From a Childless Woman’s Heart

Some days of the year are easier to emotionally maneuver than others. Today, Mother’s Day, is not one such day. As a childless woman, my life choices have brought me to a place of emotional unrest or dis-ease.

You see, as a young girl I planned to get married and have kids. Like most young girls, that is what we had been indoctrinated to believe was one of our rites of passage. In my youth I planned out the number of children I would birth and even had names for each of them (that ridiculous list still resurfaces every so often). However, as I grew older, the life that I had envisioned didn’t quite unfold as I had planned it out. I have since learned that our plans (mine especially) rarely unfold as we wish.

If someone had told me that I would be unmarried and childless at forty, I would have argued the impossibility of that situation. Yet, here I am at forty—not once giving birth to a child, nor knowing the joys and pains of motherhood. This is certainly not the future I had envisioned. Nevertheless, it is the life I am currently living.

Please know that I am not faultless. On two occasions I had the opportunity to grow a mother’s heart, but made the choice to terminate each pregnancy.   I have long carried feelings of guilt and remorse. I have long wondered what kind of woman, and mother, I would be had I made a different choice in at least one of those situations. But alas, we cannot go back in time; we cannot take bake the choices that we have made.   Presently, I can only move forward and hope that I can make some positive impact before I take my last breath on this earth.

If the following text from one of my current students is any indication of my path to making a difference, then maybe there is hope for me yet.

“Happy Mother’s Day (Even though you don’t have kids) But thanks for being          one to me, I wouldn’t be the young lady i am today if it wasn’t for you. Thank      you so much I love you lots!”

Given my life choices, I am deeply moved by my student’s words. I dare say that I am any type of role model—except perhaps a role model for what not to do. At any rate, today has reminded me that the choices we make have life-long impressions. I will not deny that I sometimes yearn to know what it truly means to be a parent—to express a pure love without condition. But at forty, I feel as if that chapter of my life has now passed its expiration date. Perhaps the role of mother was never written in the stars for me. Maybe I was only to play a proxy role of mother as a classroom teacher.

Despite my life choices, I still stand firm that a woman’s choice remains hers and should not be taken away. However, I would tell any woman who is contemplating that choice to be advised that you will have to bear the burden of your choices for the rest of your life—so choose cautiously.

In closing, I want to thank my parents (most especially my mother) for giving me life. My childhood, perfectly imperfect as it was, is not without appreciation. I am grateful to know the unconditional love of my parents. Perhaps one day I can extend that some unconditional love to others.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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What You Want Isn’t Always What you Need

A man’s integrity isn’t predicated on his ability to tell you what you want to hear, but in his uncanny knack to tell you what you need to hear.

While working as a part-time Program Specialist with Girls Scout of West Central Florida, part of the mandated programming on money-management required us to talk with the girls about the differences between wants and needs. Over the course of four weeks we introduced the girls to money (reviewed dollars and coins), talked about spending and saving, created budgets and established the differences between wants and needs. It was during the session on wants versus needs that many of these young girls struggled to articulate the differences between these two ideas. As an introductory activity we created a T-chart where the girls shared examples of “things we want” as opposed to “things we need”. I was often times humored by the examples that were provided. Take the following for example:

WANTS NEEDS
Cell phone Shelter/home
Takis (junk food) Water
Our hair and nails done Fruits/Vegetables

Nevertheless, what I always found interesting was the discussion that ensued when one or more of the girls had determined in her spirit that something could be considered a want and a need. It was at these moments when a huge smile would form on my face and I would get to play the Devil’s Advocate. In the end, we would walk away having learned something about ourselves and each other. It was in these moments that I found great joy in what I was doing. At any rate, this piece isn’t about my love of Girl Scouts, but about wants and needs. The previous example merely served to introduce the concept and to remind me of the good times I’ve had as a girl in green.

A little over three weeks ago I wrote the piece titled, “Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who’s The ‘Ugliest’ of Them All?” This particular piece was birthed from a recent epiphany I had regarding a dysfunctional pattern of relating to men. At any rate, the epiphany touched me at my core, and has provided me with an opportunity to reach a new, and higher level of consciousness. Since coming to terms, and to some degree—appreciating my “ugly”, I have had subsequent opportunities to mull over how my words and actions contributed to the demise of my most recent fall with love.

In The Path To Love, Deepak Chopra uses mirrors as a symbol of love shared between two people in relationship/partnership with one another. He urges the reader to,

“…look at love as a mirror of the present instead of the past…When you fall in love, you fall for a mirror of your own most present needs.”

After reading those words it took me a while to truly understand what Chopra was saying. Recently, when I fell in love, I had fallen for a man who, in his spirit, reflected what I needed. This means that the man who had, and continues to, captivate my heart, is a man who:

  • Helped me see my destructive desire to control
  • Assisted me in realizing that I have double-standards when it comes to (extending empathy, budgeting my time, and expressing compassion and appreciation)
  • Showed me that faith is more than a belief (it is active and not passive)
  • Enlightened me on how selfish I have been; it was all about “Me, me, me” (I can here The Matrix’s Agent Smith’s voice as I penn these words)
  • Communicated the Truth about my inability to effectively communicate (I am a poor listener and have a fledgling ability to express my needs, emotions, and frustrations)

That’s right, this man who has captured my heart has given me what I need. Don’t get me wrong though. He has also given me much of what I want. This man who ignited the once-dim spark in my heart has given me:

  • A listening ear
  • A patient countenance
  • Empathy
  • Affection
  • Reassurance in God and humanity
  • Care and concern
  • Understanding

It wasn’t until I had reflected on the following words that I truly did understand how big of an ASS I have been. Chopra notes, “If you examine a negative trait you insist is present in another person, you will find the same trait hiding in yourself”. Well damn! There it was…the Truth. For months I had been busy pointing an accusatory finger at the man I loved, not once being able to recognize my own reflection in the relational mirror.

Chopra continued to “whisper sweet somethings” in my ear while reading The Path To Love. The following quotes are what I have titled, “Mirror Talk”—those “sweet somethings” that have assisted in my enlightenment.

  1. “…controlling people deeply fear abandonment.”

This quote makes perfect sense given the fact that I have emotional scars from my parent’s divorce and the fledgling relationship I have with my father.

  1. In the mind of a needy person, any loss of attachment equals loss of love.”

In this respect, I recognize I had become quite needy towards the end of the relationship and tried everything, but the right things, to hold on to my beloved.

