In life, most of our struggles boil down to 3 choices:
Learn to live with it.
Freak out about it.
Number 3 usually happens first. No shame in that. A lot of folks will tell you that freaking out is a bad thing, but I think it’s perfectly okay if done well (for more on this, see the first installment of Entry Level Maturity, It Only Matters What You Do with It).
But, when you get tired of number three, which you may or may not do, you are going to need to move on to number one or two.
Fun Fact: if it happened in the past, number two is no longer an option.
That pretty much leaves only one choice for junk that happened in the past. But, before we can learn to live with the past, we need to allow space and grace to come to terms with what happened back there. If it’s hard to live with the past, it’s usually because we’ve lost something: friendships, possessions, trust, innocence, hope, confidence, a sense of self, etc.
Grief has to happen when you’ve lost something. It’s just a natural, healthy process. You can google the stages of grief to understand that better, but I will say this: the first stage is denial. It presents itself as avoidance, blame, numbness, etc. It’s important to note that living in denial isn’t exactly the same thing as learning to live with past hurts. That’s because unchecked past hurt is a dangerous thief of life. It becomes subterraneous, dwelling and expanding beneath the surface, poisoning us in ways we often don’t even realize. It often leads to that sort of freaking out that isn’t good like addiction, bitterness, rage, or depression. In short, to truly learn to live with past hurts, we have to deal with them.
Dealing with our junk usually leads to some unpleasant discoveries. Lies that we accepted about ourselves will inform the choices we make. We can’t change the past, but we can change the way that it informs us of our present and our future. Did something happen to make you think you were bad? Unloveable? Unworthy? Shameful? Those are ideas you can change. And now, we’re back to this: Love Your Awkward Little Self
Next time you face a struggle, run through this list of choices and evaluate the options. If circumstances are making you miserable – freak out. If you get tired of freaking out – change the circumstances. If you can’t – accept them. If it hurts – grieve the loss but, no matter what, make sure the ideas you form about yourself in the process are guided by love. Because love is the only thing that matters. And the better you get at accepting love from God and from yourself, the more you have to give.
One caveat to this whole thing is that change always comes at a price. Sometimes it will involve sacrifices. Please, please make sure the price you are willing to pay is coming from a point of love and not insecurity.
“I’m unworthy,” is a lie. “I am helpless,” is a lie. “I’m just worthless,” “I’m just bad,” “I’m just stuck,” “I just can’t” are all lies. If you come against a lie, speak truth back at it until you believe it. There are three choices, the difference is those choices can be fueled by love or lies. Love begets love. Lies beget lies. You choose.