Setbacks, obstacles and difficult (or ‘tricky’) situations are a part of life. Curveballs are always around the corner. If things have been smooth-sailing for a while, you can bet that there’s something around the corner coming to just add some unwanted “excitement” to your life. That’s one of the defining characteristics of life. However, as humans, we can never accept or get used to this. We are taken aback, shell-shocked and deeply disappointed when our curveballs reach us. It’s like we’re new to this life thing and we feel greatly offended that life would allow such things to be our portion. We blame God for sleeping on the job, overlooking us or willfully punishing us, undeservedly so. But in a fallen world, there can be no perfection. And if not you as the receiver of some of life’s lemons, then who?
How we conduct ourselves in these times matters. We can either throw hissy fits, sulk, curse God and choose to remain at that place in defiance because we want to show that we feel affronted and are somehow insisting that things must go the way we had wanted them to go, or, we can be mature, smart and humble, applying the appropriate set of lenses through which to view a situation. Either way, life goes on, with or without you. And many people have had things happen to them, from which they never recovered. Their minds and reasoning have become poisoned by that thing, such that they no longer see things as they truly are, and they are carrying baggage and transporting it into every situation they walk into, unaware of how deeply they’re continuing to damage themselves and those who happen to interact with them. I have been having conversations about the importance of healing. And although sometimes we speak of people’s issues and their brand of “crazy” jokingly, not being healed from stuff is a serious affliction, and it can be gravely detrimental to one’s being. It retards emotional growth and mental maturity. And this is not to diminish people’s very real and painful experiences. No. It is literally to highlight the fact that an unwillingness to strip oneself bare and self-examine the things that happened to you, the hows and whys, is to lock yourself into a perpetual tailspin. You are never going to rise. You are not going to grow, you will not gain much-needed perspective on life and people in general, and you rob yourself of the opportunity to create a consistently better life for yourself, day by day.
And such people then become masters of self-victimisation – the whole “woe is me” thing. And you become someone people feel sorry for at best, and find a huge nuisance at worst. Job did this too and even his friends were starting to get irritated with him. But what Job didn’t understand is that God, like life, is often unpredictable. And when it happens to us, ours is to look for the takeaway, and not become so hung up on the event or circumstance that comes our way. It’s not to moan about how unfair and wrong God (or life) is, and how undeserving we are of whatever may have befallen us. In as much as He is faithful according to His principles, when it comes to achieving His objectives in us, His ways are not our ways – and so He can employ any number of tactics to get our attention or lead us to the point He desires us to be at. And He will still be good and just. That’s why He’s God. He’s meant to be complex like that. So for us, it shouldn’t be about being hung up on what happened, but rather trying to get answers to the why it happened.
To be sure, the work of healing is hard – this is perhaps why many don’t embark on it. And when you are going through whatever it is you may be going through, you may rightly believe that you will never come out or be OK. So you stay there. And from a spiritual perspective, your response matters because God may be trying to do some work in you. Really important work. And I’ve said this on this blog before, but lessons that God really needs to teach you are always couched in trials and tribulations. We learn our lessons through experiencing some heart-rending stuff. Death, divorce, loss of employment, severe betrayal, or trying familial dynamics. Whatever tricky or hard life situation you can think of, this is where you will find your lessons. Sometimes, even waiting on God will bring about your lessons – cos you know God has been known to take His time. Yeah. In that case, He may be needing you to develop patience, trust, faith or hope. And these aren’t easy lessons to learn. Even the ability to rise to the occasion, so to speak, and not allow life happening to you to define or kill you (figuratively), is a lesson learned through allowing yourself to process life’s unpleasant occurrences. I applaud those that are on a journey of healing and growth. They have come to accept that life happened to them and they weren’t able to control those things (especially things that may have happened in childhood), but they have “manned up” or gotten their big girl panties on and decided to decipher, untangle themselves from trauma, and gain perspective for the future. No one is perfect, but to be a work in progress is something that your fellow mankind and your Maker Himself can acknowledge as a good thing and something to work with. Because God cannot work with recalcitrance. And human beings can only take so much of people with issues.