  1. There is no way to achieve real contentment, real fulfillment, other than through the Self.”

It is clear now that my discontentment could never have been rectified through another person. The love that I have sought after for all these years was a love of Self (the spirit that resides within me). True love comes from loving one’s self unconditionally—good, bad, and ugly.

  1. The difference between a cosmic love affair and an earthly one is the difference between play and need.”

All I have to say about this is: He gave me what I needed!

  1. “…’by framing this as a negative situation…you’ve missed the beauty in change.’”

When we are given more of what we need, as apposed to more of what we want, change, the change that leads us to a higher consciousness, is ushered in.

  1. The belief that you won’t ever get what you want implies enormous hatred and judgment against yourself.”

All I can say is that life isn’t always about getting what we want. More often than not, we got what we need, because in getting what we need; we get to be better people.

  1. “…all spiritual work is done by yourself, with yourself, and for yourself. No one ‘out there’ can take responsibility.”

As I reflect on this last statement I have to appreciate the fact that my beloved made the decision for us to split. He had the spiritual awareness to know that I had spiritual work to do—by myself, with myself, and for myself.

I have learned that when we look in the mirror, we are granted an opportunity to see the Truth about ourselves. It is our responsibility to stand there and take a deeper look. If we are ever going to grow and mature, we must be willing to stand there and gaze at our reflection. When we cannot do that, we are surely fearful of the person we have become. Today, and every day, I will look in the mirror and appreciate and love the woman who looks back at me. I will extend grace to her and love her unconditionally. I will recognize her faults, but not hold them against her. I will smile at her because she is perfectly imperfect.

This piece is dedicated to the man who captured and captivated my heart. Thank you for the mirror! You are forever in my heart. ELG, thank you!

A Visit to the ER (Emotional Repression)

Imagine if you will…

 er

Patient: “Doctor, my symptoms are: irritability, shortness of breath, an inability to sleep throughout the night, loss of appetite, and a soreness around my heart. I haven’t felt good in weeks. I probably should have come in sooner, but I just thought it might go away.”

Doctor: “Your pulse is good. Your heart rate is too. Blood pressure is normal.” He takes a deep breath and releases a short “hmmph”. “You’re suffering from emotional repression.”

Patient: Looks at the doctor. Cocks her head forty-five degrees to the right and says, “Excuse me?”

Doctor: “Yep. Nothing is physically ailing you, but you certainly are suffering from some serious emotional trauma.” He scribbles a few notes on her chart, looks up at her and then reaches for something in the pocket of his lab coat. “Here is the number to a great therapist.” On his way out of the exam room he gives her a pat on the shoulder and exits without another word. The patient, on the other hand, sits in wide-eyed bewilderment looking at the information on the business card.


In the last chapter of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the author John Gray unearths why couples in loving relationships experience turmoil. When my most recent romantic relationship began to rapidly unravel I couldn’t help but try and determine where things had gone wrong. I was baffled how something so beautiful could become so hideous in such a short amount of time. And then it all started to make sense when Gray noted that:

It is very common for two people who are madly in love one day to hate each other or fight the very next day. These sudden shifts are confusing. Yet they are common. If we don’t understand why they happen we may think that we are going crazy, or we may mistakenly conclude that our love has died. Fortunately there is an explanation.

After reading these words, instantly I began to feel better. There was an assurance that an answer would soon be provided and I would know “what the hell” had been going on. Gray continued by point out that:

Love brings up our unresolved feelings…The painful memories of being rejected begin to surface when we are faced with trusting and accepting our partner’s love. Whenever we are loving ourselves more or being loved by others, repressed feelings tend to come up and temporarily overshadow our loving awareness. They come up to be healed and released.

Eureka! There it was–right there in simple terms. The love that had grown between my beloved and me was being taking to the ER (emotional repression). It wasn’t that our love had diminished, but that our love was somehow being tested by repressed feelings/emotions that hadn’t fully been dealt with from the past. But in the midst of the emotional trauma that I was experiencing, I couldn’t see past my current situation. I couldn’t connect my present circumstances with past hurts and disappointments. Finally, it was becoming clear that:

We are all walking around with a bundle of unresolved feelings, the wounds from our past, that lie dormant within us until the time comes when we feel loved. Then, we feel safe to be ourselves, our hurt feelings come up.

It is true that I have made some great gains in the past two years. I have recovered from the last heart-wrenching failed romance, but somehow there were still some things from my past that had not yet been acknowledged. And then the following words helped me determine how far in the past I needed to go to gain the healing I had longed for.

By understanding how past unresolved feelings periodically surface, it is easy to understand why we can become so easily hurt by our partners. When we are upset, about 90 percent of the upset is related to our past and has nothing to do with what we think is upsetting us.

So, with this new sense of awareness I have determined that the “unraveling” of my most recent love affair wasn’t so much about what my beloved had said or done, but was about the emotional trauma of a childhood smeared by a divorce and feelings of abandonment. All these years I had been suppressing feelings that were birthed in my youth. I subconsciously believed that every man that I loved would eventually leave me behind just like my father had left my mother and his children behind. Please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way pointing a finger of blame at my father, but acknowledging how the events in the past have shaped my emotional (in)stability in the present. I am well aware that both of my parents did the best they could with the information they possessed. They loved us to the best of their ability and for that I am thankful. I am merely acknowledging the hurt, so that I can heal and release it–so that it doesn’t surface again.

As part of the healing process, author John Gray suggests the “Love Letter” technique for communicating difficult feelings to those we love. Gray believes that there are times when talking is ineffective. He also points out that letter writing provides us with an opportunity to listen to our feelings without the possibility of hurting our partner. It is an effective tool to provide awareness to us for how unloving we may sound.

Gray’s Love Letter Technique

 

  1. Write a Love Letter that expresses your feelings of: anger, sadness, fear, regret, and love.
  2. Write a Response Letter where you express what you want to hear from the person to whom you addressed the Love Letter.
  3. Share the Love Letter and Response Letter with the individual to whom it was written.

Gray acknowledges the flexibility in this three-step approach—meaning it’s up to you to determine if you will do only one or more of the steps. He urges us, the reader, to:

  1. Include all five elements in the letter
  2. Use simple terms/phrases
  3. Try to keep each section balanced in length
  4. Don’t stop until you express the “love” at the end
  5. Include a “P.S”

All that being said, I used his technique to write a “Healing Letter” to myself. This letter is then followed by the “Loving Response” that I needed to say to myself.

