There is a time in everyone’s life when pain will occur. Most people experience the most pain in their lives when they’ve experienced some form of loss. Loss of a dream, loss of a loved one, even loss of expected outcomes can cause pain in each of us.
Now normally in Christian blog posts, this is where someone would begin to tell you, “What’s important is what you do with the pain.” Or they might say, “what’s important is how you respond to the pain.” I’ve even heard, “what’s important is not allowing the pain to affect you.” I’m not going to do that.
All too often in my life, people have tried to convince me to move past pain that I have yet to truly identify, understand, and own. In fact it has happened so much in my life, that even as I write this post, there are still times in my life where I struggle with owning my pain when it occurs. I still have moments where I take issue with understanding my pain. I still find myself having a hard time making the transition from feeling pain, to identifying why it’s there, and really embracing that this is the person I am. In that moment, I’m a person who is hurt.
Whether, my perception is that my hurt came from someone else, or I’ve grown to the point where I realize that I am in control of when, how, and whether another’s actions can hurt me… I am still hurt.
So what then do we do, when pain is knocking at the door of our lives? Where do we go, when the pain of losing something we thought was essential to our lives, beats its way into our hearts? We’ve all lost things before. Some of us, as my case was, have even lost ourselves. More appropriately, actually found ourselves. This finding of our real selves caused us to lose the façade we had been playing. The ideal self we portrayed to our family and friends, on facebook and twitter, and even in the mirror before bed at night, comes crumbling down and we are left with pain. The pain of realizing who you really are. The pain of losing who you thought you were. The pain of dealing with where you thought you SHOULD HAVE BEEN BY NOW, can be the most devastating feeling anyone can ever experience. And, all too many of us attempt to numb this pain without really dealing with its cause or its effects. I know I did.
This post hopefully can be of benefit to anyone who is going through, and has recently gone through a painful situation or circumstance. However, it is specifically intended for those who have come to the realization that they are not who they thought they were, or always wanted to be. A friend of mine has a saying, “You are no further in life, than you are today.” It’s a very, very sobering truth. No matter what you want for yourself in life, no matter what great hopes and dreams you have, no matter the destiny or “calling” on your life… you have only made it as far as you are today.
Yes you might have LOADS of greatness inside of you. But you’re only truly as great as you exemplify today. That goes for every day of your life too. (I know, not the happiest post, I’ve written). But it’s truth, and today, instead of tickling your senses, I want to truly, really, and honestly encourage you in your life. So, again the question raises, what do we do with ourselves when we realize, we aren’t who we thought we were. When we come to the reality that we are lovers of money, irresponsible, addicted to alcohol, lustful, angry, passive aggressive, or a failure in life, what do we do?
This could be you. It was me. I realized after an external loss, that I had lost much more internally. I had lost me. Then when I looked up, I found me. But not the me I wanted to see. I found a different me. This different version of Stefan was passive, fearful, careless, and unfocused. Although I had moments of happiness, I wasn’t happy. Although I had moments of triumph, I wasn’t victorious. I was simply existing in a world where I really wanted to LIVE.
Step 1. – Find the source
Before you can even BEGIN to deal with and move on from this pain, you have to find the source of the pain. What was it that caused you to feel this internal ache? The pain is only a reaction to a deeper cause. If you’re hurting because you’ve recently discovered you’re not who you thought you were, or not where you thought you should be in life by now, understand, that’s not the source. Your identification with reality didn’t cause the pain. The actual reason you’re feeling the pain, is a result of what you did to become this person you didn’t want to be. (I hope you’re still with me) All of the choices you made that created this “you” that you don’t recognize… those are the source of the pain. All of the decisions you made that didn’t line up with your “ideal self” are the origin of your pain.
It’s not the realization that hurts, it’s what you’ve realized, those actions, those intentional choices you made, those are what hurt you. But the thing is, they hurt you in very small doses over an extended period of time. That’s why you didn’t realize it at first. The bible puts it this way, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes spoil the vineyards…” the basic premise here is that it only takes a little, again and again over time, to mess something up terribly. That’s where we are, little choices, little decisions, big choices, and big decisions, all lead you to this place in your life right now. And if you’re not happy with what you see, it is because of those choices.
Step 2. – Understand your choice
The reason it aches so much in your heart right now, at this moment, is because you’re looking at all of those choices at once. See, once you come to the realization that you’re not where you want to be, or you’re not who you thought you were, you are forced to look back over your life. Then, instead of seeing one little fox and ignoring it, you’re looking back on your life, and you see an entire pack of foxes rushing toward you, to this moment in time right now. All your choices stare right back at you with the blank face. And you know what? That’s a very scary place to be!
When I saw my choices, I was petrified. I was so afraid, I could hardly make a move. Anything I tried to accomplish stalled, because all I could see where the foxes (choices) I made throughout my life. Those foxes got me to the place of nowhere, I was currently standing in.
