Where do you go when life shows it’s jagged edges, and impossible scenarios? Often times in the face of pain or fear, we look for the easy button. You know, the button that Staples has made famous. Just press that button and all the problems of life will fade away. Perhaps that button for you is alcohol, pornography, an unhealthy relationship, or isolation.
M. Scott Peck, in his best selling book The Road Less Traveled, outlines the core problem that all of humanity faces: “Life is difficult.” A simple phrase containing three words sums up life pretty well, but wreak havoc on countless people on a daily basis. While life will always be difficult, it doesn’t have to be unbearable.
We want an escape, a place to go when it seems that all hell is breaking loose in our lives. We want to go back to where life felt peaceful, serene, and calm. The problem is that when we escape to find this ‘better place’ we refuse to face the realities of life. And when we run from our problems, our fears and anxieties grow stronger and stronger which leads to more coping and medicating. The spiral gets darker and darker, until the bottom falls out.
The most difficult, but most promising, path from the difficulties in life is the path directly into the pain and fear. Most of the time, this feels counter-intuitive. We’re afraid of things, people, and situations for a reason, that’s why we run and medicate from them.
Remember Frodo from Lord of the Rings? No amount of man made strength could destroy the one ring. There was no place that they could hide the ring. Frodo and his companions had to take the ring back to where it was birthed … and to get there his journey was perilous.
For you and I, our journey is sometimes perilous. We have to walk the road back into our story, to relive, re-experience, and reenter some dark places. The road to freedom is through the valleys, deserts, and the very shadows of death. Like Frodo, we cannot go at it alone.
First and foremost; Hurt people, hurt people. You might have to say this aloud a couple of times to get the meaning, but those who are hurting will often hurt others. You have to deal with your own hurt before you can help others.
Secondly, you cannot change for others. Often times participants of our groups will only be there because a significant person in their life asked them to attend. While this is a good first step, inevitably this ends with disappointment because we cannot live others’ lives. We must value ourselves, our goodness, enough to make the change not only for the benefit of others but for our own benefit. Sometimes, this can be the hardest to address because most of us do not have a history of being valued and loved.
Thirdly, spend some time reconsidering what the golden rule really means. Treat others as you would treat yourself is quite possibly the only relational advice that any of us would ever need. The problem with this advice is that often times if we treated others the way we truly treat ourselves, we’d be without completely alone. Do you heap an abundance of condoning insults at your friends or family members when they mess up or do something that was ‘stupid’? Likely your answer is no. But when you mess up, you probably treat yourself in no similar fashion that you do with your friends.
Lastly, do not go about your journey alone. As the great philosopher Plato once said, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We are all wrestling, fighting, and struggling, and we don’t need to go about it alone.
New beginnings are here today, will you grab hold?