Disclaimer/Footnote: the use of “self” in the Healing Letter and “Self” in the Loving Response Letter are purposeful. In The Path To Love Deepak Chopra connotes the “Self” with our higher Self, our spirit man, “…created from the same spirit that in infinite form is called God”. Thus the “self” is synonymous with the humanly defined and psychologically developed (ego-driven) image of who we are—separate from our innate spirit. So hopefully that will shed light on the symbolic use of the words in the closing.

The Healing Letter

July 8, 2015

Dear Linai,

I am writing this letter to share my feelings with you.

  1. Anger: I am angry that love is so elusive. I am frustrated by life’s unexpected hurdles, trials, and tribulations. I am annoyed by my lack of faith: in God, in others, in myself. I don’t like it when things don’t go as I would like. I want to trust that my heart’s desires are unfolding in this very moment.
  1. Sadness: I am sad that my relationship with my beloved has not been rekindled. I am disappointed that I didn’t experience a childhood where open communication was the norm, not the exception. I wanted to open up and effectively communicate with my beloved (and other men), but I didn’t have the tools or know-how to do so. I feel hurt when I think about my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father. I want to stop trying to “fix” a broken childhood that cannot, through proxy, be repaired.
  1. Fear: I am afraid that I will spend the rest of my life alone—never knowing/experiencing a lasting romantic love and never experiencing motherhood. I am worried that I won’t get what I want out of life so I “try to make things happen”. I am scared that my beloved won’t come back; won’t want to try and make our relationship successful. I do not want to start all over again. I need my beloved to “see the light”—rekindle the flame and work with me to repair what we lost.
  1. Regret: I regret becoming sexually active at such a young age. I feel embarrassed for not investing in a good therapist in my early twenties. I am sorry for all the missed opportunities to show my love to others. I feel ashamed for focusing so much on my emotional needs, that I neglected those of my beloved. I didn’t want to hurt/disappoint my beloved.
  1. Love: I love that you’re a fighter; you never give up on love, those you love. I know that you write from the heart. I adore your natural curiosity. I appreciate that you are a romantic through and through. I respect the transparency in your writing. I understand why you’re hurting and what you’re trying to heal from. I forgive you for being human and not having the tools you needed to be a more loving, successful, and compassionate being. I thank you for realizing that you need help.

Love,

your self

P.S. I need you to know with ALL certainty that you are perfect, complete, and whole; you lack nothing. You are perfectly imperfect.

 

The Loving Response Letter

Dear Linai,

Thank you so very much for sharing this with me. I understand that you are working through some emotional turmoil right now. I am sorry that life hasn’t always been pleasant for you. You deserve to relish in each and EVERY one of your heart’s desires. I want you to know that you are completely loved and completely lovable. I love the person you are and the person you are becoming.

Truly,

the Self


The prospective client knocks on the office door. Slight cracked open, a sliver of dim light escapes. Upon entering she is greeted by a smiling forty-something woman. She drops her tote bag and purse to the floor after the smiling forty-something woman reaches out to hug her. Two strangers embrace in a hug. Moved by the therapist’s compassion, tears begin to well in the eyes of the prospective client. The therapist gestures for the client to have a seat and then grabs her a tissue from the box on her desk. Again, she smiles warmly—full of care and concern.

 

Therapist: “This is a safe place.”

Client: Still in tears. She begins to regulate her breathing. “Thank you so much.”

With a smile and a forty-five degree head tilt, the therapist looks into the eyes of the prospective client with warmth and compassion. Their journey had just begun, but the healing was already underway.

The “Real” in Relationships

solar system

I used to walk around in rose-colored glasses when it came to this idea of “love” and lasting relationships. In my youth, and to some degree in my adulthood, I tended to believe there was this mystical “perfect person” with whom we were destined to spend our lives. However, years of living, loving, and losing have taught me that there isn’t a “ONE” out there waiting to save us from ourselves (basically we have to save our own self). In all honesty, I think that there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with (please do not misconstrue my use of the phrase ‘make love’; it is not sexual in nature, but spiritual). Like I said, I do think there are a number of individuals who cross our paths over the course of our lifetime(s), and it is up to us (both partners) to decide if we will walk out this experience together. Yesterday I read some TRUTH that not only opened my eyes, but allowed me to take off those rose-colored glasses and crush them under my feet. The following words revolutionized my thinking:

Love often fails because people instinctively give what they want….Many people give up when relationships become too difficult. Relationships become easier when we understand our partner’s primary needs. Without giving more but by giving what is required we do not burn out….To fulfill your partner, you need to learn how to give the love he or she primarily needs (John Gray, from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus).

When I tell you that my mind has been blown and that this is earth-shattering information, I kid you not. This statement tells me that this idea of “love” that we so often toss around has the power to be sustained in a relationship/partnership so long as both individuals know how to fulfill their partner’s needs, not just their own.

I will be the first to admit that I had a selfish view of “love”. I was overly protective of my fragile heart because I was afraid of being vulnerable to another person’s needs and desires. In nearly each of my past relationships I kept up a shield to protect myself because I was so concerned about my needs that I failed to take the necessary actions to meet the needs of each man I claimed to “love”. That is a sad indictment on my part, and for that I apologize to every man I have ever loved.

The truth is, I was afraid to do what real love requires: surrender. Deepak Chopra wrote in The Path To Love, that:

Spiritually, no action is more important than surrender. Surrender is the tenderest impulse of the heart, acting out of love to give whatever the beloved wants. Surrender is being alert to exactly what is happening now, not imposing expectations from the past. Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything, even when you cannot foresee the outcome of a situation.

Quite honestly the idea of surrender scared the crap out of me. I connoted surrender with weakness and as an independent woman the last thing I wanted was to appear weak. But that’s what happens when our ego gets in the way. And you know what Deepak Chopra has to say about the ego? He says:

At the level of ego, two people cannot want exactly the same thing all the time. Yet at the level of spirit, they cannot help but want the same thing all the time. Your ego wants material things, predictable conclusions, continuity, security, and the prerogative to be right when others are wrong….spirit and ego are total opposites. Bringing them together is achieved through surrender, and the only force that can accomplish it is love. Surrender, then, is the next phase on love’s journey, which you enter as soon as you choose to be in relationship.

I don’t think that Deepak Chopra is saying that we, and our beloved, should literally want the same things, but that we should desire the same things from love: support, compassion, understanding, appreciation, respect, devotion, etc. I believe that he is urging lovers to recognize that our ego inhibits our ability to surrender. For it is through surrender that we are able to achieve our loving desires (those noted above).

