Unless you’re an exceptionally strong person, it’s so hard to do on your own. If you don’t know anyone or have anyone to turn to, than ask me. I probably can’t help you directly, but I will try to help you to find some resources that may be able to. If nothing else, I can help you to know that you’re not alone and you’re not the only person going through what you are!
These are just some of the ways you can learn when or how to say no to a situation or when to just walk away. It’s not always easy, but it will probably wind up being the most loving thing you’ll do. Not just for yourself, but for the other person or people involved too.
Hang in there! Believe me, there’s freedom in life and it comes with living in truth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.