fear

smiley-face-2Just another traveler on life’s highway, hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet, it’s peaceful; beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

“….So false pride became the reverse side of the ruinous coin marked ‘FEAR’.  We simply had to cover up our deep-lying inferiorities.”  AS BILL SEES IT, Bill Wilson, pg. 46

Often, I have heard “fear” defined as the absence of love.  In acts of unconditional compassion and love, there is no thought given to the “what if” moment.  What if this person is scamming me, what if that homeless man intends to harm me, what if my spouse is cheating on me, what if I lose my life trying to help my friend, etc.?  The list of “what ifs” can be endless.  They will control who I am and undermine my commitment to be fearless and thorough in all my actions.  Fear will always keep me from realizing my full potential as a person in recovery.

In addition to concerns about physical safety, which are healthy in certain situations involving the unknown intentions of people I encounter, fear has always been a tool used to hide my deep-lying inferiorities.  Having endured bullying at the hands of “the big kids” in junior high school, I convinced myself that, yes, the names those boys used were accurate.  I was everything they called me and I was inferior to “normal” guys.  I learned how to fend for myself, not by fighting back which would be against the faith in which my family raised me, but by justifying the self-hatred growing inside me.  I deserved their attacks because I was ugly, I was stupid, I was a coward.

My driving response to life became fear.  Fear that friends would not like me if they saw that which I saw inside of me.   I despised myself and therefore expected others would also feel that way when they came to know the “real” me.  I learned very effectively to present a persona completely contrary to the insecure man into whom I had grown.  Alcohol aided that deception tremendously.  Under the control of my demon, I eventually believed the lies I portrayed about myself.  Honesty was replaced by justified lying.

Fear, fueled by alcohol, led me into a life of torturing self-doubt and an inability to form any semblance of intimacy with another person.  When that possible mate reached a point which required absolute commitment, Larry bailed out.  My fear refused to accept that any other person could love me unconditionally.  How could they?  I certainly could not love me because I despised whom I was.  How could anyone love me?

Fear, consoled by alcohol, took me to a place where the walls were high and the moat was filled with emotional tools to protect myself from the intrusions of life.  I refused to participate in those events which brought joy and camaraderie to other people.  I convinced myself that they did not truly want me to be a part of their lives.  I resorted to my indwelling unworthiness to seclude and detach.  My concept of happiness was living in a cave of a cliff-side monastery baking bread and meditating on the meaning of life.

Fear, having consumed every second of life, finally brought me to a personal ultimatum.  It said to me, “You are worthless, you are useless, you are a failure, you should probably die.”

The absence of self-love in my existence was preparing the final victory for fear.  It was a demoralizing moment in an alcoholic’s life.  My constant companion, alcohol, had taken me to a place where human determination and self-will could no longer hide me.  There were no more places where I could run and continue life.

So, when I remember and when I tell others about the miraculous intervention of a Higher Power at that point in this alcoholic’s life, I joyously give all the credit to a God and a fellowship which loved me more than I had ever been able to love myself.  And guess what?  That love eventually rubbed off on me.  From my deepest insecurities flowed a healthy self-awareness of whom I really was.  From the self-loathing came an appreciation for the person God had discovered within me.  From the loneliness of a self-imposed cave on a cliff-side sprung a home among millions of brothers and sisters who had also been saved from lives of despair and worthlessness.

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right Spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

It required a thorough, internal house-cleaning  and a complete restoration to bring the demon alcohol into submission and defeat.  The praise and the victory belong to a commitment to sober-living, the power of God as I understand God, and the fellowship of like-minded survivors.  If you are sober today, give yourself a hand.

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bullying

 

“BULLYING – abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger and more powerful.”

In junior high school I weighed about 145 pounds, I was gangly and scrawny, and my oversized ears and nose made me an easy target for the big boys waiting in the gym where I had to go after lunch on my way to my next class.  Punching, poking, slapping, and pushing became such a stressful occurrence that I ended the school day with an extreme gastrointestinal disorder.  But the physical abuse was more tolerable than the name-calling and ridicule of my physical appearance.  I recovered from the punching and poking much sooner than the hurtful words.