I think I have said that I am a deep thinker – I love to think. And for me, thinking is how I get myself out of binds. I think and I write. I try to be as thorough as possible about situations, and without that, I find that I may not get to the root of what something is, or what the big truths pertaining to it are. And granted, I often think myself to delirium, dissecting small things that someone said, their body language, trying to attach it to something or some aspect of that person that I know or am aware of, and also making room for the unknown, that I can even lose sight of the big picture; but then I always take myself to the core: to pick out, highlight and understand the golden threads in an issue. The golden threads are the lessons in that situation for me. And if it is that the lesson involves character or personality work that I must do, I am happy to recalibrate and do the necessary work to self-correct. I pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to help me, because some default responses, protection mechanisms, or ways of being are rooted in things of the deep psyche, and I know that I cannot just will myself better. Then I ask for God to show me the better response, the appropriate way of being and then (dum, dum), I ask Him to throw me into a situation where I can practice the new trait or characteristic I am trying to develop. And lo and behold, God is always on time with tests, LOL. He does not tarry. And to be sure, it takes me a while to learn the lesson. I hardly get something right on the first try. Some of my more recent lessons have taken me 1 year+ to “get” and master. Patience and faith (along with trust and hope) are my current portion. It may be that God allows me to sit in certain situations for as long as I need to, before I can say I have graduated that level. Because lessons are layered and complex, and when one comes along that you previously dealt with, it’s not that you didn’t pass it then, it’s that you need to learn a new and different aspect of it.
Many of us have had life happen to us. Things happened to us in our early adult years or childhood, the way we were raised, whether with no intention to do harm or with intention to harm, that left us damaged. ‘Tis what it is. And I accept that others are more resilient than others. But all of us, at some point in time, will be knocked down by life and have the wind taken out of our sails. I understand that we may be really KOed by the initial difficult experiences we have – we are young; we are dependent on others; we have yet to develop a balanced appreciation of how life works. We may grieve extensively and in that, wallow in self-pity, asking God “Why me?”, subsequently taking long to recover from those setbacks. We may not have developed tools of resilience and adapting when life goes pear-shaped. But after a couple hard knocks in life, one expects that we will be able to quickly adapt. Now quick is relative, so I am not going to prescribe here. Our growth is an individual journey and the author of our tests and life experiences is gracious and has all-wisdom to determine what is right for us, and also what consists “progress” along our journey. And you will too. You will know when you’re moving, even painfully, like a slug: when living through one day feels like not just torture, but a deeply distressing, heart-breaking, “going against the self”; when showing up feels like death itself because you just want everything to fade to black, to cease to exist, and you consequently cease to feel or think. Death, basically. But the point is, even in your deep grief and sorrow, the way that life is set up, you are expected to still move yourself forward, even if it’s 1 inch a week. And you may also move back, and forward, and back, but over a time continuum, the sum of those movements must be that you are moving/have moved forward and away from the point where that thing happened.
And we get so stuck because as I have said, we don’t believe that we deserve that lot in life. We hold ourselves in very high self-esteem, forgetting that we are but mere creations, susceptible to the vagaries of life and its author, especially in a fallen world. I was speaking with a friend about this and we zoned in on that feeling of being “played” (where a situation involves 2 or more people). We take so long to get out of our difficult experiences because 1) we are mad at God/life and 2) we feel so, so offended, affronted, disrespected and taken for a ride/fool by another person. That IS NOT a nice feeling. It sucks. It makes you second-guess your intelligence, life smarts and judgement and/or discernment. We then hold deep-seated grudges against those people, but we are really mad at ourselves; we are beating ourselves up for not having been wise to the scheme, or “smart” enough to see that thing coming. And the worst kind of (and deeply damaging) pain, whether you’re aware of it or not, is when you are angry at, disappointed in and cursing yourself out. You aren’t at peace with yourself; you talk harshly about yourself, to others and in the internal conversation that’s always on-going in the mind. But the gag is, in most instances, you were never meant to see the thing coming. It was destined – meant to be. You could not have avoided it. So take heart, and swallow this bitter pill that in life, things happen. In fact, in life, all manner of things are supposed to happen. You’re not special, so they won’t miss you, and nobody is picking on or driving some vendetta against you either, so it’s not necessarily unfair – we all go through it.