Once you’ve found the source and identified, the choices (maybe not all of them) that you made that brought you to the place you’re currently in, you must then basically take inventory. Instead of ignoring those choices, we must face them. Even the ones we thought were genius at the time, but inevitably turned out horrible, we must look right in the eyes. And even if we weren’t the cause of the failure, the choice was still ours.
Many people don’t know that internally, whether you’re at fault for something going wrong or not, a part of you will blame yourself for it. Why? Because, deep inside you know, in the end, the choice was yours. It’s were we get the “if only” syndrome from. We kick ourselves, saying, “I should’ve never moved here”, “I should not have taken that job”, “If I only I never met them”. We see life and imagine what it could have been if we had made a different choice, then blame ourselves for the outcome, even if the outcome was out of our control.
We must face those choices. This can be painful. However, we can’t stop there. We must also, take a moment to understand our choices. This, I believe, is THE MOST CRUCIAL part of the process, and the one most people will ignore, forget, and just never get to. See it’s the understanding of our choices that allows grace to enter the equation. Another friend of mine always says, “The most important question is why, and it’s often the question people never ask.”
Why did you allow those foxes into your vineyard? Was it lack of strength, lack of intelligence, wishful thinking, ignorance, fear, laziness? There are a host of reasons you might have made whatever choices you made to get you where you are now, but we have to be honest with ourselves in understanding why we did what we did. We must come to a better understanding of ourselves. If we aren’t who we thought we were, and we’re not where we think we should be… then it’s time we took a moment to learn who we really are and where we actually stand. That’s the reason we must ask ourselves, why?
Why did I sleep with her? What need did it fill? Why did I waste that money? What area of my life did that satisfy? Why? Why? Why? Ask the questions. When you ask why, you can find out what area of your life that choice satisfied at the moment. You can find the areas where you’ve been empty in the past. Poor choices are often made to satisfy a perceived lack of some kind. Whether it’s a perceived lack of love, acceptance, justice, intelligence, passion, inspiration, or self-worth, most poor choices are reached to fill a need of some sort. What did you need then?
Doing this will help you to really understand who you currently are. I’ll say it again. Too many of us waste time trying to understand who we want to be, or trying to understand who we think we should be. Many of us never go on the quest of understanding the sweet, caring, lustful, passionate, fearful, ambitious, passive, victorious person we really are. There is beauty in that quest.
When we can understand that person, and not only understand but accept that person, that’s when we can really begin to move past the pain of the reality we currently face.
Step 3. – Own the pain
The last step, (that will eventually lead you to the first step of moving on) is to take ownership of this person. Once you’ve identified the choices, and taken measures to understand why you made those choices, then and only then, can you really own where you are in life. Unless you can see where you are, you’ll never see where you’re going…
This entire process will take time. In some cases it will take more time than you’re willing to spend. I know it has for me. But, in everything, I’ve found that until I own who I am, who I really am, I won’t ever become the person I want to be. If you’ve read my blog post “Who am I?” then you get what I’m saying. There is a person you’re meant to be in life, and then there is the person you are. But we all must accept the person we are, to become the person we are meant to be.
For instance, a child with autism, or dyslexia, must be diagnosed first. Then, measures must be put in place for this child to operate at their fullest potential. This often comes in the form of special teaching and tools used to make sure they can move forward in life. Above all else though, this child must have around them, a circle of loved ones who are patient and understanding. For those of us who don’t like how we see ourselves, it’s the same premise.
We must understand ourselves, understand our weaknesses, and understand exactly why we do what we’ve done (diagnosis). Then, we have to accept this person we see as truth. We must accept that this is who we really are. Even if we can find a hundred reasons why we are that way, we still are that way. It’s the whole “My name is John and I’m an alcoholic” idea. We must take ownership over ourselves and no longer allow those foxes from the past to determine our future.
Owning the pain is key. If you skip this essential part of the process, you’ll just find yourself looking back at foxes again sometime in the near future. For me this was the hardest part. In fact, I took a step too far (maybe a few steps). I began to embrace that person I didn’t like. I found myself saying, well if this is who I am, then this is who I’ll be . There is nothing I can do about it. That’s NOT TRUE! Please beware friends that you don’t take the road I took.
Don’t get stuck in understanding. You’ll find yourself making more excuses to being the person you don’t want to be. You’ll find yourself numbing the pain with all the same things that caused the pain in the first place. This is not a place you want to be. Not only will you stunt your progress, but you’ll increase the hurt, while you’re numbing the pain. It’s like taking a shot or a pill so that you won’t experience the pain of a broken leg, then immediately going running. You can’t feel the pain, but you’re causing much more hurt and damage to the leg, even though you feel fine. Trust me, eventually the numbing will wear off, and you’ll be worse off than before. Looking at more foxes, and having more to understand, and own.
Own this pain, then we can put measures in our lives that will lead us to become the person we’ve always seen ourselves as. Just like the autistic child, we can use tools, an understanding of our condition, and the people who love us, to help us move forward. And if you don’t think anyone loves you, I do. Email me. I’ll be here for you if nobody else will.