Principle of (Personal) Release

Warning the following content is overwhelmingly good news. Proceed with caution.

To give this message some context for a long time I’ve had random moments where an event from the past, recent or otherwise, will just bubble up from some dark corner and come to the forefront. I would find myself reliving an embarrassing moment or dumb, hurtful statement spoken or decision made. The feelings that accompanied that experience would hit anew, fresh as if it were a ten-second old incident. It would be a very random occurrence too, doing some mindless task like washing the dishes or taking out the trash. I believe that’s evidence of undealt with baggage. Maybe it’s not, but below is an advisory antidote.

Dr Edwin Louis Cole, the late pioneer of the men movement in the USA, popularised a biblical truism which will be the basis of this, our conclusion in the Vulnerability series. 

“The sins you forgive are released, and the sins you don’t forgive are retained in your life. If you forgive, you release. By not forgiving, you retain. So simple. So profound. So divine. So true.”

I’ve known that phrase for a while. I know for a fact I haven’t applied it consistently but there has been some concerted effort on my part. One area I totally spaced out on was on the aspect of self-forgiveness. The very concept eluded me for its sheer alienness. “Forgive… myself? What drugs are you on gancho?” From that Christian worldview – where the wonderful, too-good-to-be-true news of Jesus paying the ultimate price and taking the punishment for my own wrongdoing so I can be reconciled with the Father by believing in Him – it was more than a little difficult to ingrain the idea of the wrong party being the one to also dole out forgiveness. 

“I did the wrong but I forgive you.” It sounds absolutely absurd – except it isn’t. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ve probably encountered the powerful speech tool “I am”. If not you’ll want to check it out here: Self-Esteem Building Hacks

We’ve talked about being vulnerable with others and being real. Can we take that step to be real with ourselves too?

Ok, so maybe it’s starting to make sense. Maybe I can buy into forgiving myself for foolish decisions I’ve made in the past, releasing the thing that I’ve actively tried to bury deep in my heart… but, how? How do I do that? I’ll take a leaf from a page a friend of mine shared with me just this Friday. It sounded corny. I almost didn’t do it. Almost – but it worked for me. I trust it will for you too.

The Process:

Look yourself in the mirror.

Hold your stomach.

Take a deep breath.

Then talk.

Say your name aloud, affirm that life is a journey where you make mistakes and learn from them.

Say I forgive you *insert your name here* for the bad decisions you made.

Now it’s time to stand up and walk.

And then address the thought of regret.

Whenever it jumps up again say scripture. (If you don’t know any appropriate one I would suggest looking up “verses about forgiveness and being made new”)

That’s it. You can breathe out now and walk tall and free. Thanks for reading. We’ll be jumping into habit formation on Thursday.

Image Source: Heart Shaped Lock


Slow To Anger Quick To Apologise

I’ll keep this one short.

The tube. A truly magnificent place. No? You disagree? Well one can’t deny it’s effectiveness. I was using the tube to get to Angel Station yesterday evening. Spiderman: Homecoming was only showing at their Vue cinema, the others had called it quits for the night. In typical London fashion people were rushing even though it was past ten in the evening. Several of them were in a rush. When people are in a rush tempers are quick to flare… most of the time. This was one of those times.

I myself was in a bit of a hurry. It was very wet, the first time it had been this wet in quite a while in the London summer. A brief respite to the heat was more than welcome… except this was more than brief. It rained for 24 hours straight. I’d treaded through this rain without an umbrella because in my head I’m some kind of power ranger I guess. Anyway I was in a rush and I moved about the tube as I typically do. Wherever there are steps I will climb them, be it on an escalator or as an alternative to the elevator. I’ve actually always been one to fancy a race with the elevator. With this mindset I moved about Angel Station as I typically do. People usually are in a rush and I am usually a tad faster than they are… Only yesterday I wasn’t. This one guy moved a lot quicker than me. I had no idea what he was heading towards.

Let’s call this stranger John. John stepped on my heel as he tried to overtake me. To be honest it took me slightly by surprise but I didn’t react adversely towards the action. I ignored it and soon noticed in John’s body language that he had acknowledged what he had done. It was eating him up. Proof of that came when a couple of seconds later he doubled back and apologised very softly saying he hadn’t meant to do what he had done and he was sorry. Pleasantly surprised I tapped him on the elbow and said, “It’s all good man, don’t worry about it.” I let it go. John continued on his way up to the next escalator where he walked up a few steps then stopped.

Normally I walk up the escalator steps but in the current situation that would mean encountering John again, John who looked troubled as well as remorseful. He even looked back and met me in the eye. I could tell that he was considering walking up the rest of the steps to remove himself from the place as soon as possible but for some reason decided against it. So as not to fuel his obvious guilt or cause an awkward moment I decided to let the escalator do the moving and stayed in place a few steps behind him. This would be a peaceful night… that’s what I thought at least.

