I remember the day my first dog died. Her name was ‘Lady’, of course. She had wandered onto our property when I was about one year old and despite our efforts to find her owner, no one ever claimed her. I can’t recall my childhood without including her because she was with me for the first 14 years of my life. On that day when we finally put her to sleep, I remember shutting down in an effort to avoid the pain.
Something funny happens when we begin to live the kind of life we’ve dreamed of. When we act on decisions, even small ones, that are good for us, people notice. The smallest changes stick out: the kind of language we use and the way we spend our time. Most of our family, friends, and significant others will be an incredible support. Unfortunately, there are many other people in our lives who will not support the changes that we make. They will complain that we have "changed." They'll say things like, "we’ll see how long this lasts," or "it feels like you don’t care about me anymore." If you’re anything like me, you will react to comments like these by changing your actions to keep the peace. There is nothing worse for those of us who are chronic "people pleasers" than upsetting someone we care about.
The reality is that their unhappiness has nothing to do with you–it’s about them. Deep down they want to make changes too, and your action reminds them of their inaction. Instead of using that as inspiration or support to make their own changes, they react the only way they know how: by attacking or sabotaging you. They don’t want anything to change, and are comfortable where they are. Some people would rather stay in their current state than risk the unknown in an attempt to move forward.
How can you handle the criticism? How can you deal with the tension of having someone you care about upset with you? First, you’ll have to come to the agreement that living a greater life is a better story than pleasing other people. Part of this new story is that the better person you are the better friend you can be.
Next, you can respond to the complaints with a simple and direct statement, “I care about you, but I can’t go back to some of the thoughts and behaviors that didn’t get me where I wanted to go in life.” Offer them a question, “Are you trying to make me feel bad about these positive changes in my life?” No one would admit to actually doing that and they will certainly back off a little bit. However, they will eventually tell you that they feel like you don’t care about them anymore, or at least expresses something to that effect in a veiled manner. Let it go. It’s not your job to convince them that nothing will change… because it will. You want things to change, that’s why you’ve made the decisions and taken the action up this point that you have. “I’m sorry you feel this way” is a perfectly fine statement and is all you need to say.
Don’t rob these people from the opportunity to deal with their own"stuff" and possibly make some life altering decisions for themselves. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll be the inspiration they need. Or, maybe they’ll get venomous and acrimonious. That’s their choice, and it’s on them, not you. You haven’t chosen to leave anyone behind or let anyone down. Your job is to be the best you that you can be and let the chips fall where they may. I can guarantee you that you will see a pattern emerge: those that have a difficult time with the changes you make in your life will all have something in common: You pour more time and energy into them than they do into you.
You'll know if the people around you are pouring back into you. There is nothing like having people in your life that genuinely want to see you succeed. My friend and cohort, Mike McHargue says, “If you can find someone who believes in your work, and you believe in their work, a virtuous cycle of improvement emerges.” This is so true. It’s an incredible feeling to have friends walk along the same extraordinary path you're on because they've chosen to answer their life's calling.
That’s where we're going in part 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "Courage is the power to let go of the familiar." – Raymond Lindquist
“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” – Deborah Reber
"Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky." - Brene Brown
I speak in public all the time. It’s the nature of almost every job I’ve had as an adult. I’ve spoken all around the world to all sizes and types of groups. It really does come naturally to me and its one of the few things that I know I do well. I’ve spoken at sales conventions, camps, churches, masques, music festivals, art festivals, retreats, conventions, etc. I absolutely love it. I am not an accomplished artist, lyricist, musician, athlete, or sales person. But put me in front of a crowd with a purpose and a vision to share, and I will go to town. One of the things that I’ve realized about myself because of this is that my views and thoughts are constantly being formed. If I spoke on a topic tomorrow, that I know I spoke about 2 years ago, those two speeches might be completely different. In fact, I may even contradict tomorrow, something I said 2 years ago. That’s because I grow and change. We all grow and change. It isn’t just me. That’s the nature of being human. If we are constantly learning, reading and experiencing, then what we believed and lived yesterday won’t necessarily be the same as tomorrow’s beliefs and experiences.
Some core matters and beliefs may stay the same. And some core matters and beliefs very well may be transformed. You can see this growth and transformation in almost every author, songwriter, actor, businessperson, artist, etc. Even in the scriptures you can look at the apostle Paul’s early writings and see how his thoughts and beliefs have changed and expanded compared to his later writings.
This kind of change can really freak people out. They begin to wonder if the life they lived yesterday is somehow less valuable because they lived by a different standard or a different set of values and beliefs than they do now. They may have enormous inner turmoil because they no longer have the same paradigms that they learned growing up. This can also lead to a crisis in which they believe that there is something wrong with them because they have changed over the years. This kind of subtle inner struggle can wreak havoc on someone’s life in subversive ways.
But if you simply acknowledge that we all change and we all grow, and that change and growth is a good thing, then there is peace to be had. You can begin to affirm and ‘own’ your growth and transformation. It may feel like your in new waters and that can be extremely frightening. That’s because as we grow, we are always taking risks. When you learn something new, occasionally you can feel like it changes everything. And when you’re comfortable with the way things were, it is scary to face the world with new eyes. But with new eyes comes fresh perspective.
