Today I’m thankful for reminders of my personal shortcomings.
Just a heads up, this is kind of a tough one to write that I’ve come up with many excuses not to write it, but even though it hurts it is an incredible lesson for me to remember. I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit where some of my thoughts went, but this was been a very good slap upside the head that I’m sure to remember for some time.
As I was checking the Facebook updates on my post about Gavin’s birthday my eyes wandered to the “People You May Know” section. One of the names jumped out at me and immediately had me remembering an incredibly embarrassing moment of him that has always been the first thing I think of when I think of him. I then thought about some of his questionable values from when I knew him as a kid. In my head I started picturing how miserable his life probably has been, knowing that I must be right even though it’s been decades since I last spoke with him. It was with a sense of smugness and superiority that I clicked into his Facebook profile…
When I was growing up I was picked on. People made assumptions based on the clothes I wore, the hobbies I had, the games I played, and the fact that I usually did a great job of keeping myself out of trouble (honest to God, I didn’t even have my first full beer until after I graduated high school). I was given a hard time about my extreme lack of athletic talent, the way I wore my emotions on my sleeve, and for many other reasons. Years after leaving town I even had one of the bullies explain to me (while he was drunk) that he didn’t like me because my pants were always too short. People made assumptions about me, picked on me and ridiculed me. There was on specific event in which a bunch of classmates did some really stupid stuff and when they got busted blamed me for it and I got the awesome nickname of “Red Rat” that stuck with me through high school. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even the one who said anything and personally I could’ve cared less about entire situation. This, and many other reasons, were why I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of my hometown, make a name for myself based on who I really am, and never look back. I never wanted to go back to deal with jerks and bullies who treated people like that. I also promised myself that the only time I would truly get angry at one of my kids was if I ever caught them bullying someone.
Fast forward to my freshman year at Michigan Tech when I was the ONLY kid from Phillips enrolled. It was a amazing! I got to be me, no prejudices, no preconceived ideas, no known backstory, just me as I was at that moment. I was only judged and accepted for who I really was at the time, the gravity of the past had absolutely no bearing on who I was to my new friends. They only knew me, not the Mike who had made mistakes and been picked on. It was liberating in a way that I struggle to explain. I was free to be me.
As the years have gone by I’ve start to learn that those formative years are tough for everyone. We all have our mountains to climb and our crosses to bear. My story isn’t incredibly unique and I’m growing less and less surprised by learning that the stories of very successful people have often started with adversity as a child in some way shape or form. Who knows how many of my childhood friends, college friends, and now adult friends have travelled a similar path? How many felt trapped by the dogma of childhood experiences? How many found an escape or dealt with it? How many still struggle?
Which, sadly, brings me back to today. As I opened up the profile with a little evil glee I was stopped in my tracks with what I found. A proud dad. A soldier who had served his country more than I have ever dreamed. A happy and successful man.
As I read the info on his profile I eventually made eye contact with myself in the reflection on my phone and immediately felt my face burn red with shame. I had just done to him what others had done to hurt me in the past. I judged him by a handful of incidents from long ago. In my mind I held him captive in a prison built of his past. How awful is that? How wrong am I to to think and feel that way? Of the things that have hurt me the most in my life I was brandishing the same weapon. That realization hurts more than the taunts of the past, I know better!
And that’s why I’m thankful for reminders of my personal shortcomings today. In past blogs I’ve written about the line that just seems to stick to me like glue… From Matthew 7:1-5…
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Father Mark used to talk about knowing the gap between who we are and who we are called to be. I didn’t mind the gap, I totally tripped and fell right in it!
Father Dodge just discussed a similar concept just this weekend about having to go through our own narrow gate. Walk the narrow gate? Nope, I ran right into the wall at breakneck pace and didn’t even notice the gate until I was flat on my back.
While these realizations of my failures hurt, it is in their sting that I can realize the error, learn from it, and do my best to work on the flaw. Now that I’ve seen it I can spend time on it, think on it, pray on it, and work on it.
As one mentor once told me, “when you are uncomfortable, you are growing.” Writing this blog today has been about as uncomfortable as any blog has been to date, I hope I’m growing from this one! One thing’s for certain, I’ll be pausing for a moment to check my thoughts when I think of someone to be sure I’m remembering to focus on them in the present as opposed to judging them from their past. I’m just thankful God has given me time to work on these shortcomings. As He already knows, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to live to be 105 or older to work on them all.