It’s not your circumstances that create your reality. It’s what you tell yourself in the midst of those circumstances. I’ve known this for a long time, but evidently I needed to wallow in a pit of negativity for a few days to remind me.
I started digging the pit after sharing with someone how their behavior was hurting me. A normal person would probably leave the shovel in the shed and get on with their life. Instead, I decided to tell myself the awkward tension now between us was my own fault. If only I had told them sooner, or more eloquently, or less teary-eyed.
I tried to be gentle with myself. I tried to stop ruminating about how I might have handled it better. I even phoned a few friends to elicit third-party perspective.
Even so, my attempts at optimism were only temporary. It was easier to tell myself I was a failure, so I just kept digging the pit. I knew I’d reached the big ugly monster at the bottom when I told myself the thing you are never supposed to tell yourself – “I am a horrible human being.”
If you’ve spent any time down in that pit, you know what happens next. Once you tell yourself you are fatally flawed, you decide life is unbearable and death would be a welcome relief from your suffering. This is not a good time to go for a drive.
But, like an addict trying to find their next fix, I found myself behind the wheel trying to escape my pain. I went to a game room to shoot pool, took one look around and walked out. I drove to a park, shut off the engine, and then started it again and left. No matter where I went, I couldn’t elude my suffering.
It took three days and five friends before I found my way out of the pit of despair and confusion. It was miserable, but I learned a lot down there. Not only did I learn who my friends are, I also learned I too easily put all the responsibility for a relationship on my own shoulders.
I’m not afraid to own what’s mine to own, but I rob the other person of their learning when I also own what is theirs to own. I think I’m afraid they won’t own it, but my owning it for them doesn’t help in the least. In fact, it harms us both.
Perfect peace does not come from avoiding the truth. Nor does it come from behaving perfectly. It only comes from dismantling the façade of false peace by being perfectly honest – and then leaving the outcome in God’s capable hands.
Now that I’ve experienced this re-learning, I hope I’ll have the foresight to lock the shovel in the shed before sharing how I feel. And afterwards, when I’m freaking out looking for the key so I can comfort my discomfort with misery, I hope I won’t find it. Instead, I hope to find peace by telling myself this – the truth is what sets people free. Only the truth.
Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it faith. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.