In my previous post, “Le’Go My Ego”, I spoke of the importance of relinquishing ego because it stands in direct contrast to love. I stand firm on this belief. Actually, while watching a previously-aired episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” I received confirmation about this issue of the ego. In the midst of a conversation with Reverend Ed Bacon, a priest in the Diocese of the Episcopal Church, he noted that Satan, the deceiver, is synonymous with ego. Reverend Bacon went on to say that Satan/ego (whose instrument is fear) isn’t purely outside us. The enemy that he spoke of is not outside, but within and that makes sense when Joyce Meyer has informed us that the battlefield is in the mind. So much of our drama is internal, and if we are ever able to control our thinking, I’m certain that we would experience a freedom we have never known, perhaps surrender. Our ego is that enemy that we battle daily. If we want our freedom, we have to give up ego. Just last week my therapist asked me a fundamental question; she looked me right in the eye and said: “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be effective?” The question she posed was asked in the midst of our discussion about my emotional turmoil over my most recent break up. I contemplated her words and instantly realized how I had been allowing my ego to sabotage my relationships. Instantly I wanted another chance to prove that I could love: be vulnerable and surrender.

As I sit here now, I continue to contemplate Bacon’s words and am immediately drawn back to Chopra’s idea of surrender as it relates to spirituality. If each of us is on a spiritual journey, then it only makes sense that love would require us to learn lessons about surrender. While I cannot do anything to change my previous actions/responses to love, I am eager to integrate what I am learning. So here’s what I have gleaned from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

The Differences in Men’s & Women’s Values

Men Women
Power Love
Competency Communication
Efficiency Beauty
Achievement Relationship
Proving themselves Support/Help
Developing power/skill Nurturing

Men define themselves through achieving results. They gain fulfillment through success and accomplishment.

On the other hand, women define themselves by their feelings and/or the quality of their relationships. They are fulfilled when they share/relate.

The Differences in Men & Women’s Primary Emotional Needs

Men Women
Trust Caring
Acceptance Understanding
Appreciation Respect
Admiration Devotion
Approval Validation
Encouragement Reassurance

In reading John Gray’s text, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, I have been able to pinpoint experiences where past relationships had “gone wrong”. Knowing what I know now, I feel I have gained insight on what is required to successfully maneuver through a healthy love relationship. If the premise from my introductory paragraph is correct, “…there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with…”, then I am walking into my future with 20/20 vision.

Now knowing these fundamental truths, I am hopeful about my future responses to love.   And the following quote will lead me to loving freely and fully.

“Love is magical, and it can last, if we remember our differences”—John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus)

Le’Go My Ego!

Despite the fact that I’m just four months shy of my 39th year, I have just begun my “path to love”. At times it seems both strange and frustrating to only now be on such a journey, but I try not to allow the idea of time to box me in. Better to have begun the journey, than to live a false life without really knowing, and experiencing, love in its purest form. Now, this “path to love” that I have started isn’t so much about finding an external source of love (a partner), but about falling in love with the Self (spirit) as it is referenced by Deepak Chopra. According to Chopra, the ego is at odds with the Self (spirit):

Ego is responsible for protecting your self-image; it creates the compartments where everything undesirable about you has been hidden. What blocks love is not the presence of these shadow energies but the division of the psyche that came about when your ego started building inner walls. Love is a flow, and walls keep the flow out (24).

If Chopra’s premise is true (that the ego battles with the Self), then my inability to experience love in its truest, most pure form, has been the result of my fated attempts at preserving my “fragile” ego—which in turn is the cause of my “emotional constipation”. That being said, it’s now time to “le’go my ego”!

As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I started reading The Path To Love: Spiritual Strategies for Healing by best-selling author Deepak Chopra when a dear friend (Sunila) suggested I look into some of his videos on meditation. While in search of Chopra’s videos, I came across the before-mentioned book title and was immediately in awe of his prolific and profound words. Recently, while reading the chapter titled “The Spirit of Romance: Tender Courtship”, the following words from Chopra leveled me.

The exhilaration of falling in love is an escape from ego, its sense of threat, and its selfishness…the ego cannot do two things: it cannot abolish fear, since ego is founded on fear; and it cannot create love, since ego by definition shuts out love. The reason the ego and love are not compatible comes down to this: you cannot take your ego into the unknown, where love wants to lead. If you follow love, your life will become uncertain, and the ego craves certainty. You will have to surrender to another person, and the ego prizes its own will above anyone else’s. Love will make your feelings ambiguous, and the ego wants to feel the certainty of right and wrong. Many other experiences that cannot be comprehended by ego apply to love—a lover is confused, spontaneous, vulnerable, exposed, detached, carefree, wondrous, and ever new. Love’s journey would be terrifying if we didn’t have passion to give us courage—the blind courage of lovers, it is often called. It would be truer to call it the blind wisdom of lovers, because the ego’s certainty is an illusion. Uncertainty is the basis of life (115-116).

The ego is at war with the Self (spirit).

Fascinated by human behavior, I took my first psychology class as a sophomore at Denison University. I continued to take psychology classes and even considered a dual major in English and Psychology, but my love of literature and writing won out. A couple years after I had graduated with my B.A. the yearning for the field of psychology haunted me and I found myself in another institution of higher learning, Marshall University, simply taking psychology classes because of my curiosity with the subject matter. But let’s get back to this business of consciousness and the battle of the Self and ego.  In an effort to fully understand Chopra’s words, we must return to our notes from “Psychology 101” where many of us learned about the three parts of the human psyche, as defined by noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Pen and Paper, Please: Time for Notes

First and foremost, in The Ego and ID, Sigmund Freud explains the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness—which are central to understanding his assessment of human personality (id, superego, and ego):

The term ‘conscious’ is to start with, a purely descriptive one, resting on a perception of the most direct and certain character. Experience shows, next, that a mental element (for instance, an idea) is not as a rule permanently conscious. On the contrary, a state of consciousness is characteristically very transitory; an idea that is conscious now is no longer so a moment later, although is can become so again under certain conditions that are easily brought about. We can say that it was latent, and by this we mean that it was capable of becoming conscious at any time. Or, if we say that it was unconscious, we are giving an equally correct description. Thus ‘unconscious’ in this sense of the word coincides with ‘latent and capable of becoming conscious’…we have two kinds of unconsciousness—that which is latent but capable of becoming conscious, and that which is repressed and not capable of becoming conscious in the ordinary way…That which is latent, and only unconscious in the descriptive and not in the dynamic sense, we call preconscious; the term unconscious we reserve for the dynamically unconscious repressed, so that we not have three terms, conscious (Cs), preconscious (Pcs), and unconscious (Ucs)… (Freud, 1927)

Yes, that is certainly a lot to ingest, but I am certain that Freud’s insights about human behavior, coupled with Chopra’s insights about love, will lead us to a better understanding of how many of us have blocked the flow of love in our lives.

