Saturday, May 26, 2012

Feeling the pain that leads to growth.

It hurts to feel excluded. Who among us hasn’t felt this hurt?  I don’t feel the experience of exclusion with a calm acceptance myself. I taught the world around me that lesson when I was in kindergarten. A group of boys was building a tower with big blocks. Basketball size blocks. They wouldn’t let me help and when they finished I yanked out a bottom block to collapse the whole structure. The teacher penalized me for causing that by separating me from the whole class---putting me in a chair in a corner of the classroom. I got even with four or five kids but ended up being excluded from the entire class.

Sure it hurts to get excluded. Sure any kind of pain is hard to feel. Sure the tendency when you feel hurt is to want to hurt back. I’m discovering another option. Feel the pain---learn its hidden lesson. Why did I destroy the work of those kids when I had no business doing so? I got mad and wanted revenge is too easy an answer. Those kids probably excluded me because they wanted to save the fun for themselves. I interpreted it as a judgment I wasn’t good enough to be included. I took it personally. The hurt I felt came from a pain inside that still often says to this day I’m not good enough. I’ve been doing some gardening work in the bed of my soul lately and there are rocks inside that definitely need to be taken out. And I have a question or two. Isn’t fear a root cause of just about everything that hurts? Isn’t it true that I may have been at bottom just afraid to experience inner feelings those kids scratched to the surface---feelings that belong to me---feelings I’m afraid to feel because they hurt.  Feelings I bury deep inside in an always ultimately unsuccessful attempt to deny. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough to be accepted. No wonder anyone would fear to feel a feeling like this. It’s a frightening prospect. It would cripple you before the race started.  It’s better to encase the feeling in a block of cement and bury it deep inside. 

I spy a ship in the distance signaling there is something new to learn. Fear is the culprit that stunts personal growth.  It’s a fear that tells me I might find something about myself I can’t take. What if I really am not good enough? What if it’s true? That’s the at bottom fear and if I don’t face it squarely it won’t go away. How on God’s planet does a person face the risk that something this awful might be true?

Ulysses S. Grant
I enjoy reading American civil war history. I read about an incident that happened to Ulysses S. Grant when he was new to command. He was afraid. A southern force was positioned on a slope in the path of his advance . They could do a lot of hurt but Grant moved forward despite this and found the Confederates had retreated. It was then Grant learned a lesson he would not forget during the remaining span of the war. An enemy feels afraid too.  Grant would not have learned the lesson if he hadn’t moved forward despite the fear---despite his fear that he would get into a world of hurt if he did. I can move forward and face the fear I’m not good enough.  I can make the idea I’m not good enough retreat too if I face the fear that I am. It’s so true what Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed when he said the only thing to fear is fear itself.