When our body heals from an injury, we are usually left with a scar. The body heals itself for the obvious reason of keeping us alive. The same is true for our psyche. It has an enormous capacity to heal itself under the right conditions and with a bit of motivation. The goal again being the survival of you, the organism. Yet true growth and in particular, spiritual growth does not allow your healing to simply be a selfish act. It is not healing for healings sake. The move towards wholeness does make a person feel better and healthier, but it doesn’t stop there. Moving through those scars, the potential to connect an empower those around us is nearly endless. However, before we have something to give to others, we must hone and develop it. We must develop a sense of who we are and deep connection within ourselves. We must recognize that our healing gives a sense of power. Not power to horde over another, but power to drive us to a sense of connection and empowerment, and it is in a desire for power where we begin today.
I have scars. A lot of them. I had the premature death of my mother, a childhood full of emotional and spiritual abuse, two failed marriages, and many other failures. At first description, I look like the great human train wreck, but through the lenses of grace, I have had priceless opportunities for growth that have shaped the man I have become. Early in my life, I grew up in a household that was peaceful and loving. My mother, though I remember little of her, made this so. Unfortunately, when I was 5 she became ill and she passed away right before my 8th birthday. My father remarried and my life transitioned into a time of physical and emotional abuse. At 8 years old, I was powerless to do much about my situation. I grew up on many occasions thinking that I was a bad person and that something was fundamentally wrong with me. The seeds of a shame that I would wrestle with throughout my life were planted. As with most children who find themselves in abusive situations, I took on much of the blame for what was happening to me. Although in hindsight, my actions were that of a child and the expectations exceeded what were appropriate for a child. I also learned another skill which I only recognized when I became older. I learned to read people. Not consciously, but more unconsciously as a way to spot moods and emotional climates. Many children raised in challenging environments develop this skill as a protection mechanism and I was no exception. As I grew older, I sought ways to have a sense of power in my seemingly powerless life. I played football because I thought it made me tough. I learned how to work. I discovered that through my physical strength and my work ethic that I could garner the respect of others. I joined the military because I thought it would turn me into a man and toughen me up. I even made the decision to become a chaplain because I was seeking out some type of power in my internally chaotic condition. Then, I began my clinical training at the age of 22. I encountered these enigmatic people at that time called CPE supervisors. They seemed to have this incredible ability to see through people and always know what you were thinking. Of course, participating in these groups with people like that and my personal history contributed to me continuing to feel powerless. I wanted what those supervisors had. After all, if I could read and understand people to that level, then no one could hurt me. So, I set out to achieve this goal for myself. Not because I felt the desire to be a good clinical supervisor, but because I wanted this extraordinary ability that all the supervisors seem to possess for my own self serving and self protective reasons. I didn’t realize at the time how much fear I was carrying around with me. It is no big surprise to me in hindsight that I failed miserably and had to withdraw from the program. Not only that, but I failed to successfully meet a certification committee…twice. I was not ready, however, at the time, I could only see it through the lens of shame and I almost gave up. My one saving grace was my work ethic and it pushed me. I was broken inside and so I got serious about therapy. I spent nearly 6 years in weekly therapy to work on healing myself. I became enormously self reflective. I continued my work as a chaplain and became a student of the human experience. My failures professionally pushed me forward and I realize in hindsight that if I had experienced the professional successes early on in my career that I would not have become near the clinician that I am today. My struggles drove me towards success and to the top of my field. Yet, I never lost sight of my interest in the human condition. Even while working on myself, my interest in other continued to grow. My empathy and my skill at using it expanded as I began to see myself in others and the conditions that others face within myself. I saw grief first hand when someone lost a loved one and gradually as I become more whole, I could tie that grief to my own experiences in order to be able to empathize with others to a whole new level. Then came the pain of my first wife leaving me. The feelings of this felt at the time like it might actually kill me. The abandonment from childhood rushed forward and I was flooded in residual emotions of the past whilst drowning in the fresh, bloody, and raw emotions of the current loss. Some days I coped well and on others sleep only came from the bottom of a bottle of vodka. During this time, I struggled to maintain my career, be a single parent, and to manage my own brokenness. I met a new woman, married a second time and subsequently divorced 7 months later. Once again, more pain to work through, heal from, or just drown with booze. I got on an exercise kick for awhile losing a lot of weight and looking pretty good. I was also feeling pretty good although the booze were never very far away in the background. Amazingly enough though, through all of this, I continued to work on myself. I woke up one day to realize that I could now do the same thing that those supervisors had been able to do all those years ago. I read people and I recognized and felt their emotions because I had recognized and felt my own. However, now, I feel the desire to use that skill and ability to assist others rather than having a sense of power or feeling the need to protect myself. Pain has been my greatest teacher in life. Isolation my greatest classroom. I have discovered the life is cyclical. Pain, challenge, pleasure, and joy are all intertwined. Too often we try to separate them, but in doing so, we miss out not he beauty of the moment and of our becoming. We can no more ignore the things we dislike about ourselves and remove those things than we can remove the inherent good that lies in all of us. I know that I have stuff that I am still working. This will be true until the day my heart ceases to beat, but I am okay with that. I am a work in progress. You are a work in progress. We all have stuff we are working on and we all have growing edges. Our growth is important for us, but it is equally important for the world around us. For the only way that we have something tangible to give back to the world is if we do the work to heal ourselves so we have something to give back. From a place of powerlessness we can grow to learn how to empower. Your life is God’s gift to you…struggles and all…Your healing process, how you manage things, and what you do with your life is your gift back to God, yourself, and everyone you come into contact with.-