“We have formulated the idea that in every individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes, which we will call his ego.” (Sigmund Freud)

 

Yes, Your Hand May Be Cramping; Suck It Up…More Notes (from Freud’s The Ego and The ID, 1927)

The Ego:

  • Includes consciousness
  • Situated nearest to the external world
  • Controls approaches to the external world; attempts to avoid negative societal consequences
  • Regulates constituent processes (decision-making component of our personality)
  • Goes to sleep at night; censors dreams
  • Represses (attempts to cut off certain trends in the mind—trends that stand in opposition to the ego)
  • Is also unconscious
  • Represents “reason” and “sanity”
  • Carries into action the wishes of the id
  • Operates from the “reality principle”

The Super-ego or Ego-ideal:

  • Less connected with consciousness; preconscious
  • Represents the internal world (of the id)
  • Mediator between the ego (rational) and id (impulsive)
  • Weighs values and morals
  • Controls id impulses
  • Works to “persuade” the ego to operate at a “higher” level of consciousness–moralistic

The Id:

  • Works on an unconscious level
  • Contains passions
  • Primitive
  • Instinctive
  • Impulsive and irrational
  • Seeks gratification
  • Operates on the “pleasure principle” (Freud, 1920)

Okay, now that we’ve taken our notes and have a more insightful understanding of Freud’s assessment of human behavior, here is one last piece of information—an illustration of these systems.

ego

Alas, let’s start to merge Freud’s ideas with those of Deepak Chopra. Let me remind you, Deepak Chopra insists that the ego is at war with the Self (spirit). Let me clarify the Self that Chopra speaks of. According to Vedic tradition, the Self is:

…not the everyday self with its thoughts, wishes, needs, and drives but a higher Self that is silent and eternal…In truth you are the Self, created from the same spirit that in infinite form is called God (12-14)

That being the premise we are working from, we have to understand what this ego is all about. According to Chopra, falling in love is about journeying into the unknown and that is a “scary” place for our rational mind (ego) to go. The unpredictable nature of love stands in contrast to the ego’s desire to reason and rationalize. The ego seeks to avoid pain and does so by weighing the id impulses against the superego’s understanding of societal values and morals. Love desires for us to surrender, but the ego cannot conceptualize surrender because it does not come across as “rational”. However, “Surrender is the door one must pass through to find passion” (Chopra, 1997).

As I reflect over my most recent experience with “love”, I have drawn the conclusion that it was neither pure nor true because it was tainted with an intrinsic need to protect my heart from the “unknown” variables associated with love. If I am to truly love, myself, and another spiritual being, I must relinquish my ego. While it supposedly serves to assist me in rationalizing the world around me, there are just some things that need not be rationalized—love for instance. Chopra notes that, “Getting to true love is a growth process, and the first requirement is to become aware of when you are not being true”. We are not being true to the Self (spirit) when we allow our ego to dominate our actions in the face of love. In an effort to maneuver through Chopra’s four phases of romance (featured below), I have decided to Le’Go My Ego!

  1. Attraction–choosing a person “to be smitten by”
  2. Infatuation—“the beloved becomes all-desirable and all-enveloping”
  3. Courtship—we are “wooed”
  4. Intimacy—“Through intimacy the union of two people begins to be played out in the real world rather than within an isolated psyche”

The patterns in my “love life” have shown that I tend to get so far as the Courtship phase and then the relationship begins to crumble. I am going to venture to say that the crumbling is a result of not being true/honest about my feelings and perceptions. When true Intimacy began to surface, my ego pumped the brakes and I became fearful of sharing my Self.  My vice is my inability to communicate from the deep recesses of my heart, and this has led to many an unsuccessful attempt at love. Knowing and acknowledging this now is freeing me to experience the love that I have longed for. It is clear to me that, “The courtship phase succeeds to the extent that a man and woman can dismantle their defenses; it fails to the extent that they build new defenses together” and “Even the most intoxicating romance will not be able to overcome a history that places ego needs much higher than those of relationship” (Chopra, 1997).

Chopra on Courtship

  1. It brings together two people’s perceptions
  2. Is a tender stage where lovers decide to pursue a new reality or return to the old
  3. Is about speaking your heart to another; sharing your spirit (Self)
  4. Is a shared birth; an opportunity to exchange our innocence
  5. Where a new path (into the unknown) is created together; a path with no past
  6. Allows trust to grow despite old wounds

I know in my heart of hearts that I want a man in my life who will stand with me through the good and the bad. I cannot love and respect a man who flees at the slightest sight of danger and/or discomfort. By nature, I am a fighter and the next man I allow myself to fall in love with must too be a fighter. After all, “If survival is paramount in a dangerous world, two are better at it than one” (Chopra, 1997).

And The Truth Has Set Me Free

It takes maturity to, “…know when to hold ‘em/Know when to fold ‘em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run….”. Kenny Rogers made that very clear in his song, “The Gambler”. For the past two and a half weeks I have allowed my past to keep me emotionally bound. Today I received enlightenment and got back my power. Before today there was a glimmer of hope regarding the possibility of reconciliation with the man who had recently captivated my heart. Today, I see our truth with a clarity that I did not have the day before.

Last night, while speaking with a dear friend, she intoned that we (women) have a tendency of thinking we are the best person for the men whose lives we enter. Her words, powerful and true, pierced my heart because I had fallen prey to such patterns of thought time and time again—including this present moment. Despite the continuous arguing this man and I had done in the “last days”, I still felt like he should return to me because he will never find a woman to love him as deeply as me. While there may be truth to the depths of my love, that doesn’t mean that I am the best woman for this man (and vice versa). In reality, the past few weeks have been a mixture of feelings. One minute I wanted the man I loved to come to his senses and call me back to his heart. The next minute I wanted to forget his name and his remembrance in my own heart. Now however, I don’t feel one way or the other. Now, I have come to the realization that the man that I had “fallen” in love with was incapable of loving me to the degree (on the same frequency) on which I was currently living.

Unable to get him “out of my system,” I brought him up in today’s therapy session. I shared with Sarah that he had sent me an arbitrary email two days ago. I went on to point out that the sight of his name in my inbox sent waves through my spirit because it felt good to be thought about. But what I had failed to think about in those fleeting moments was that his reaching out to me in the past three weeks had been inconsistent and unemotional. There were random emails here and there, all with seemingly no depth. Before I could continue to relay my confusion with E, Sarah interjected.