The other gag is, you are beating yourself up for being exactly what a decent human being is meant to be: loving, trusting, vulnerable, and kind. So someone played or betrayed you, let you down in deeply disappointing ways, or transgressed your personhood in unimaginable ways. Guess what? They’re the horrible or suspect human being here, not you. And we then build walls and take these traumas into our next relationships or social settings, and we’re quite frankly, unbearable. We allow those experiences to define and fundamentally change us, for the worse. We act in ways that then block happiness and joyful and better experiences from coming our way. In other words, we become our own worst enemies. Sometimes, growth is learning to separate your issues (monkeys) from the other person’s. Do not agree to wear and go around being burdened by someone else’s shit. I had to use this word for emphasis. Cos you got enough other doodoo that rightfully requires your emotional investment. Trust. And it is quite okay to walk away from that kind of encounter without being conflicted or feeling guilty about it. And it takes some level of awareness again, about how life works and things happen. It is simply your misfortune to have been collateral damage in a crazy person’s storyline, or it was going to be your portion – BUT, what is it that you were meant to take away from it? Everything teaches us something, and the lessons may be quite unrelated to the nature of the shitstorm or its merits. God is simply hijacking a scenario to teach you His own thing, and divert your path towards a better or different ending/understanding. Means to an end vibes. And so I can understand why some of us are often thrown by these lessons or scenarios. Cos you’re like, “But how does it all add up with regards to how I got here in the first place?”. In other words, how is the person or situation that’s resulted in me being in some hectic shitstorm a part of the final outcome? The wisdom is, sometimes they’re/it’s not. Yours is to grab your lessons and go. The other key/plug is that you take it as an opportunity to reaffirm yourself, against all odds. Tell yourself, “I’m not a fool – I did a good thing by trusting. I will continue to take risks, or love (wisely), but still give people the benefit of the doubt, trust them when they show signs of trustworthiness and generally, lead with an open heart. I am smart, loving, kind, and able to humble myself and be vulnerable, for the sake of relationship-building”. Then recognize shortcomings – yours and theirs. And if theirs tip the scale and are intrinsically at the core of things going wrong, call it what it is – they messed up. Identify their “issues” and refuse to own them or adopt a narrative of what happened that says you were to blame, in any way, shape of form.
So if you take anything from this entry, let it be that 1) Life can suck, be tough and unfair. It is the way it is. The sooner you accept this, the better positioned you are to deal with life and its “things” when they happen. 2) It is not always you. The way that our lives are set up, we are supposed and bound to run into some devils (or distractions) or even just minor irritations in life. Those people/situations are not some sort of karma to punish you or your “bad luck”, per se. They are just a part of your story, as unfortunate as it may be that you have had to cross paths with them. Life is composed of good and bad. Take that as applicable to ALL, EVERYONE, yourself included. Wisdom takes nuggets from such incidents and adorns itself with a beautiful necklace – and that necklace isn’t just a collection of your experiences. No. It is all the gems that you acquired and learned from those experiences; the lessons that improved you, deepened you and set you apart.
And if it’s you that needs to change, do the work. Pray, read up on that subject that is your weak point, speak to trusted confidantes, get people in your life that are capable of speaking sense and who have an uncompromised moral compass, and get to practicing being the new you. And be easy on yourself – it won’t JUST happen overnight. But you will grow; you’ll change; you’ll get to a higher plane of being, and you will gradually come to settle into a more mature, wiser, happier, content and better self. But remember, right after you conquer one thing, there’s another coming right around to “rock your world”, LOL. But take heart, you are better equipped now, and what doesn’t kill you, ought to make you stronger.