The teachers were aware of the ongoing abuse.  Their advice was to fight back.  Not only was that a stupid idea, the big boys collectively weighed about 800 pounds, but it was an unacceptable option in the tradition of my faith.  The end result was that a young junior high school student blamed himself for the abuse and felt he actually merited the bullying because he was not only ugly but a coward as well.

We hurt each other with actions and words most often unaware of our indiscretion.  Mindlessness is not a virtue but it is forgivable.  Bullying is not mindless.  It is intentional, demeaning, diminishing, and tragic.  Today’s media headlines tell of young girls who are bullied at school and on social media and then choose suicide as the only option.  As young as twelve years old, they end their lives over an act of social injustice which tells them they are unworthy of living..

Yes, it is injustice.  Bullying is an action and an attitude.  It is an outrageous verbal and physical assault on those who are vulnerable, those who are unable to fend for themselves.  It is cowardice at its ugliest.  As a nation we are witnessing bullying in our highest government offices, in the powers seated in Washington, D.C., in the Oval Office of the White House.  We witness bullying in corporate offices, in the entertainment industry, in the factory, and in schools.  It is fed by bias, racism, discrimination, sexism, xenophobia, and unfettered ego.

We are building a world where bullying is not tolerated.  In that world the pain inflicted by words and actions on weaker victims will no longer exist.  The tears and sorrow suffered in grieving for loved victims will no longer exist.  The strong and powerful will be made to serve and the meek will be exalted.  That world will manifest someday, but until then it is our responsibility as members of a righteous humanity to oppose bullying at all levels of society and courageously expose it for the cowardice which it is.

REVELATION 21:4

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sledhead

 

CANDLELike many young people who follow the path of non-violence and pacifism, I was severely bullied during junior high and high school.  We were targets for the ‘big boys’ who were feeling their developing testosterone; most of us were labeled weak sissies because we were strongly encouraged by our families and church to resist physical and verbal conflict.  Today I look back on those challenges with a sense of gratitude for having been blessed as a young man with a sense of civility.  But unfortunately, back then, I took my seething anger and self-loathing deep inside resulting in a bevy of addictions which controlled my life for many years.

My classmates called me “sledhead”.  It was, to them, an endearing term describing my naivete; to me it was condescending and painful.  My faith in an entity which would allow this pain was severely tested.  Today, some folks, not all of them friends, see my faith as an uneducated devotion to my imaginary friends, God and Jesus.  I’m sure you also in your faith walk have encountered the same.

“So you talk to Jesus, do you?  Have your ever seen God?  Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead?  And oh yeah, that story about him healing the blind man.  Hmmmmm.”

You can see the wheels churning within their brains.  Nutcase, delusional, hallucinating, foolish…..sledhead.  I don’t, anymore, attempt to explain my faith to them.  I don’t share my experience walking with my Lord unless they initiate an interest.  I don’t expect them to understand, just as the bullies in high school did not understand my commitment to non-violence.  I endured name-calling, shoving, and punching with words like sissy, wimp, momma’s boy, coward.  Sadly, by the time I could call myself a young man, a high school graduate, I agreed with them.

That was 50 years ago.  But, baby, take a look at me now!  Check out what I can do with the power of Jesus and God ahead of me, within me, and behind me!  We have put a hurting on the addictions which controlled my younger years.  We have shown the world of aggression and oppression that there is strength and courage in the words of peace and compassion, the words spoken by Jesus before he was taken by the cowardice and hatred of a bullying, hypocritical, self-serving theocratic society and was nailed to a wooden cross.

