I THOUGHT I HAD A GOOD childhood until I got into therapy during my thirties to try to figure out why I couldn’t manage relationships very well. What a relief it was to learn it wasn’t my fault that I had already failed in two marriages and had no really good friends. I was a textbook case for what happens when one is raised in a dysfunctional family and the knowledge was empowering.
But, discovering why my childhood was bad and subsequently blaming my parents for the way my life didn’t go as expected, only worked for about the two years it took to tell my story to the counselor. And then I was left with a big, “So what?” that cost about ten thousand dollars.
The best thing I learned in that period of examining my history is that knowing why and what happened only satisfied my ego, but did very little for me unless I wanted to throw a pity party, something as useless as carrying resentment or living as a victim.
What I know now is that my parents could have been June and Ward Cleaver and bad things would have still happened. That’s because there are no perfect parents. And even if mine had been, they couldn’t have insulated me from Eddie Haskell—or kept me from being just like the bully Eddie was to the Beaver.
No parent can protect his or her child from every bad thing that happens and parents can’t possibly know every bad thing that happened to us simply because we can’t possibly know that every bad thing that happened to us was a bad thing.
I have learned that the bad things that happened in my life weren’t nearly as harmful to me as the faulty beliefs I acquired from the meaning I attached to the bad things that happened. What I believed led to the counterfeit strategies I devised to navigate my life as a way to avoid bad things from ever happening to me again. It was my faulty beliefs and counterfeit strategies—and not my childhood—that got me where I was as an adult.
While I can never change my past, I have within me the ability to change my faulty beliefs and counterfeit strategies.
There is a universal truth we all live in and cannot escape: Bad things happen. Bad things happened when we were kids and bad things happened last year.
Or last week.
Or this morning.
And if I cannot get to the place where I can say “So what?” and really mean “So what?”, I am carrying a faulty belief that will lead me to a counterfeit strategy.
To be able to say “So what?” is like coming out of the tub all clean from washing away all the grime.
What happened happened, and all that matters is what I believe about what happened, because what I believe about what happened will have an impact on the strategies I devise to move forward. If the belief is faulty, the strategy will be as well.
Beliefs and strategies are dear to us and like good friends; we don’t want to give them up. They are so much a part of us that when faced with the possibility of letting them go, we oftentimes think we would rather die than to do life without them. The notion will sometimes cause us to struggle against the evidence that it is a belief or strategy—and not a person or circumstance—that causes us the greater pain we suffer. After all, we’ve invested our lives into what we believe and the strategies we’ve chosen, and blaming whatever is out there feels so much better than to admit what may be wrong in here.
Blaming is the outward expression of an immature and irresponsible person, and like all counterfeit strategies, it will do nothing to improve the quality of one’s life. If you are still blaming your parents or the circumstances of your past for the reality in which you live today, you are living in a fantasy of what coulda, shoulda, woulda been.
Inside, you know you have so much more to offer the world if only…you hadn’t been damaged. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to you, so I’ll let you in on the truth: We’ve all been damaged. Growing up sucks, but it is the only way to the life you really want. You could begin today with an overdue bath.
“The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”—Adam (Genesis 3:12)
As always, it is my intent and hope that my words may encourage you wherever you are in your journey.
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If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.–Jesus (Mark 4:23)