A hulking figure, let’s call him Pete, seemed to be in a bigger hurry than the rest of us. He came bumbling up the escalator like a mad bull. His right shoulder clipped John in the face and he barely turned back, although looking at his body language the impact had registered in his mind but he decided he wouldn’t own up to it and chose to continue running up the steps instead. Now… John was furious. I honestly don’t know what was going on in his life but John was clearly distressed for some reason. Even as he had been standing on the escalator he seemed to be contemplating his life. He was far above the rest of us so he can be forgiven for standing in the middle of the step (standing in the middle is normally frowned upon, you should stand on the right and climb up the left). It’s not often that someone runs up the escalator like I tend to do, or Pete chose to do on this occasion but it happened – and John paid for it. Unfortunately he didn’t like what he was paying for.

John wasn’t scrawny by any means. He had a tough gangster look about him, the kind belonging to someone raised in a tough neighbourhood. But Pete looked like someone who slept in the gym. Either way, an enraged John chased after Pete hurling a barrage of obscenities at him. Pete looked back at John then continued his trek up the escalator, hoping to run away as he had done initially… but John was quick, quicker than Pete even and caught up to him near the very top. They exchanged blows. I half feared one of them would come tumbling down the long escalator. But they moved to the ticket platform and began to shout unintelligibly while Pete held his chest out trying to intimidate with his soft voice… I don’t know what happened next.

Perhaps I should have stayed and played peacemaker. That was my thought in retrospect, a minute after I’d walked away. I had Spiderman in mind and I wasn’t about to be embroil myself in something that could involve the police, not in this foreign country. “Security will handle it,” I thought. Yet the guilt still followed me. Of all the people in that station the best person to defuse the situation was me. All I needed to say was:

“Hey John remember when you stepped on my heel not to long ago? I forgave you when you apologised. Hey Pete, just say sorry to the man. I saw you bump into him and not give him a second thought. Just apologise and let it be over. Nobody wants the police involved.”

Even enraged sense would have prevailed, at least in my mind it would have but thinking about it a minute after you’ve walked away isn’t good enough. I guess if these guys had been slow to anger and quick to apologise they would have gone home with far fewer bruises and a lot more joy than they eventually did go home with.

Because She’s Your Sister

“Treat them like you would your sister,” Dad said referring to girls in general.

But I don’t like my sister. I don’t know if I ever said that out loud but that was one of the first things I needed to learn on the path to being a good man.

So yeah. First-born. 7 years of a selfish life, one that was all about me… then another came along. That person was my sister, and I finally had to learn to share.

At first I was excited. Initially I’d hoped for a brother because I thought that would mean more entertainment. Somehow my parents made me excited for the little girl that was on her way. I can’t remember if in the end I was happy to just finally have a sibling or if they used their powers of persuasion – but excited I was. She came along and I finally, finally had someone to impress. From the onset I put in so much effort. I needed to be the best brother in existence in her eyes. So I’d whisper it to her as a sort of overt subliminal message: “Who’s the best big brother in the world? I am.”

It worked at first. After a few months I discovered peek-a-boo. That was a huge hit. She loved it for an age. Then abruptly she didn’t like me anymore. Maybe my face was too scary, maybe I’d been too enthusiastic when trying to earn her praise, her attention, but so long as I wasn’t required to carry her around she didn’t seem to want me around.

Soon she started walking. Then she didn’t need me to carry her around anymore. Boy did I feel useless, partially because she’d started talking and would actually say I was useless. So… I ignored her. For a long while I did… until something terrible happened.

I can’t even recall what the dispute was about but the toddler that was the sister I had named had really annoyed me. She knew she had annoyed me and had enough of a conscience to feel guilt at that age. So she followed me around saying sorry over and over begging for me to forgive her. I was young too and I wasn’t having it. So I would move from room to room shutting the door. Her short legs couldn’t keep up but if she went on her toes she could open the closed doors. She kept following me wanting my forgiveness. I wouldn’t part with it. At that moment forgiveness wasn’t something I was willing to share. What makes this even sadder is that despite all that anger I cannot for the life of me guess what it was that she had done. I strode for the study, her lil’ legs scrambling after me. I moved to slam the door like I’d done half a dozen times previously… only this time something was in the way. Her pinky came away instantly soaked in red. Next came the screams. My brain couldn’t comprehend what I’d done until she told me through her wails: “Wandikwadza!” That’s Shona for “you hurt me”.

It may have been accidental. Hurting her was never my intention… but those words stuck. The image of a little girl, whose only mission had been to earn my forgiveness, in pain, stuck. (No surprise the situation had turned on its head and I was the one now seeking forgiveness). The rage in my father’s eyes when he pieced together what had happened, stuck. But what stuck most of all were the words he shared after the whole debacle.

“You cannot hurt your sister. You are supposed to be the best of friends. As siblings she will be in your life longer than anyone else you know, longer than your mother and me. She’s just a little girl looking up to her big brother. Do you really want to hurt her?” I didn’t. So I never did ever again.

I was clapped by her a fair number of times as she grew older but would I raise my hand against her? Never. She hurt my feelings all the time, sometimes as a joke – return the favour? Nah. I used every bit of willpower in my arsenal to be the brother I wanted to be. Forced myself to love her till I didn’t need to anymore. Now I do, genuinely. And I have for a long, long time. And I will for even longer, hopefully, no matter what she chooses to do. Because she’s my sister – that’s all that really matters – and no matter what happens to her from this moment on, to me, she always will be my precious lil’ sister.