There is no reason to brag about where we’ve been. There’s no reason for us to compare scars or place honor where honor doesn’t belong. Sometimes we place honor where honor does not deserve to be placed. And yet, I notice that we still do it. I know people that have been to jail, countless times, and they carry their paperwork as if this validates them. They show their collars and the leash that kept them stuck. I have met with people that swear they’ll never go back to their old lifestyle. And yet, sometimes months, weeks, days and in some cases even hours later, they found themselves right back at it.
Maybe this is because this is the only connection they understand. Perhaps this has something to do with our association with being cool, like a gangster or a rock star.
Maybe this has something to do with being validated or maybe even simpler than this, maybe this is one of the masks we wear to hide our truths. Even after we move away from the forefront of the wars we’ve fought; and although we’ve retired the old fatigues from whichever battlegrounds we came from, there is something that goes with talking about the old war stories. We relive this in conversations amongst us; as if we can look back and say, “Hey, I was bad once too.”
I have been in the basements of different churches, in treatment facilities, in meeting rooms on the East coast and on the West. I have been part of different fellowships and used different interactive self-help models. I have listened to people depict their story and talk about their crimes, infractions, and moments of both personal and external harm.
I have heard the glory in their stories. I have listened to the glorified badness; as if it were still cool, even when it was not be cool. And why?
Everything we do is done to honor a need, thought, want, desire, feeling and emotion. This is neither positive nor negative. This is only a fact. When we are hungry, we honor our need to eat by feeding ourselves. When we have an itch, we scratch it. When we have personal dilemmas, we look for ways to solve them. Or, at minimum, we look for ways to honor them by acting or reacting.
The methods we use have nothing to do with right or wrong or good and bad. Instead, the methods we use to solve our predicaments are simply chosen to honor a need, a thought, a want, desire, feeling or emotion.
We are all made up of our own brand of specific discomforts. In truth, we are all looking to fit in. We are social creatures. And therefore, when we find ourselves in a social discomfort or have the need to defend or prove ourselves, or better yet, if we need to be validated; oftentimes, we choose things to say that will solve this discomfort. We act on behalf. We act as if. Put simply, we act.
I used to live in my memories and keep them alive, just in case of an emergency. I used to live in the old versions of me because even though they were self-destructive; I understood the older version of myself. I understood the battle scars and knew exactly what they meant. So, no.
I never graduated at the top of my class. I never had an office with diplomas on the wall (at least, not yet) and I have a modest position in life. However, if I pit myself against others in the battle of comparisons, I find myself digging into old warfare and using old strategies, to cut deeply and quickly. And yet, what does this prove?
I have listened to people come along and talk about their old crimes as if they were a badge of honor. I have listened to people discuss the harm they’ve caused in such great detail. I have listened to the war cries of death, fire and brimstone. And yet, where does this fit into living a good, strong, functional lifestyle?
Think about the absolute freedom that comes with being you without proving yourself. Think about being you without having the need to pose or posture. Think about walking in a room and keeping yourself free from comparison. Better yet, think about sitting in a room, whether alone or with people and being perfectly content and satisfied with whatever comes your way. This is freedom. War stories, bragging and the need to impress is only one of the many things that keep us imprisoned.
I used to believe that I was unwantable. I used to believe that I had to offer something. Otherwise, who would want me? I used to think I would have to dazzle people with charisma or tell stories to make people laugh or like me.
What does that honor?
What feelings does this honor. Or better yet, deeper than feelings are the emotions, which are chemical reactions in our body. How does my behavior honor this?
Comparing scars? Saying I drank more? I used more drugs?
I broke laws or created more crimes?
Hurt more people . . .
Destroy more lives . . .
Ruin more families . . .
How does this validate anyone?
What does this honor?
In truth, the answer is nothing but yet, we still compare our scars and our war stories to see who the baddest on the block is.
I can tell you what this honored for me. I was scared. Small and insecure. I was weak. I was never strong enough to stand on my own two feet without verification from others. Therefore, when I reach for my war stories, I use this as a method. I do this to honor my social flaws and discomforts. I did this until one day, a time came that I realized how pointless this is. What am I validating?
I have been part of a fellowship for a very long time. I have earned my place. I earned my seat at whichever table I sit at. There is no reason for me to explain, posture, or try to prove myself to anyone. In fact, war stories or all the bravado and bullshit rhetoric is nothing but a method to honor a discomfort of mine.
( I tell you no lie. Insecurity is a bitch!)
Everything we do is done for a reason. Everything we do is to honor this reason. Rather than try and compete or lose myself to comparisons; instead, I learned to validate myself.
I don’t have to tell anyone how tough I was or what I’ve done or pulled off. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone (except me) and today more than yesterday, I am learning that if I want to honor something in me then let me honor myself the best way possible. This means I have to learn to accept me, validate myself and stop looking for external reassurance.
I was at a wake for an old friend a few years back. I saw a few old faces from the neighborhood. I saw some of the old gang. I saw someone that I used to spend time with. The only difference between us is I went one way and he went another.
He sneered at me. “What are you some kind of doctor now?”
He said this as if it were an insult. And at first, I took it that way. I felt my old pride come up. I wanted to validate myself and tell him that I can still be tough at the drop of a hat. In fact, I am tougher now than ever before. I swear this was like a mental burp, which came up quickly and left equally as fast.
Why would I try to compete here?
I don’t have to prove myself. Besides, all this man did was verify the fact that he went one way and I went another. He stayed as he was; still on the dangle with a habit. Why in the world would I want to compete with this?
I know why.
I have needs, thoughts, wants, ideas, feelings, desires and emotions. Fortunately now, I have a better way of understanding. I have new thought pathways that help me improve.
I don’t have to compare scars. I don’t have to prove myself. Instead, I have to honor myself. That’s it. And since we do this with all of our behaviors anyway, it only serves me to honor myself the best way possible.
You want a war story?
I grew up. I lived. I survived things.
Things changed. I improved.
The blood and guts of this are used for entertainment purposes only. And I’m off duty now.
My days of entertaining folks to make them like me are over.
(Thankfully . . . .)