I remember taking the train from Madrid to Paris for a business trip. An international conference on HIV had just ended in Madrid, and I shared the compartment with a group of fellows who were all HIV positive. We had some interesting conversation, and I accepted the offer of an unwanted part of the meal of “one of them.”
There is always a real danger when we compare ourselves to someone else. No matter where we are, or how good or bad off, there is ALWAYS someone in a better or a worse place. Sometimes people compare themselves to someone worse off in order to feel better about themselves. Other times people compare themselves to someone better off and then proceed to beat them selves up and feel bad. That is why judging is so popular and is at the heart of what passes for many as “religion.”
What I have come to believe is that we are all, every one of us, “one of them” or “one of those” in some respect or another. We all have struggles, hurts, habits, and hang ups. And some of us have compulsive behaviors, addictions, or problems with depression. And many of us deal with bitterness as a result of those struggles and hurts.
The purpose of this blog has always been to share from my personal experience the things that help me face my struggles. I have not included some of the details in the blog although I have shared them face to face with groups of up to several hundred people.
For instance, when I wrote about Without Shame and pedophiles, I personally know every person I mentioned in the examples. But the boy who was sexually abused in Junior High School by the uncle of a classmate was actually me. It changed my life and produced a lot of guilt and shame within me even though the pedophile felt none.
When I talk about learning that I cannot change or fix another person, I am referring to people I love and have always wanted to help. When the response once was to attack me in court, my reaction that day was to call my mother and my father and tell them how much I love them, and how much I appreciate everything they have done for me. The next day I wrote what has been my most popular article, Three Kinds of Lies. I recognize that denial and self deception, personal blindness, is part of my struggles as well.
I’ve promised to share the story of last Thanksgiving, what I refer to as Black Thanksgiving, when my marriage almost fell apart. I plan to share that this fall, but I’ve already talked about the recovery in several articles last December, like What is the Perfect Miracle Marriage? That same month I talked about needing an Air Traffic Control Radar to effectively communicate with my wife. But the reality is that I also need the radar she has and uses to help me see when I am off course.
What is it that I view as the foundation for the solution to all these different struggles? That foundation is HOPE. It is hope that allows me to forgive others, to accept others, and to love others. It is hope that allows me to answer my depression and bitterness and have a more positive attitude. I have personally found through my own experience that not only is hope the foundation but that sharing with others – both my struggles and theirs – magnifies my hope and gives support.
The basis of my hope is not religion and it is not a physical church. Religion encourages not only comparison, but judgment. And that judgment is always based on someone doing something different than you, or doing something that doesn’t match some of their words. We all judge others on actions and agree that actions speak louder than words. At the same time, we judge ourselves based on our intentions. But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
No, the basis of my hope is a personal relationship with Jesus. I found that I had to first accept God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance of me before I could love, forgive, and accept others. I have lots of conversations with people who do things I don’t or wouldn’t do. But I share what I have found from personal experience that helps me improve, helps me change the one person I can: myself. I don’t want to sell anything to anyone or change anyone else, that’s not up to me. All I can do, the best thing I can do, is share the hope that I have found.