“What was your relationship with your father like? I know it seems out of context, but I think it will bring you some insight.”

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts before I relayed my memories. “I followed my father around like a lost puppy. If he was out tinkering with something in the garage—his motorcycle or the lawnmower, I found a reason to be out there because I wanted to be in his presence. But he was never really around. I mean, he would come home from work and we’d all eat dinner at the table together, but after that he’d be in the family room watching television—usually Westerns—I hated Westerns, but I suffered through them because I wanted to be around him. Basically though, he was always gone—bowling, hunting, fishing, out with his motorcycle group. He wasn’t really around physically; he most certainly wasn’t around emotionally. We aren’t close. In all actuality there was a time when I called him out of a sense of responsibility. Over the years however, our relationship has developed and I call because I want to know how he’s doing.”

“It sounds like you didn’t get the attention you needed from him.”

“No,” I said in a somber tone.

Sarah responded with, “You see attention [from men] as a reward.”

Eureka. There it was–the source of my dis-ease, my dysfunctional way of relating to men had been borne from the lack of an emotional investment/connection from my father. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not pointing a finger of guilt at my father. I am merely acknowledging that the dysfunctional pattern of relating is tethered to a basic need that was never fulfilled in my childhood. No one is at fault. There is no blame to place. There is only forward progression into a future where healthy relationships and ways of relating exist.

That being said, the conversation went back to E. I went on to share with Sarah how I had expressed my dissatisfaction in our relationship in an email in mid-May. I noted how I didn’t feel that he included me in his plans. I also pointed out how visits from his female friends made me feel uncomfortable and devalued. Most noteworthy was the following paragraph where I shared how I wanted to be treated.

I deserve a man who is going to consider my feelings when he makes decisions.  I deserve a man who includes me in his life, not just when it’s convenient for him, but on a regular basis—either because he chooses to, or because he makes the sacrifice to do so.  I deserve to be treated with respect, to be honored and appreciated.  I am not asking for the world, but for the “simple things”.  I deserve to be with a man who isn’t trying to maintain the life of a single man while enjoying the privileges of a committed man.  Yes, each person in a relationship should have outside interests, but you can’t be committed to someone only when it’s convenient, or when it fits into your schedule.

It was at this point that Sarah drew a diagram of how she envisioned E’s idea of a “relationship” versus what I desired in a “partnership”.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 20.38.20

E’s way of relating involved a “me” and “you” mentality. My vision of relating served as a “partnership” where WE were on equal ground. It was becoming more and more clear that E was incapable of relating to me in the manner that I desired. He was incapable of including me in his decision-making. He didn’t see me as his equal. In a partnership two people are in tandem. In a partnership there is a sense of equality. In a partnership WE supersedes “you” and “me”.

It was making perfect sense that I had been making snarky remarks in the “last days” when I asked E (the Thursday before our relationship ended), “What are your plans for the weekend?” And his reply was, “I’m going to Orlando to see a friend.” Individuals in a partnership include one another in their plans. They consider their mates in decision-making. E’s inability to ask me to join him in Orlando was a clear indication that WE weren’t operating at the same relational frequency.

I sat there with a most pensive look on my face when Sarah very casually asked me, “Why do you love him?” I thought, what do you mean? Is this some kind of trick question? She continued, “Is it that you can say ‘I love the way you make me feel or I love the way I feel when I’m around you?’”

“Hold on I said. I need to write that down.” She repeated the phrase and I allowed it to penetrate my thoughts. “Any time a man showed some interest in me I would lose all sense of control.”

“It’s because you see their attention as a reward.”

The pattern was more and more clear. The dysfunction could no longer be masked. In that very moment I knew in my heart, in my spirit actually, that E was not the man for me, and I was not the woman for him. There was no longer a need to wonder about the possibility of reconciliation. He, in his pre-formed ways of relating to women, was incapable of loving me as I desired and deserved to be loved. So long as E had a “you” and “me” perspective for a “relationship”, he and I would continue to bicker and argue over the same things. I have finally accepted him as he is. E is not a bad person. He is simply a man whose way of relating does not match mine.

I leave you with scripture that has comforted me, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). The truth is truly freeing.

Private Party

“I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…I felt so alone/Started to feel a little pity/That’s when I realized that I/Gotta find the joy inside of me/I’m gonna take off all my clothes/Look at myself in the mirror/We’re gonna have a conversation/We’re gonna heal the disconnection/I don’t remember when it started/But this is where it’s gonna end/My body is beautiful and sacred/And I’m gonna celebrate it/All my life (all my life)/I’ve been looking for (I’ve been looking for)/Somebody else (else)/To make me whole (ooo)/But I had to learn the hard way (ooo)/True love began with me (ooo)/This is not ego or vanity (ooo)/I’m just celebrating me/Sometimes I’m alone but never lonely/That’s what I’ve come to realize/I’ve learned to love the quiet moments/The Sunday mornings of life/Where I can reach deep down inside/Or out into the universe/I can laugh until I cry/Or I can cry away the hurt…I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…”—from India Arie’s “Private Party

No truer words have been sung; I am assuredly having a private party. In this very moment in time I am learning how to love me and I’m celebrating the woman I’ve become. Despite the pangs of life, I am moving into my future with optimism and love for self! That being said, it was a most ironic morning when a dear friend of mine posted the following on Facebook regarding Love Languages earlier today. Within minutes people were chiming in about their specific Love Language and personal experiences related to them.

love languages

After reading through the thread of comments, I made an observation…many people had commented that their primary Love Language was Quality Time. So I posed the following to the respondents:

quality time

Still pained over this issue of Quality Time, the following words from Deepak Chopra brought an overwhelming sense of revelation and release to me.

People who find themselves alone rarely feel any incentive to explore love. They await contact with another person or run out to seek it. Thus we become dependent on other people to make us feel totally and permanently loved.  

This expectation will, however, always be defeated, and although we blame those who failed to respond to us, who responded but then left, who stayed but then changed their minds, none of them is finally the cause of our problem. The cause is our inability to develop an unshakable relationship with ourselves. The Self is the source of love. People who live their own love stories have learned this lesson above all.

Please don’t get me wrong.   I am not proposing that we shut ourselves up in our domiciles, become reclusive, and forget about relating to others. What I am proposing is that we first get a handle on loving ourselves—fully and completely, before we open ourselves up to another being.

