The Ultimate Pay-It-Forward System

Posted: November 13, 2015 in Philosophy
Tags: , , ,

Or alternatively, Your YOU is Showing

The other day I had to apologize to my boss after a meeting in which, as I so eloquently put it, “I was being kind of asshole-ish.” For those that know me, you know this is pretty much my default setting. Still, I have to be careful when I’m at work (really, anywhere in public) that my sarcastic, cynical self doesn’t overwhelm others (regardless of how much smarter it makes me). I have a long and storied history of people not really understanding me, and especially in the development of new relationships, this can be a bit of a barrier.

And without getting too grandiose here, because believe me, I don’t want to get into one of those philosophical “you-are-the-sum-of-your-experiences” kind of posts, I’ve been reflecting the past couple weeks on how we become who we become and why, and more specifically, to what end.

So, in the interest of transparency, there’s some religion in this. And some parenting. And some general, life-kicks-you-in-the-ass kind of stuff. You’ve been warned.

(Quick disclaimer here—don’t be offended by the term “broken:” it’s just a word to describe a situation, and you know what I’m talking about) I come from a “broken” family…my parents divorced when I was young, and I had to split time between households. Not equal time, mind you, but still, there was stress in bouncing back-and-forth. There were also some really, really great things that came from it, both directly and indirectly. Had my parents not divorced, I likely wouldn’t have ended up in Parma, and I likely wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife, or had opportunity to raise the two most awesome kids that I’ve ever known. But that’s not to say that I haven’t struggled with the transition from that “brokenness” to a more traditional household. I fully feel that kids from broken homes are generally more well-adjusted, simply put, because they have to be. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, because I know a lot of them personally. But having to “roll with the punches” tends to come more naturally to those who have been doing it since they were kids.

That’s not encouragement to force your children into the situation, though, and because of my history I have a very traditional, unwavering and perhaps unrealistic view on what a marriage is, and the acceptable circumstances to end one. I’ll give you a hint—there aren’t many.

So, growing up, I had great freedom and great responsibility (deja vu here). That formed me into a very independent-thinking person, even more than your typical teen. And shortly thereafter, I became a devout atheist (if there is such a thing), and built up new life-views based upon that mindset. I was convinced that success would only come from my own actions, and that no one was out there to help me. It’s important to note here that it is certainly possible that I was right, but my views since then have changed considerably, which is another story for another day.

What I’m trying to get at (ad nauseam, perhaps) is that a personal history of these kinds of things–child of divorced parents, familial relationships with alcoholics, a bit of parent-on-parent spousal abuse of a couple different varieties, close proximity to infidelity, addiction to and sale of prescription meds—can certainly encourage even the most level-headed person to become sarcastic, cynical, and pessimistic. These are things we know.

But the effect this has had on my perception of faith should not be understated. I am not typically the guy to reminisce, but when I do, I sometimes think about this eventful past and how every thing that I’ve had to face personally has made me a better “me.” Bear in mind—my “troubles,” if you want to call them that, are nothing compared to those of some of the folks I know. Nothing about my past has ever been considered as a tool to earn pity or favors from others, because I’ve always felt that in spite of the troubles-of-the-day, or week, or year, there are countless others who are worse off. And fortunately for us all, what’s true for me can be true for them as also:

We learn from these trials. They either knock us down or push us to excel in everything we do. Some people will always be stuck in the vicious cycle that I feel I’ve exited completely. The unfortunate part of this, though, is that when it comes to life “stuff,” more often than not we have to learn through failure (or at least, that failure can be a much better teacher than observation). People who are experiencing trials now are going to eventually decide whether or not to learn through observation or through failure, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it, because it’s not up to us.

There is, however, a nifty side effect of learning through failure which presents itself in the storytelling. I have always been very open about my past with those willing to hear it because there is more good to come of it other than my own perseverance. There are folks who can learn by observation, and others that can be deterred from near-failure if they have the opportunity for objective review. For me, a lot of my own objective review has not involved anyone other than me and God. And phrasing things in terms of my faith, I like to think about all the things that God threw at me before I even believed He existed. I’m not one to quote bible verses—but the one that talks to God not challenging you with what you can’t handle is certainly relevant here.

What is really cool about faith, to me, is how personal it is. And how true it is. And keep in mind, we’re not talking about the existence of God—instead I’m speaking to the presence of faith. What’s nice about faith is that the truth of it is individual…it is what you make of it. I came to religious faith by way of logic and reasoning, and it made all of the shit that I experienced all those years before mean something more than my own circumstances. And that is a really, really awesome thing.

So, if you’re going through your own trials now—remember that there is good to come of it for your own story, and it can also benefit others.

When my daughter is feeling anxious about something—a soccer game, or singing at an assembly, or whatever social hurdle she might be facing at the time, I know that telling her “it will be ok” and “you will get through it” is a meaningless attempt at pacifying her. And when I am anxious, telling that to myself is equally as ineffective. But, years ago, had I known the impact my experiences could have on others, maybe it would have made “getting through it” that much easier. And I know that, with no level of uncertainty, that realization is not possible without getting outside of one’s own situation. For me, that’s what faith does—it allows objectivity, and level-headedness, and peace of mind.

Just some food for thought. As always, I appreciate your continued support. Be well and stay tuned!

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