We’re All Screwed Up, but We Can Be Happy
Redemption is not perfection. The redeemed must realize their imperfections. ~ John Piper
Originally posted in 2017
Tonight’s post is about two things redemption and acceptance. Perhaps however from a perspective from which you’re not used to thinking about these two things. You see tonight I want to talk about redeeming and accepting ourselves. Let’s face it folks, we’re all screwed up!
Admit it, I just did in front of the entire world-wide web, life is a complicated exercise. We were born to parents who had no manual, no guidebook, perhaps some family and friendly advice by people who themselves had or were in the process of screwing up their own children. I don’t necessary lay a lot of blame on parents. Very few of them screwed up their kids on purpose. For the most part it was their lack of understanding of who they were that led to the issues they created. If you’re a parent, give yourself a break right now, take a moment of peace. I promise you at some future holiday dinner their will be a discussion, an argument, or an explosion of emotion where you are blamed for ruining some aspect of one of your children’s lives. Buck up, you chose to have kids and it comes with the territory, you blamed your parents, they’re going to, or already have, blamed you.
You know what they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step. So you’re screwed up, suck it up buttercup, we all are screwed up as well. However what happens in life is that you have a decision to make. There is a very significant fork in the road and it leads to two places. The first fork leads to self-loathing, victimhood and unhappiness. The second fork leads to acceptance, redemption and eventually happiness. YOU get to make that choice no matter how screwed up you are right now.
We all had rough childhoods, sure there’s a degree here. Some of you were born into abject poverty, or drug addicted parents. Some of you were beaten or worse. Many of us dealt with psychological abuse, where we told we were no good, useless, less than. More of you than we would like to admit grew up having to be someone you were not. Some of you suffered because you weren’t allowed to have designer clothes or backpack in Europe for a gap year. Something I had to learn at one point was the degree of insult is not able to be compared between folks.
If you were beaten down physically or psychologically it doesn’t seem to be on the same level of someone who didn’t get to go skiing in Aspen with their friends. What matters is how it was received and felt. I know for those of us who had really hard times this is a difficult concept for us to accept. But we can’t invalidate what others went through just because we perceive our pain as worse or more valid, pain is pain my friends and its severity is in the eye of the beholder.
The real issue is how we dealt with our pain. My choice was denial and self-destruction. I spent my late teens tuning out and spiraling out of control. My tools of choice were drugs and alcohol, but many of you picked isolation, violence, crime, risky sexual behaviors. Some of you were truly savants who played across the whole spectrum of self-destruction. No matter what you believe in spiritually, if you went down these paths you feel like a sinner.
Now, you can take your past, the folks and things that screwed you up, your destructive behavior and you can wallow in it, become a victim and live an unhappy life. That’s a choice my friends and I know at this point a lot of people stopped reading. How dare you blame me for what was done to me, I’m not. I’m saying that in order to find happiness, if that is what you want, that you have to take responsibility for your life. You can my friend and you can be happy, it starts with forgiveness and acceptance.
Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart, not sure I could ever have said it better than that. To move forward you have to let go of the past and you can’t do that if you are constantly thinking about it, getting angry or sad. But how do you do that? First let me offer a resource, a really nice piece entitled, Letting Go of Past Hurts. It has some solid and straightforward advice. What I can talk about is what I have done to get where I am at this point in my life.
Right now, I want to go back to the quote I used at the top of this piece. Redemption is not perfection. The redeemed must recognize their imperfections. I would add and be ok with them. Perfection is a goal that won’t be attained it’s just a way for us to say succinctly, I want to move forward. My pain in my life was very much directed at my childhood. My relationship with my father was absolute and total shit. I grew up with a single mom who was trying her best, but little money, working full-time and raising two kids, well inevitably there were gaps. The neighborhood I grew up in was tough, I saw and experienced things I shouldn’t have, at least not at the ages I did. I got out of their as soon as I could at 18. But you bring your problems with you, as much as you want and may even be able to legitimately blame people and surroundings at the end of the day it’s in your head and heart where the real battle lies.
The anger and disappointment I carried with me is what allowed me to let myself slide into escapism and self-destruction. I hit rock bottom and made a conscious decision not to die, to do something better with my life. It was a momentous decision in my life but instant bliss did not follow. I curbed the symptoms but the underlying anger and disappointment remained undealt with for a long time. Through my late twenties and early thirties, even though I had what on the surface was a good life, I was dealing with extreme bouts of depression and wholly felt unsatisfied with myself. It took the dissolution of a relationship and nearly my mind as a result before I found a suitable outlet, my writing. It was through my writing that I found ways to express my anger, burn off the negative energy. At first what that did was level out the dips a bit, then it came to nearly eliminate them. Now, when I feel myself starting to dip I can almost always write my way out of sliding downward.
Creating the Ministry of Happiness helped as well, it provided an outlet to further explore the concept of happiness and practical ways to live happier. In many ways the culmination of that growth has been the last, absolute amazing year I’ve had. My path isn’t the only one my friends. But I think the general idea has to be the same for most of us trying to take that responsible fork in the road.
You have to admit and understand your pain and where your problems lay. Not just oh yeah I have problems, but understanding them. For me, anger at my father, difficulty being open with people (obviously that’s changed), having trouble trusting others.
You have to take responsibility for your own shit. You have to believe you are the one who is responsible for your happiness and commit to actively doing something about it.
You have to actually do something. It’s easy to think about all of this, acknowledge what has to happen then sit down on the couch and watch and episode of the Big Bang Theory. What are you actually doing to move forward.
You have to have patience. This all takes time, instantaneous bliss may exist but I’ve never seen it. This process is like yard work, you have to keep at it or it all can dissolve into chaos.
You have to forgive and accept yourself, hell ultimately you have to come to love yourself. You can dislike parts of yourself, I’m overweight, I need to lose another 20 pounds but that’s just part of me. You can dislike parts of yourself or your life but love who you are as a person, this is really important. You have to become your own best cheerleader and reduce the negative thoughts in your head.
Finally, you have to have fun. You have to enjoy life, find out what your passions are and engage in them as often as possible.
You can do this my friends and you have help. There are likely people who are around you who can help, if not, reach out, I’m here and I’m happy to help. The goal at the end of the day is for all of us to have happy days. ~ Rev Kane
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