Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who Are You?

One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves and one of the hardest questions we have to answer is, "Who are you?" Yes, I know the proper English way to ask is, "Whom are you?" but who speaks that way anymore?

We have all spent a lifetime learning about ourselves. But do we ever truly know ourselves? We are always changing. Our circumstances are always changing. The world is always changing. Every time something happens to us or to one of our loved ones, we have to process that information, assess it, and then deal with it. Sometimes it changes who we are.

We judge others for not responding to certain situations the way we think they should respond. We judge ourselves too and we think we know how we will respond to any event that happens – until that situation occurs and then we are surprised to find that we respond in a completely different manner.

I've seen many many people say, "My kid will never behave that way." Then they have kids and their kids are usually worse than the ones they criticized. They learn a valuable lesson – not to judge.

A woman who is raped thinks she will fight back but then finds herself cowering in fear and freezing in place, unable to move. She tells herself that, "it wasn't supposed to happen that way." She was SUPPOSED to fight back. She had decided she would be one of those individuals who fought. But fear is a vicious foe, and we have to learn to forgive ourselves for not responding the way we intended to respond.

As children we are taught to think before we act, but by taking that precious time to think, we may not run into a burning building to save the life of the child we hear screaming until it's too late. Other times we act before we think because we work on auto-pilot when we see something life-threatening happening, like when a baby falls into a pool. 

Acting without thinking can get us into trouble sometimes, though. If we don't know our core values – what we absolutely would or would not do in any situation, we won't respond effectively to choices that could affect our lives. Unless you know with absolute certainty what your core values are, you set yourself up for a tremulous life. Because if you believe that you would never subject yourself to shooting heroine or pimping yourself out for money, but you allow yourself to try it "just once" you could succumb to the seduction of drugs, prostitution, and money.

That old saying, "never say never," is so true. By ignoring your core values, choices you've made so far and things that have happened to you could put you into a precarious situation. We all need to eat and we all need a place to sleep. But what if you have a child to feed? And what if you don't have enough education or skill to made a living without prostituting yourself? You might see no other option. Not until you're in too deep do you realize the mistake you made.

The fall into depravity is more of a gradual slide than it is a fall. We justify each step along the way and we can't predict the outcome or remember what prompted us to take the wrong road in the first place. 

We don't take responsibility for our choices, so we blame the uncle for raping us. We blame our parents for ignoring our pleas to have it end. We blame the guy who picked us up off the street and gave us a home, got us pregnant, and then beat us and pumped us with drugs. We blame our pimp and we even blame ourselves. 

How did we get ourselves into this mess? 

It all comes down to the choices we make. We never really know until we are challenged by our beliefs, how we will act in any given situation. Small choices lead to big decisions and sometimes we drag along our children through all of our bad choices. Sometimes we just want to run away from our problems.

A lot of us, from time to time, think about running away. But deep down we realize we have to face our problems, because they will catch up with us sooner or later. We move in order to leave behind problems about which we are ill-equipped to handle. We think that by removing ourselves from the place where all the pain occurred, we will avoid having to deal with the pain. And then we discover that the solution to the problem lies not in the other place, but within us. We can try to leave everything behind, but wherever we go, we bring ourselves with us. We can't escape US. 

Getting to know ourselves is a lifelong process. Every day, we think we know who we are, and then a family member dies and we have to reinvent ourselves. We lose a job, we get cancer, we lose our home – everything that happens in our lives defines us and every time something else crops up, we have to figure out how to handle it. We didn't choose a lot of what happens to us, but we can choose how we deal with those things.

I remember the story of a woman who lost her only child. Nobody could understand why she would forgive her daughter's murderer. I don't understand it either, because I've never (thank God) had to deal with that. But intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually I understand the mother's decision to let go of years' worth of pain and suffering to reach out to the man responsible for her daughter's death. She discovered that the man had a horrendous childhood. Did that give him permission to rage against her daughter? Absolutely not, but the rage itself was understandable.

I would like to think that I am so spiritually progressed that I would handle that kind of situation the same way, but I honestly don't know. I know how I would handle getting cancer, because I've had it. I know how I would handle raising children, because I've done it. But I don't know how I would handle things that haven't happened to me. Even at my age, if anybody were to ask me, "Who are you?" I would have to answer quite honestly, "I don't know. I'm still trying to figure me out."

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