Don’t get me wrong.  The negativity of people who try to bully me with their condescending air of superiority, their need to ridicule my “imaginary
friends, and attempts to discredit my truth does sometimes bring doubt into my life.  I am the character of ‘doubting Thomas’, show me the nail holes in the hands and feet, I want to see the pierce scar in the side.  Let me touch you, Lord.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27

Recently, I heard a comment on NPR regarding world poverty.  The woman being interviewed stated that the predominant characteristic of humanity was “goodness”, but, it was often quietly unseen and unheard.  The thought that we are predominantly violent and selfish is assumed because that is the loudest voice in our civilization. Therefore, we hear the raucous noise of intolerance, bigotry and injustice over goodness, mercy, and compassion.

Goodness, mercy,  and compassion.  That’s who my friends Jesus and God are. That’s whom I commune with every day.  I see them in people on the street helping other people.  I hear them on the radio when listening to a contemporary Christian artist singing his heart out for the Jesus he loves.  I feel them in a sanctuary with other worshippers praying for the homeless, the poor, the addicted ones, the forgotten, the discarded, the downtrodden.  I can touch them in an AA meeting when at the end of the meeting everyone stands clasping hands and reciting the “Our Father”.

My faith is in the inherent goodness, mercy, and compassion of humanity.  Therein is Jesus, therein  is God, and therein is nothing imaginary.  Real, visible, omnipotent!

Edward Mote, 1797-1874 “My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

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“sticks and stones”

The following report from CBS News takes a sobering look at the dramatic increase of teen suicide in the United States.

It is revealing that social media is on the hot seat for its role in not only condoning cyber-bullying but also promoting a form of communication which virtually eliminates the need for face-to-face personal contact.  Anonymous, impersonal tweets and posts tend to be decidedly more aggressive and confrontational. Social media connections are the perfect forum for bullies; they are  the mode of choice in abdicating responsibility for our actions.  We see its rampant scourge on Facebook and Twitter as our society no longer monitors what is socially acceptable conversation in our correspondence, verbal or written.  The days of Emily Post, though a welcome memory, are old-fogey and obsolete.

In 1956 a little boy in the third grade classroom sat in front of his classmates sobbing after being ridiculed and bullied repeatedly by an older boy on the playground.  He had been shoved to the ground and kicked, his clothes were torn and dirtied.  His teacher delighted in reproving the boy’s presumed cowardice and , in the presence of 23 classmates, chortled,

“sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

She was wrong.  The bruises healed; the clothes got mended and washed , but the words used to thrash the boy being raised by pacifist parents were infinitely more hurtful.  Our vulgar, thoughtless, hurtful, racist, bigoted words are like daggers.  Our inconsiderate, violent actions leave more than bruises and scars on the innocent victim.  So it is with our behavior on social media.  It is a telling indictment of what we have become.

The children of this generation are paying the price for our obsession with materialism and self-involvement.  Today when, and if, the family sits together for dinner it is commonplace for each, including the parents, to have a communications device next to the knife, fork and spoon.  Each family member interrupts the time together to obey the device’s ring tone.   Folks, our devices are not eating utensils, our devices are not baby sitters, and most definitely our devices are not meant to teach our children ethics and values.  Our device is not a god which demands obeisance and veneration.  It is merely a manufactured device.  Think about it.  Teens are committing suicide at an alarming rate.  Why?  What are we teaching them by our behavior and our attitudes about life?

Certainly, we cannot place all blame on social media.  That, in essence , is excusing ourselves from taking responsibility for the world we have created, i.e., social, spiritual, financial, and political.  We, collectively, no longer provide the stability of home life, the joy of spiritual communion, the support of family values, and the connections of community to our children.  We view them as mini-adults, we admire their free-spirit and independence, we mistake their obsession with celebrities as growing pains.  But, they are children.  They need guidance, support, instruction, and the correction which only mature parents can provide.  Most of all they need love and understanding.

Have you ever considered suicide?  I have.  If we are honest with ourselves I think all of us have thought about it…..but not at 12 years old.  Good Lord, I was too worried about girls, tomorrow’s biology quiz,  and the zits on my face when I was twelve.  What have we done to our babies?