As someone who has repeatedly looked outside of herself for a source of love, Chopra’s words are TRUTH. I was constantly pointing the finger at one lover after another because he had:

1) failed to respond [especially in the manner and/or time that I desired]

2) responded for a time, but then eventually left

3) stayed in the relationship for a time, but then changed his mind and walked away

What was even more ironic was that earlier this evening I had been texting back and forth with a college friend, and this same issue surfaced. Here’s how the “textversation” went.

Me: And how are you today?

K: I’m good—I had class so it got my mind off things.

Me: That’s good.

Any communication from R.?

K: Yeah he texted me last night and today.

Just going to remove myself emotionally from him.

It’s crazy that all these years later I still love that man.

If he’s honest then he’s not ready to let anyone in

and if he’s dishonest then I don’t need to be bothered.

Either way I have only replied to him, not initiate

any communication and just need to distance myself

from him like he’s done me.

Me: I think that is very practical.

E. emailed me this morning and my response was short,

devoid of emotion.

K: What did he say?

Me: “Good morning.

Hope you had a good trip and weekend.”

K: What did you say? “Thanks”.

That’s what I would have said.

Me: “Good morning.

I had a wonderful time. Thanks.”

My exact words.

K: Games ****** play—I tell ya.

Me: Exactly. Be all in or be out.

That’s how I see it.

But it doesn’t even matter

because I refuse to be sucked back into his vortex.

K: Same here.

Me: I’ve taken back control and it feels good.

Embedded in our words is disappointment based on the actions and/or inactions of men that we love(d). But it isn’t fair to hold them accountable without taking responsibility for expecting another human being to make us feel loved. We must be our own source of love. To hold these men accountable is being judgmental because “Judgment is whatever tells you that there is something wrong with yourself or someone else” (Chopra, 1997). Furthermore, Chopra cautions that, “There can be no sense of security in your existence when it depends upon outside factors [another being], for the unpredictable changes of reality can never be controlled…As long as love is [external] pleasure, its end—a sad tapering off into indifference and inertia—is predictable.” All that being said, the TRUTH that each of us must embrace is that, “There is no one out there waiting for you. There is only you and the love you bring to yourself” (Chopra, 1997).

♪♪♪ ”I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become…” ♪♪♪

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who’s the “Ugliest” of Them All?

“It’s like I’m a magnet for emotionally unavailable men.”

No sooner had I said those words than the revelation pierced me in my spirit. I truly was creating my own chaos. I had been entertaining my own enemy. In that very moment I knew it was time to change the landscape of my life.

In The Path To Love by Deepak Chopra, he notes, “However good or bad you feel about your relationship, the person you are with at this moment is the ‘right’ person, because he or she is a mirror of who you are inside”. I read those words just days after my epiphany. And as soon as I read them, I came back to the afore-mentioned conversation that had provided me with enlightenment.

The full weight of my dating experiences (ways of relating to men) hit me like a mac truck. My experiences were the result of my compartmentalizing my feelings in an effort to prevent a potential heartache.

This blessing of falling in love comes from spirit, but it can be blocked by ego. Ego is responsible for protecting your self-image; it creates the compartments where everything undesirable about you has been hidden. What blocks love is not the presence of these shadow energies but the division of the psyche that came about when your ego started building inner walls. Love is a flow, and walls keep the flow out (Chopra, 1997)

I had been operating at an emotional minimum and the result was my attracting men who also operated at the same frequency. One-by-one the names and experiences were recalled to my memory. I was darn-near emotionally bankrupt, and if I didn’t wise up soon, I would keep attracting men who were merely able and/or interested in committing on a surface level. For years I had built up these fortified barriers in an attempt to “protect” myself from being hurt and/or disappointed from love. As I write these words now it seems so asinine to “say” that love has the possibility to “hurt” and/or “disappoint”. After all, Chopra points out that love:

  1. Heals
  2. Renews
  3. Makes us safe
  4. Inspires
  5. Makes us certain
  6. Ousts all fear
  7. Unveils immortality
  8. Brings peace
  9. Harmonizes differences
  10. Brings us closer to God

 

If all of these things are true about love, then you can understand how ludicrous my previous assumptions about love were—having the ability to “hurt” and/or “disappoint”.

Nevertheless, in relaying my recent emotional and spiritual breakthroughs to my hypnotherapist, Sarah, we talked about my “unhealthy ways of relating to men.” Over the years I had become this person who yearned to love and be loved, but the “loving” I was giving and receiving was a fear-based pseudo-love. It wasn’t authentic because…

love can feel too personal, even for ourselves; it pokes into those compartments where our negative self-image is stored…to love another person involves opening up your whole being (Chopra, 1997)

I have been afraid to truly open up the contents of my heart. There are so many things in the there that I didn’t like, so I couldn’t fathom how another human (spiritual) being could see the ugly things within me, and still want to stick around. But like Deepak Chopra points out, we have to open up our entire being to another person if we truly are seeking love in its purest form. That means that we first have to embrace the “ugly” that resides inside us, but at the same time, not allow it to limit our love of self. After we have learned to love ALL of what we are: good, bad, and some “ugly”, we can then show ALL that we are to those with whom we want to relate—male and female.

Now that I have embarked on this “path to love”, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because I have the assurance that ALL of who I am is perfect, whole, and complete (a mantra shared with me by Sarah). This journey of mine is affording me daily opportunities to love and be loved completely, fully, and without condition. In closing, I leave you with words that have recently given me hope and peace.

Pearls of Wisdom from The Path To Love by Deepak Chopra

“You were created to be completely loved and completely lovable for your whole life.”

“In spirit you are pure love.”

“The reason you do not feel completely loved and completely lovable is that you do not identify with your spiritual nature.”

“When you find your path, you will also find your love story.”

“When you truly find love, you find yourself.”

Forgiveness

Today’s piece was birthed from a short string of correspondence that I had with my beloved. Though emotionally and physically estranged from one another, we have maintained communication. And as a result, I haven’t completely been able to move forward because my heart longs for this man who made the decision that we should split. That being said, I wanted clarity. I know from the past that unanswered questions have the potential to drive me crazy, so I wanted to ward off a return to entertaining old strongholds. Nevertheless, in asking questions, I have also learned that we may not receive the answer we hoped to hear. So here is the message I sent to him just yesterday. Mind you, I prayed that God would help me accept whatever response was returned, and to move forward in peace and love.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.06

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.15

Screenshot 2015-06-11 11.13.21

While it wasn’t exactly the response I was hoping for, it wasn’t a “no”. At the present moment I am not sure that the “maybe” I received has brought me solace or more confusion. At any rate, what latched onto my spirit was my beloved’s statement, “I just need time to heal and clear my head so maybe one day I can forgive”. Forgive.