So let yourself be you. Welcome the change and welcome the growth. Stop the inner turmoil that comes with thinking that you always have to stay the same and always believe the same things. It’s just not how growth and health works.
What are some things that have changed for you? What beliefs did you once hold so dearly that now you realize you need to release and let go so that you can live into what you truly believe?
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anais Nin
"Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one's potential." ― Bruce Lee
“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” ― Heath L Buckmaster
If you’ve lived on this planet for any amount of time, you’ve been wronged at some point. If you’ve lived on this planet for any extended amount of time, then you’ve been wronged by someone on the deepest level. It happens to all of us. And we’ve all completely let someone else down somewhere along the line as well. When we’ve been wronged on the deepest level, taken advantage of, harmed, or betrayed it can seem like life will never be right again. But it will. And it most likely will need to start with forgiveness. Forgiveness is always about us, not the victimizer. That person doesn’t need your forgiveness in order to make peace with what they’ve done. But you’ll need to forgive that person in order to make peace in your own hear and life. Forgiveness is about letting go of our hurt, our pain and our bitterness so that it doesn’t poison our hearts. We’ve all heard this before, but that’s because it is true.
We can’t hold onto pain, anger and bitterness and at the same time be free to accept love, the Divine, and growth. When we hold on to the anger and bitterness, we are blocking the ability for love and growth to move in our lives.
Someone once said that forgiving means forgetting. Well I think that is total BS. When have you ever truly forgotten when someone else harmed you? And why would you forget that? Forgetting has nothing to do with it and not forgetting can help guide us safely in interactions with that person in the future. However forgiving does mean letting go and making room in your heart for healing.
You might say, ‘Brad, you have no idea what this person did. It’s unspeakable.’ I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you were hurt and wronged in such a terrible way. But holding on to the anger and bitterness will never make you right. It won’t change what has happened. It won’t heal you. It won’t bring some semblance of peace back into your life. It will only drag you to the bottom of a deep, cold and lonely ocean floor of malice.
I have found that forgiveness is always a choice at first, never a feeling. Rarely have I been wronged and immediately felt like forgiving. But at some point I made the choice to forgive that person even though I didn’t feel like. And then, every time the pain or anger comes up, I continue again and again to forgive that person. Until one day, the feeling is there and I find that I have completely forgiven that person. And do you know how I’m aware that I’ve completely forgiven them? The bitterness is gone. And its not just because time has passed. Its because I’ve chosen to forgive.
That person that’s done those horrible things to you? They may never know that you’ve forgiven them. They don’t have to. The forgiveness isn’t for them… it’s for you. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life. And I need reminded of it every time someone crosses me. Given a choice between malice and forgiveness, I choose forgiveness.
Today I will choose forgiveness. I choose to let go of my stong hold on the pain, anger, and bitterness, and I choose to receive love, hope, and joy. Choosing forgiveness means healing for me.
There is so much to be said and written about concerning having the courage to be honest with ourselves. Navigating the path of being present with our own feelings and owning them. There is so much more to be explored on the topic of staring fear and pain directly in the eye of our own soul and not flinching or closing off to it. For some this is much easier than for others. Some of us have been formed and trained from the time we were tiny babies to face reality and to be present with all emotions. But most of us, if we are honest, would rather not face our fears and pain head on. We have learned over time to close ourselves off from pain and fear. We text, we skype, we chat, we drink, we smoke, we enter relationships, we exit relationships, we shop, we consume, we eat, we facebook, we do anything we can do in order to stop feeling pain as soon as we recognize it in our life (yes I recognize a run-on sentence when I see one too). This is what addiction is all about. Avoiding pain and fear. Unfortunately, when we minimize the pain in our lives we also minimize the joy and elation as well. As researcher Brene Brown has so eloquently and poignantly expressed in ‘The Gift of Imperfection’, we cannot mitigate some emotions and stay open to others. We are either suppressing all of our emotions/feelings or we are embracing all of emotions/feelings.
It is not possible to hide from pain and fear and yet at the same time embrace Joy and Love. It cannot be done because it doesn’t work that way. If we want to be filled with Joy and Love, we must be willing to go to our pain and to our fears. We must beg for the courage to look our pains and fears directly in the eye and not blink. We must be willing to sit with that pain and fear and grow comfortable with it.
This is not easy. If you try this and you aren’t used to it, you will quickly feel overwhelmed and have the sensation of a hot white fire rising up deep from within your chest. You will probably believe that you’re going to have a meltdown. Maybe you should back off at that point… just for a little while. Maybe you need to find a good friend or professional to help you through this process. But we must return to those things that we have shut ourselves off from for so long or they will forever be embedded in us. We’ll wonder why we do the things that we don’t want to do. Why we hurt the people we don’t want to hurt.
Acknowledging our pain, sitting with it, and then working through and past the pain is the only way to move forward. And if this thought makes you sick to your stomach or seems ridiculous to you… you probably have some pain to acknowledge.
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
"Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy--the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”