I talk a lot about freedom. I talk about the freedom from self and the freedom from a life which is governed by criticism. I see us all as capable prisoners. We are prisoners to the different systems of control, the criticisms, the critics, and often, we live our life looking in the rearview mirror instead of looking ahead.
Before going forward, I want to reach out and say the paragraphs going forward are not about God, Himself (or Herself either. I don’t want to create any pronoun trouble). Instead, I am quoting something that I had read before. I am not subjecting anyone to my beliefs nor am I pushing the “God” thing on anyone. Not at all. But I do use two quotes below which I use for reference only to bring a sense of understanding.
So, going forward, I used to speak a certain way. I talked a certain way about myself. I thought this way. I understood things this way too and I lived this way until I grew. Then I learned how to move on. I learned how to change. I had to. Otherwise, I would have never been anything else but the same.
(Now, here it goes, folks. Here comes the quote.)
I think it was written in Corinthians. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child. I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
I don’t think this applies to us all. In fairness, over the years and especially throughout my adult life, I have seen so-called grownups act more childish than any kid in a kindergarten classroom. I have watched ego and pride reduce people to schoolyard mentalities. I’ve seen arguments and fights in boardrooms and on worksites. The only thing that was missing or different from when we were kids was someone saying, “Meet me behind the school after class!”
When I was a bully, I spoke the way bullies speak. When I was timid and bullied, I spoke this way too. When I believed I was inferior, inefficient and insufficient; I thought, spoke, understood and lived this way too.
I have spent decades living my life in the ways of recovery. I am more than self-help meetings or a 12-step program. First and foremost, I am me. I have all the qualities of a human being. I am decent. I am good. I am someone that lives, breaths, thinks and feels. I have my records of mistakes and mishaps. I certainly have my share of secrets, which haunt me sometimes. I am no better than anyone nor am I worse. I am only me, which is fine because it took me a long time to understand this and become comfortable as well.
Sometimes, I am someone that thinks too much. I have worries. I have insecurities. I have a way of thinking that has often sabotaged my direction. I have a way of behaving that has brought me to the point of diminishing returns. As for the substance and/or alcohol, the saying is true.
When I was drunk, I spoke the way a drunk person spoke. I understood the way drunk people understand. I thought the way drunk people think. When I was controlled by substances, I spoke the way people controlled by substances spoke. I understood things this way and I thought this same way too.
But when I was clean, I had to remember to put these things away. The wreckage of my past and the unfortunate outcomes of my history no longer have the right to dictate my future. I don’t do those things anymore. I have to move on and look forwards. Otherwise, the line from Corinthians remains true. I have to put my childish things away. I have to put my past behind me and more than anything, I cannot live my life being focused on the rearview mirror.
When I was dependent upon others to help me, I spoke the way people who are dependent speak. I thought the way people who are dependent think and I understood things this way too.
However, when I learned about accountability; when I learned about the dignity of empowerment and the honor of self-care and how to be self-starting, and when I learned that in fact, I have the ability to adapt and improve; I had to put my childish things away.
Now, here comes the second story.
I do my best to stay away from religion because my choices to believe are very personal to me. However, please forgive this if religion offends you. I promise there is a point here.
There is a story about the Pharisee who went to the temple every day. He was praying and then a tax collector came along. The Pharisee thanked God for not making him like other men, — a thief, a wrongdoer, a robber, adulterer and so on and so forth. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He didn’t look up or pray in the traditional way. Instead, the tax collector beat his chest and said, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
In the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, The Son of Man told this to others as an example. He explained about the difference between the two men. One of them was humbled. The other exalted himself. The Son of Man explained that one man, rather than the other, went home justified before the other.
I use this example because I see us as people that use righteousness as a means of virtue signaling. This is people saying “Look at me!” This is them telling others, “Look at what I do.”
As for me, I am not a tax collector. I am not evil but I am a wrongdoer at times. I make mistakes, which means in order for me to be justified (at least to me) I have to remain humbled. Otherwise, I give in to childish ideas like virtue signaling and saying things about myself to promote attention.
I think about the social criticisms which we allow to govern us. I think about the outside opinions. I think about the internal criticisms. I think about the systems of judgement that cripple us from ever stepping forward. And, I think about the way people imprison themselves. I think about people that do this to the point where all else is grim and going forward they see no point.
Why try? Why bother? Why do anything extra? Why do anything at all if freedom isn’t free and moreover, why try when the mind has already decided that we failed.
When I believed that I was a failure, I spoke the way failures speak. When I believed that I was a loser, I spoke the way losers spoke. When I thought life was pointless; when I believed there was no hope; when I doubted, blamed, looked to find fault or felt nothing but regret, I spoke, thought, understood and lived this way too.
However, the day I chose to reclaim my life and the day when I decided to defy the dilemmas in my head; I had to learn to put my dilemmas behind me. I had to forfeit my systems of control and surrender my arguments. I had to allow myself the permission to look forward instead of living my life in the rearview mirror.
Otherwise, I would have never put my childish things away.
There are so many things we can miss if all we do is look behind us. Besides, the rearview mirror is a small thing. Meanwhile, the view in front of us is life-sized and enormous. This should be what governs us. Not the past. Not the problems. The solution is in the future.
It’s time to put away our childish things.
Otherwise, — we’ll never grow.