Forgiveness seems so very simple in theory, but the reality of the action can seem insurmountable for many. I heard somewhere that forgiveness isn’t for the other person (the one who “wronged” us), but forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. I agree with this logic because when we harbor feelings of unforgiveness, it is only stunting our growth and development. All too often those we feel have done us wrong may have no idea that what they said and/or did impacted us in such a profound way as to leave us crippled or damaged emotionally and/or psychologically. Words, which have the power to uplift or destroy, have lasting conscious and subconscious effects on our psyche.

As part of my healing process, I have immersed myself in the music of India Arie, a kindred spirit. Ironically enough, the lyrics to India Arie’s “The Heart of the Matter” rose with me this morning.

I got a call today, I didn’t wanna hear/but I knew that it would come/An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone/She said you found someone/And I thought of all the bad luck,/And all the struggles we went through/How I lost me and you lost you/What are all these voices outside love’s open door/Make us throw off our contentment/And beg for something more?

I’ve been learning to live without you now/But I miss you sometimes/The more I know, the less I understand/All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning them again/I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter/But my will gets weak/And my thoughts seem to scatter/But I think it’s about forgiveness/Forgiveness/Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore…

These lines capture the Sound Track of My Life. On the heels of healing from this recent break up, I do find myself missing my beloved sometimes. My thoughts are oftentimes scattered. My will to remain positive does often get weak. And I know with all certainty that forgiveness is at the heart of this matter of brokenness.

After I listened to the song a couple more times I sent the link of a live performance to my beloved. I’m not sure he understood where I was coming from, but I’ve recently decided that I won’t take anything personally. And that includes the lack of response. Afterwards, I went in search of scripture on the topic of forgiveness. Below are those that resonated with my spirit.

Forgiveness Scriptures

Matthew 6: 14-15 (MSG)

“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Mark 11: 25 (MSG)

“If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)

“We certainly don’t look at him [people] that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

Isaiah 43: 25 (Amplified)

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Daniel 9: 9 (MSG)

“Compassion is our only hope…”

If we work with the logic that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, then Matthew 6: 14-15 proves that unforgiveness leaves us at a deficit with God—making it impossible for Him to send us the healing that will propel us to our “next level” experience.

Likewise, Mark 11:25 is also proof that we cannot receive forgiveness of our wrongdoings if we haven’t in fact forgiven others.

In the case of 2 Corinthians 5: 17 God is calling us to relinquish our view of the “old man” who “wronged” us. He is calling us to see each other with new eyes. When I woke this morning the following prayer sprang from spirit, out of my mouth, and onto the pages of my notebook/journal:

Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us. All too often when we look in the mirror the image we see is untrue. We see a fragmented, broken, incapable, unlovable person because of what has been said and/or done to us. But God, give us new eyes that allow us to see our [and other’s] truth—who we are through your eyes.

When we consider Isaiah 43: 25 we find the absolute TRUTH about forgiveness. God himself “blots out and cancels” the remembrance of our wrongdoing(s). And it isn’t for our sake because He says, “…for My own sake…” There you have it right there. Forgiving others is truly something we do for ourselves–for our healing, growth, and spiritual development.

And finally, in Daniel 9: 9 we find the simple solution to the “woes” of humanity, compassion. When we express compassion for our fellow man we are doing what God sent us here to do, love one another as He loves us. When we are able to extend compassion for another person we are essentially freeing ourselves from the bondages that would otherwise keep us from the greater life God has prepared for us. Compassion is a gift, like forgiveness, that we give to ourselves and to others.

beloved 3.0

The 4 a.m. Epiphany

4 am epiphany

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” –James 1:2-3 (New American Standard Bible)

I didn’t fully understand this scripture until recently. It didn’t make a lick of sense for anyone, me especially, to respond to trials and tribulations with joy. Yes, joy. Joy God?

Joy has such positive connotations and synonyms: happiness, elation, satisfaction, and glee. On the flip side, the word trial is synonymous with tests and assessments—words that can, an often do, send school children into a tizzy (some teachers too, but that’s another post for another day). To be quite honest, it seemed utterly asinine to respond to a single trial with any semblance of joy. But trials, plural? Really? I kept thinking: God? Are you serious? How could someone who was “taking a beating”—emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc. muster up the strength to smile? How could someone find the fortitude to express elation? How in the world could someone graft the grace to be gleeful?

After enduring the pain of heart break again and again, I asked God a simple question. Why? His answer: because you’re strong. Quite vehemently I replied. What? I’m strong? Well, there you have it. So, we should “consider it a sheer gift” when we are tested because it is a sign of what God sees in us, our strength to endure. That’s right, with each test and tribulation God is testing our ability to trust in Him. And when we don’t lose hope in the midst of these trials, we are gifted the ability to endure (the next eighty-two trials and tribulations).

We were each placed on this earth for a specific purpose. God, who is omniscient (all-knowing), knew (in the beginning) which of us would be able to handle the weight of life. His omniscience is evidenced in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-29, Amplified Bible).

For it [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man who was about to take a long journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his property. To one he gave five talents (probably about $5,000), to another two, to another one—to each in proportion to his own personal ability. Then he departed and left the country. He who had received five talents went at once and traded them, and he gained five talents more. And likewise he who had received two talents—he also gained two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those talents returned and settled accounts with them. And he who had received five talents came and brought him five more, saying, Master, you entrusted to me five talents; see, here I have gained five talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. And he also who had two talents came forward, saying, Master, you entrusted two talents to me; here I have gained two talents more. His master said to him, Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy (the delight, the blessedness) which your master enjoys. He who had received one talent also came forward, saying, Master, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you had not winnowed (the grain). So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is your own. But his master answered him, You wicked and lazy and idle servant! Did you indeed know that I reap where I have not sowed and gather (grain) where I have not winnowed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent away from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given, and he will be furnished richly so that he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does will be taken away.

And what does this scripture prove? I’m glad you asked. Here is what we must focus on in order for us not to lose hope (and express joy) in doing good for the sake of God (2 Thessalonians 13).

  1. The all-knowing God (like the Master in the parable) knows what we can handle
  2. God gives us that which we need in order to succeed/prosper, talents (literally and figuratively)
  3. We (God’s children) develop those talents
  4. God honors/blesses us for doing His will (being faithful)
  5. God doesn’t bless us when we operate out of fear and/or doubt His power and faithfulness

As I heal from this most recent heart ache 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV) brings me joy.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.

Live blessed because you are!