SILENCE THE NOISE OF OTHERS; LISTEN TO YOUR OWN VOICE.
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, ought to – words that always preceded advice from folks who felt they knew better than we did concerning subjects ranging from career choices to marriage prospects to church affiliations. They always knew better, did they not?
How long did you tolerate this type of badgering and bullying? I turned a deaf ear early in life, but unfortunately, I had no better options than those offered to me by others. Before me lay a long road of self-abuse during which I would have done well to listen to family and friends. In those years I was the epitome of ‘self-will run riot’ and I know today as an old man that Larry Brown, the young man, had serious emotional deficits and character defects. Some people will say, “yeah, Larry, when are you going to get better, you’re still whacko?”
“I can’t hear you. That’s right, I won’t be listening anymore to your should have, could have, would have and ought to and I am not accepting your inventory of me.”
I began to heal when I trusted the inner voice more than the outside noise. People, especially friends and family, learned that I no longer put their theories and perspectives before my own gut and conscience because I had learned to validate myself and the Higher Power of my understanding. We have been an awesome team facing life on life’s terms. It’s a love affair unlike any other realized on my journey’s path.
I humbly accept the available mercy and grace quietly with gratitude. I speak, not with braggadocio, but under an awe which transcends human words and understanding. Millions of fellow sufferers have traveled this same road knowing that it is not an earned reward for sober-living, but a gift freely given. It is the essence of amazing grace unleashed on a wretch like me.
“Pretty danged froggy. Better than I deserve to be.”
As a teenager, I worked with my grandfather on his farm. One of his hired hands, Bill, several years older than me, was a simple sort of fellow with a wisdom far beyond his age. When someone asked Bill how he was doing today, he always replied, “Pretty danged froggy. Better than I deserve to be.”
Isn’t that true for most of us in recovery? We haven’t won awards for civic accomplishments, we failed in our relationships, and we certainly missed the “citizen of the year” bus. But, for reasons beyond our understanding, grace and mercy were extended to us, we latched on to a miracle, and our lives were transformed.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.”
“You are my rock and my fortress – my soul’s sanctuary! Therefore, for the sake of your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.” PSALM 31:3 VOICE
Many of us, me included, wear our emotions on our sleeves. I had a great friend in early recovery who could read my eyes and immediately know what was happening within my soul. It was disconcerting sometimes that a person could look at me and tell me what I was thinking or how I was feeling. As our friendship deepened, he confided that my eye color was a giveaway. Dark blue eyes meant trouble and discontent while sky blue eyes indicated a cheerful and peaceful inner being. I eventually learned to discern the same in his eyes.
In the same way, body language can betray what is happening internally. Arms crossed in front of me tell others not to approach too closely. Eye contact indicates whether I am interested in continuing our conversation and fidgeting lets you know that I am uncomfortable with the interaction. Folded hands and a bowed head extend my respect for your inner essence, “Namaste.” A beaming smile and genuine bear hug says, “come on in and share my life for awhile.”
But, what else do I wear on my sleeve? How about my faith? I lived most of my adult life keeping my faith hidden within. My church upbringing frowned upon sharing a part of me that could intrude or disagree with another’s beliefs. Although my church named itself as evangelical, it did not practice evangelism. Much of that attitude stemmed from cultural issues within my community which was isolated from mainstream America well into the 20th century. We kept to ourselves because it was a safer way to approach the ridicule of the more popular cultures surrounding us. We were Germanic people whose forefathers had immigrated to the British colonies in the early 1700s indenturing themselves to the governor of New York for 7 years in return for land, we spoke a Germanic dialect, and we kept to the old customs. We were not overly popular during WWII and the years following.
I learned early to keep my faith to myself. In retrospect, I probably did not have much faith during my active alcoholism because I could not allow an old gray-haired, bearded, eyes-on-fire entity dwelling somewhere in the heavens into my life. It was far too frightening. I knew that I was always in His cross-hairs and the fear was overwhelming. So I drank as much as I could to overcome my fears and inhibitions. When I was drunk that old man in the sky was powerless over me.
When drinking finally brought me to my knees, I did some praying while I was down there. The miracle of Alcoholics Anonymous and its concept of a Higher Power pulled me from the insanity which had become my life. I learned how to hold my head high and I learned to wear my faith on my sleeve for the world to see. If you want to talk about faith, give me a big smile and a huge bear hug. We’ll talk.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see
John Newton 1779