Watching the “This is Us” season premiere this week I finally saw some of my own thoughts and feelings mirrored by some of the characters.
And it wasn’t a comfortable thing.
Talking about the hard issues that we’ve been facing over the last few months has not been easy. Racial injustice, police policies, political differences, COVID responses, there’s a fight ready to break out all over. There is the way we discuss in our homes, with people who know us well. Then there is the way people address things on their Facebook pages or tweets or snapchats or whatever form of social media they’re using today. And then the way the media portrays the world, one sensation at a time.
I have to say that I’ve been searching for a better way to even begin a conversation. I made a little stab a few months ago, talking about what the world and racial tensions was like in the 60’s and 70’s when I was a girl, from my point of view.
But I find it hard to sympathize with everyone out there pointing fingers and blaming this group or that, this ideology or that, this public figure or that law enforcement system, or … put in whatever ones you’ve been hearing.
I think that blame isn’t the place to start.
As I’ve watched and listened to various viewpoints it occurred to me that almost all of them approach the terrible things happening in our world by not only blaming, but proceeding to also explain the motives of whoever they are blaming.
As if one person can ever know the thoughts, values, intentions of another person.
I think a better place to begin to make a difference amongst all the oppression in the world is in our own hearts.
I’m not copping out here.
I think it’s important to have a moral compass, to have a value system on which to make sober judgments about what is good and bad about our world. And it is important to take a stand for what is right.
But I think before I charge off with half-formed ideas, joining up with the masses of people protesting, I should know where I stand.
How do I measure up against the standards I want to hold other people to?
Over the last five and a half years I’ve done a lot of facing up to my own issues. In Celebrate Recovery I’ve learned that in order to understand my own faults and failures, my own wrong attitudes and actions, I have had to do a lot of digging.
I’ve had to face the truth inside me.
That I’ve been hurt. By specific people, in specific ways. By the way the world worked when I was a girl, the way children were not believed and certainly weren’t protected like they should have been.
Those hurts led me to have what CR calls hang-ups. Because I had wrong ideas about relationships and love, I acted in ways that made sense in my warped viewpoint, but which weren’t right.
And so as I let my hang-ups have more influence over me than truth did, I sank into habits that helped me cope with life, ways I would behave to not have to face things I wasn’t ready to acknowledge.
It was a very self-defensive way to live. I know the effects of the way I learned to deal with realities I didn’t want to face have gone on to affect my family. And it may take the rest of my life to convince them I’m not the same person anymore.
As I started facing my past hurts, I found that I was eager to dig in, dig up, clear out a space where I could rebuild my life with better materials.
In order to do that, I needed to take the time to examine where I’ve been, what happened to me, what I did as a result, and how it has affected me and others.
It’s a very humbling process.
One thing I was miserably short on 5+ years ago was mercy. I felt that if I could live through and thrive in spite of childhood abuse, other people should be able to handle their much lighter (in my viewpoint) problems without whining about it.
I had little patience for people who couldn’t get their act together.
Until I realized that pretty much everyone has times when their smooth looking life is really just an act.
And the last thing I needed was to continue pretending I was in control.
So in this process of dredging up my issues, sifting through all the muck, I’ve been finding wisdom and strength coming through. It’s been hard work, but it’s been worth it to find the good that God has worked out of all of this for me.
And in this continuing journey of recovery I’ve learned that I don’t know what anyone else’s story is, where they are in their journey.
And I am not their judge and jury.
I have learned to feel and show mercy.
So what does “This is Us” have to do with this? Well, I’m not going to spoil anything, but I think the season premiere did a really good job of showing that even the people we know well, that we are closest to, have had experiences and felt things we would never have imagined.
And even those people we know best, we don’t really know as much about as we thought.
Then there are people we don’t know at all, the ones we look at and make assumptions about, assign motives to, trivialize for not reacting the way we would, for holding a different viewpoint, or dismiss because they aren’t in our normal frame of reference.
And we may never know just how wrong the assumptions we’ve based our lives on can be.
So I don’t have any revolutionary answers to the conflicts we’re dealing with in society. But I do know that I can’t read your mind, and vice versa. And as valid as I feel my feelings and thoughts are to me, yours are equally valid to you.
And whether we reach out to each other or not, I know there is great value in doing the work of figuring out what I feel and why I feel it. Because in the light, some of the ways I’ve dealt with life in the past proved to be so pointless.
Laying out my past convoluted attempts to control my life, and looking at them through the lens of truth I find in my relationship with God, in his word and his Spirit in me have shown me many ways I wasted opportunities to grow. Times when fear of not knowing the next step kept me from ever taking it.
And now I think our world is ready for us to take some new steps, because what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked out that well.
I’d like to start by not assuming anything about you. I’d rather you tell me about you. What you’ve seen in your life. How it made you feel. Why you believe the way you do.
And I’ll tell you about me. And maybe in one person-to-person exchange after another we can see the wisdom and strength we’ve both learned in life, the good that has happened because of the bad.
Then maybe there would be less diatribes, less rants about whatever other-than-them group people think are causing the world’s problems.
Actions have consequences.
And I thank God every day that mine are bearable because of his mercy on me.
I’d like to think that with a lot more mercy and a lot less blame, I can take a new step and move past the injustices of the past, starting in my own heart, and reaching out to yours.