I’ve been helping my mother quite a bit lately. She’s recovering from a pretty extensive surgery in December. The world doesn’t just stop when one is forced to slow down and recover. I was reminded of this the past few days as I am battling the cold/flu that’s been so prevalent this year. Life must go on and therefore we must count on family, friends and colleagues to help when we can’t muster up the strength to help ourselves. Her trash still needs taken out. Her dogs still need cared for. Anything over three pounds still needs lifted by someone. I’ve been at her house for weeks helping.
Let me take you back for some context…
I grew up a pretty small kid. I was certainly bullied a few times in school. I also grew up in an environment that wasn’t exactly safe for the first decade of my life. Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while already know this. Needless to say I learned how to posture as I grew older. I learned to puff out my chest and bark loudly as a defense mechanism. The world destroyed much of my self worth, self confidence and self love early on; so posturing was also a way to preserve what little of these I had left. I was hell bent to show the world how tough I was throughout my teenage and young adult years.
I’m aware of the psychology behind why I acted with such ferocity as I came into adulthood. I realize the scared little kid was still buried and wounded within myself. I’ve gone through plenty of counseling and healing sessions in my day, which is something I’m considerably proud of. I think anyone vulnerable enough to get help is stronger than those who bury the problem and let wounds guide actions.
Back to my role as my mother’s aid over the past several weeks. She has this neighbor. I’m careful not to diagnose his issues from afar. I can only explain what I can see from my vantage point. After all, this post is about my determination of “THE GOOD FIGHT,” not his psychological makeup. We all know how bullies posture. I recognize this from a hundred yards away just watching him, as he watches us. Whether it’s a car parked inadvertently on the street overnight, a dog momentarily barking outside (seriously- momentarily), or my mother’s desire to build another garage- he does everything he can to make her life miserable within the confines of their neighborhood. I’m not saying she’s right or he’s right. I am saying however that his demeanor is aggressive.
I’m going to be real with you here. I still have bouts with my own ego. I’m sure those who are aware of the extensive nature of the definition of the word ego can relate. The more aware you become of ego, the more you realize how hard it is to tame. Ego drives many people more than their true selves. Egos are formed to protect, control and manipulate the world we live in and those in it. Ego equals self-preservation amidst a chaotic world!
I was bringing in her trash bins from the road a few days ago. I noticed her neighbor in his driveway talking to another neighbor across the street. I glanced over and realized he was staring at me. I grabbed her trash containers and headed up her long driveway from the street. I looked over and he was still staring, chest puffed out in a speculative fashion. I decided to stare back all the way up the driveway. My ego was in full force that moment. “Come on- just give me a reason to say something!”
I don’t always take my loved ones’ sides in situations. I would be the first to tell my mother to rethink her point of view if I felt she was in the wrong. With this gentleman, I don’t feel like she is. I actually feel like every interaction screams EGO via his desire for control and power. The way he postured toward me walking up the driveway was nothing short of a UFC pre bout stare-down. I eventually had to discontinue the adolescent behavior and head inside with my head shaking.
I practiced martial arts for years as a teenager. I have my black belt. I learned how to fight and even won a sparring tournament. 🙂 I never took it further once moving from Indiana to Arizona for college, but still learned quite a bit about technique. My ego- walk over and flex some muscle. Nobody stares at me like that. Nobody calls me out and gets away with it. My wounded inner-child will come bursting onto scene with rage.
Yeah, not so much anymore. I realize more than ever that in recognition of my own ego I can also recognize ego in others. I realize this man probably never went through counseling or healing. I realize that a bully will remain a bully as long as it works for him. I realize that it’s easier to flex muscle than actually give grace. I realize that being the first to look away is actually harder. Walking away from someone else puffing doesn’t make me meek, it makes me more rational, more aware of myself, and more in-tune with God.
The only way someone’s stare can get to me is if I let it. The only way someone’s bark or bite can impact me is if I let them. Another example that happens daily- someone tailgating me. This will get my ego flaring up faster than gasoline on a fire. Yet I realize through self-awareness that it does no good. Gracefully merging over and letting someone pass makes me more of a man than flipping them off and yelling curse words. Why should the adult version of me quarrel with the child version of another adult? Why should I let someone staring at me entice my ego to do something rash? What wasted emotion. What wasted energy. What a wasted opportunity to show GRACE!
I believe people are acting from deep down places of hurt more often than they realize. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been the guy with a big bark, spewing words that pierced with eyes of fire. Life isn’t much fun when you FIND REASONS to be angry all the time. Why look for added anxiety, hatred or hostility? Don’t we have enough of these things in the world without having to add more?
The more aware I’ve become via self-healing, the more grace I’m actually able to give others. I used to really struggle with the idea of Matthew 5:44 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Jesus spoke these words. I don’t have near as hard of a time taking His advice now that I’ve been blessed by His grace in my life. I’ve drawn closer to Jesus over the past few years, especially as I’ve learned to Surrender all things to God via this project. The more I Surrender to God, the less control I give to others to “upset my apple cart.”
I guess when Jesus tightens His grip on our heart, we also have bigger hearts for others. I suppose we don’t get so upset and permit the world to bring as much dismay because we’re too busy leaning against the stability of The Cornerstone Himself. I just realize how ridiculous puffing out my chest is. Make fun of me all you want. Stare me down all you want. Curse at me all you want. These behaviors are learned and certainly don’t represent the divine versions of us created by God! I want to be more of this version!
I mean, it’s just a dog barking… it’s just a car on the street… it’s just a woman’s son bringing in her garbage containers. No harm, no foul. I pray this man finds peace and happiness via a relationship with Jesus. I pray this for all people, even if they persecute me, don’t like me or judge me. He offers grace to us all and I pray we all find a way to accept Him with open arms. The Good Fight: bringing more people to the grip of Christ and becoming more gripped ourselves. This fight is against our ego, the struggle for worldly power, the craving for possessions, and the struggle for control. These are the battlefields worth entering!
Much love and happy weekend!
You can find me on Instagram: @Surrender_Project