You’re not unique. At least that is what someone told me once. Well, let me be honest, he said “You, you are unique. Your situation- not unique.” I am unique. Intricately made in God’s image. Carefully placed gifts, skills, personality and character traits, physical attributes and everything else. We are uniquely us. You are uniquely you. However, we think that because we are uniquely made that our situations and struggles we face are also unique.I wrote a post on being awesome, and how this new desire to “be awesome” isn’t really helping anyone’s self esteem. It’s not helping anyone become better people, better influences in their local communities. Being awesome is a grand idea, but how?
When I started down the road of recovery, one of the first things I encountered was having to admit I had a problem. After that, the struggle became to continuously recognize that the problems I face are not unique to me and therefore I have no excuses for how I choose to react to them. To put it as Iris so eloquently put it, when it comes to struggles “there is nothing new under the sun.”
What do I mean? Well, let’s take guys for example. Just one simple example. Guys, generally speaking, tend to struggle with purity and sexual integrity. That struggle is not unique to John down the street or the guy who just got arrested for hiring a prostitute, it’s something that has been struggle for guys for a long time. David, Job, Solomon, and more struggled with that thousands of years ago. Or let’s take control issues-Pharaoh, alcoholism-Samson, grief-Naomi, Fear-Abram (Abraham), blaming-Adam, physical disability-Jacob, being cut off from family and friends-Paul (while imprisoned), too much to do leading to burn out-Moses, to name a few. The list goes on and on in the Bible.
I find myself getting into those places in my life where I think that my issues are only unique to me. “Well, ya, I could do that…but it’s different for me, for my situation, for my family, for my job, for my ministry,” and the list goes on again. I justify this by thinking I’m unique therefore my situation, hurts, hangups habits, addictions are solely unique to me. And that’s simply not true. This mindset is a victim mindset. Thinking this way is like saying “this is the way it is because life happens to me, therefore it will never change.” And we begin to go down the road of self pity and simply trying to survive here as long as we can. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating, surviving life is no life.
This differs from being an actual victim. Living a victim and being a victim are two different things. Being a victim is where you are totally powerless to what has happened to you. Living a victim, which is what I’m talking about, is allowing things to happen to you even though you have power to not let them. For a great post on living a victim, see Donald Miller’s recent post about the dangers of living this way.
Another good friend of mine has been in recovery for a long time. He gets it. He understands compulsivity, addictions and hangups. I was talking to him one day over a nice cup of coffee, giving my long list of excuses why I couldn’t forgive, couldn’t recover, how life was going to change because of a big move and others around us might react harshly to our new journey of recovery. Again, a long, very long list of excuses how my situation was unique and no one could understand. Never. He called me on my crap, my excuses.
He then proceeded to tell me a bit of his story.
“I used to believe my situations, tensions, hurts were unique to me. This way I could justify my behavior whether it be lashing out at someone, or hiding in my workaholism, escapism or shopaholism. No one lived my life and no one understood everything I was going through because no one was me. And part of that is true, no one is me. But my issues, my addictions, those were not unique to me. When I sit in those breakout groups on a Friday night after the Celebrate Recovery big meeting, or I sit in a Step Group with other guys working the 12 Steps along with me, I hear my situations and issues coming up. They come up in all those other people who are going through recovery along with me. One person in the group may not be going through the exact same things I am, but collectively, we all are. Therefore, my situations are not unique to me. Therefore, I have no excuses and justifications for my behavior and choices. Once I realize this (and notice how I said that in the present tense), I can stop being the victim and start living my life. Making choices that will bring life, not simply try to survive till I die.”
I can find the things I struggle with in other people, no matter race, age, profession or gender. Honestly looking at them and myself, I can then stop the excuses and start living. Start setting up boundaries. Setting boundaries isn’t so much as keeping things and people out, it’s setting up space that once was God’s and giving it back to Him. It’s an act of submission, of humility. It’s showing that I’m done playing god, and relinquishing what little control I thought I had, to Him.
But, as my friend mentioned above, it’s in the present tense. It’s not a “been there done that” kind of thing. It’s an on going, life long growing process of recognizing my own stuff, admitting it, and continuing to move forward. I pray that we all continually do this.
What about you? Are you able to find your struggles in other people? Have you reached out to them for guidance, help and support? Do you struggle with the victim mindset?
be blessed today
Photo Credit: image from the movie “Being John Malkovich”