We all have it. Whether we're willing to admit it or not, we all have it. We've all been raised in different situations, faced hardships, experienced loss and suffering, and have had our share of good times along the way too. All of these experiences have come together to help form the wonderful people that we are today. These experiences help us survive and help form our consciences. These experiences also contribute to what we react to and how we react to it. They impact what we take personally and what we simply let go. Our baggage has its hand in a lot of what we do and therefore plays a big role in who we are.
I am no different. I have experienced loss of loved ones, loss of job, depression, anxieties of every sort, self-consciousness, bullying, loneliness, anger, low self-esteem, betrayal, and deep hurt. All of these things have contributed in some way or another to the person I am today - good or bad. At first, I just chalked all of these things up to experience and tried to not let them happen to me again. I didn't fully deal with them. I didn't know I had to. However, later in life, every single one of these issues has come back to the forefront, and impacted me and my relationships with others. I had to deal with them.
Now here is where I differ from a lot of people. I love going after my problems. When something comes up that I need to deal with, I like to face it head on. When I encourage people to do the same, they just say "well that is just who you are... that's not me". I was not always like this.
I have been known to have quite the large ego. I used to hate feedback of any kind, especially the negative stuff. Whenever someone would sit me down and talk to me about how something I was doing was bothering them, I was always ready with a comeback or a reason why they needed to change. Not me! Even when I was growing up, when my dad tried to talk to me about something, I would always get very defensive. This has also followed me into my adult life and I have since (as far as I know) dealt with it.
It wasn't until I started getting more and more involved in my faith, frequenting the Sacraments, and surrounding myself with people who were also striving for holiness, that I began to be OK with looking inward. I began to be OK with "going there".
I started to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation a lot more with the sinful parts of my baggage. I sought advice from my parents, close friends, and other members of the faith community. I asked for prayer a lot more. I began to be open to the blessing that our local mental health services are to our community. I began to realize and accept that I wasn't just able to "pray away" some of the more serious things I had been going through. *I completely acknowledge and accept that miracles can and do happen. God is bigger than anything I had been facing. But, I also understand that God created counsellors and mental health professionals too!
I had to face the fact that I wasn't perfect and that I needed help. This was not easy. In fact, calling the counsellor's office was one of the toughest phone calls I remember making (remember the ego?). But, I did it. And it has turned out to have been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have discovered things about myself I would have never on my own. There's something about having an outside party who can give you feedback on your situation who has no bias whatsoever.
Sure, some people claim they get the same thing out of Confession, but I have two things to say to that:
Continuing to Face it
A retired Christian counsellor friend of mine once described our lives and baggage as being similar to a glass of ice water. If you pull an ice cube out, what happens? Another one rises to the top. This is how it works with our baggage too. Every single day we are faced with situations that impact who we will be tomorrow. It is up to us to deal with these things so they don't end up impacting us and our loved ones in negative ways in the future.
Admitting We're Broken
As I mentioned above, I had a really hard time admitting I was broken. I have come to realize that once you've admitted your're broken and imperfect, you no longer have to spend so much energy trying to be someone you're not. That gets so exhausting! Life becomes so much easier when you can admit you're human and trust that God loves you anyway!
Why do we stress out so much about looking perfect for others? Why do we spend so much energy on appearing "perfect" and not letting anyone see our faults. You see, this is where Christ lives. This is where Christ wants to meet us. He want's our broken, worn out, tired hearts. He wants to break our hearts of stone and give us ones of Love. He wants to heal us. But first, we have to admit we need healing!!!
Leonard Cohen touched on the beauty of brokenness when he said that "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in". How else can the light of Christ get into our hearts if they aren't broken down, cracked, and open? In order to fully accept Christ, we have to die to ourselves and our old ways and surrender our lives to him. We have to be broken before him. How beautiful it will be when we can all tear down our walls and be broken before the Lord. Because it is within that brokenness that we will finally find rest and freedom.
The Choice is Yours
So, if you're dealing with something that is impacting your life and your relationships, I urge you to seek help. There are other people much more qualified than you to handle it!
You can either deal with it now, or make everyone around you deal with it forever. The choice is yours!