I have typed this first paragraph several times now. I keep trying to work up a metaphor for the pain and bitterness that I carried around with me. A metaphor depicting the way that I hid this the best that I could from the people around me and how I would ignore the sore spot in my soul.
There is no metaphor that I can think of to describe this.
I would ask really good questions when I was around other people and I would tell stories and get involved with their life and their projects without ever really letting anybody else get into mine. I would share my story and my life and I would be “transparent” at the drop of a hat. The trouble is that transparency got me nowhere and I wonder if the fruit produced in the lives of others because of my “transparency” was short lived or actually fruit at all. Just like when my math teacher would work problems on her transparency sheet and the work was projected on the wall, I would keep my problem on the transparency sheet and broadcast it to an audience. They can interact with the problem as though it were projected on a wall, but I was behind the glass. I did not mean to be, I never thought about that, I did not recognize it as it happened. I just now am able to see what was going on.
I have often tried to figure out just when I started to hate myself. I never considered the idea that, should I figure out when and why I started to hate me, that I could spend some time thinking about it and praying about it and see if Jesus would redeem that part of my life. That never crossed my mind. I just wanted to understand me a little bit better.
I got a chance to go to Colorado last summer and met with a really sharp guy from Australia. This guy is really good at helping people get to the root of some of their pain. During my time with him, he had me do some ridiculous things like making a memory timeline. I had to write every memory I could think of down on a timeline, then we talked about them!
One of the memories I had occurred when I was about 10.
My brother was a really wild and rowdy kid. He is a couple years younger than I am and was a lot more aggressive than I was. He would chase me from one end of the house to the other end of the house when were toddlers. He thought it was great fun!
Life was hard for my family at this point in time. We had just moved from Missouri to Louisiana and did not have a home. Somehow my dad was able to arrange for us to live in a house way out in the country. Because we lived so far out, and my dad’s work schedule was not a 9-5, we did not see my dad much during the week. He worked hard and commuted a long way. My mom was left with the task of managing my brother and I on her own during the week.
My brother seemed to be in a serious “boundary testing” phase of his life too. He would pick at me and pick at me incessantly until I would complain to my mom and she would intervene. After one of these episodes she explained to me that my brother was going to keep pestering me until I stood up to him. She may not have said it, but I understood that what she meant was that I needed to fight my brother in order to put him in his place.
I was a good student. I was a sweet kid. I know I had a “little black cloud” that followed me around and I would get moody or upset, but all in all I remember being a really sweet child.
One day while waiting for the bus, my brother was being a pain. He was shoving me and pushing me and I kept taking it. As the bus came into view, he grabbed my backpack and threw it in the ditch. There was several inches of water in this ditch and so I ran to get my backpack before my school work was soaked. As I got near the bag, he shoved me in. I grabbed my bag and jumped out of the ditch while the bus rolled to a stop. It never crossed my mind that I had an option to go inside and get cleaned up. I simply got on the bus and went to school.
That afternoon my brother was still at it. I ran to my mom and started complaining about what he was doing. She picked up my little sister who was really young and told me not to break anything in the kitchen. She then went into another room and closed the door.
Commence Thunder Dome
I was petrified. I had wrestled and fought with my brother before, but somehow I always knew that there were limits. That if I got out of hand or he got out of hand, somebody was going to step in. Not this time. He started in on me and I remember grabbing a broom. The next memory I have is standing over him while he laid in a fetal position crying silently. I had a broom in my hand and was shaking.
I have remembered this fight for a long time. I can see it in my head, I can smell that damp kitchen, I can see the sobs coming from my brother and I can still feel the terror that I saw in his eyes as he laid there trying to protect himself from me.
This is what I did not realize until last year.
I loved my brother. I deeply loved my brother. I cared about him. I wanted to protect him. I was often called bossy because I would tell him what to do, but my heart was trying to guard him.
I would get worked up when he would get in trouble. I hated seeing him hurt and I did not like the people who caused the pain.
And here I was, standing over him, having just completed delivering the beat down of beat downs.
But it was not so simple as that. It was not simply that I hurt my brother and so I was mad at me. I hurt my brother believing that what I was doing was the right thing to do. I had been coached to engage in this manner in order to teach him a lesson and restore order in the house. What I had done in my young perspective was noble and appropriate. I was in the right. I had done the honorable thing.
But I felt so horrible seeing him like that. This is where the root of cancerous self loathing seems to have really developed good roots. I started to feel that I was incapable of doing what was good or what was right. For me to do what is noble, what is right, I would be left feeling like this. If I really were a good boy, then I would not feel so despicable for doing what was good. The only reason for me to feel this way after doing something good and noble is because I was a horribly bad and ignoble boy. No matter how good I behaved or how much people praised me, I knew deep inside that I was an agent of pain and destruction. Those were not the words that would go through my head. What I would hear often is that all I am capable of is hurting other people, letting people down, and ruining things around me.
As I thought about that memory I started to realize that in that moment, watching my brother lay there in pain, something changed deep within me. I lost a part of my innocence and started to believe deep inside that I was worthless. The rest of my life I would hear my own voice in my own head telling me that no matter what I did, my best contribution to my family would be for me to cease existing within it.
None of this was my parents fault. This wasn’t my fault. Kids are great observers and horrible interpreters. This was simply the result of me being in and reacting to a situation that was not so bueno.
And for the record. I no longer hate myself!
I’ll write about that part later.`l
And one more thing… to my brother…
I am very sorry for beating you with a broomstick.