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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Loving the Enemy We Don't Want to Think About

From Wajahat Kazmi

Copyright © 2015
By Ralph F. Couey
Written content only,
except quoted and cited passages.

"You have heard that it was said
'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies;
Bless those who curse you;
Do good to those that hate you,
And pray for those that spitefully use you
and persecute you."
--Jesus Christ

Over the past few weeks, I've been engaged in what is called a "Life Audit."  It has been an interesting journey, to say the least.  In this process, I've been confronted with questions that required a deep, introspective, and sometimes troubling exploration of the innermost parts of my attitudes and personality.  This is not an exercise for the faint of heart, or for those who lack courage.  An honest question requires an honest answer, even when that honesty is distinctly painful.

The list of questions posed required me to spend quite a bit of time poking into some of the darker places of my mind and heart, and that is difficult, for it required me to dredge up and face aspects of my heart that I would have been much more comfortable ignoring.

One of the things I found was that when I get angry, frustrated, or just grumpy my zone of awareness shrinks down to a small circle which more often than not is occupied only by me.  In that state, I am unable to acknowledge, or even see anything pleasant or positive.  I become very sensitive to those things that I already know will upset me even further.  The result of that being that I isolate myself away from others because I already know that in that state I am not pleasant company.

I was asked what, during the day, motivates me to be positive, and what I look forward to each day.  I was also asked what constituted a perfect day, and a perfect week.  I took this seriously, and in the deep contemplation of those questions, I found some things which I nicknamed my "inner uglies."

Once I dragged them out, it was very uncomfortable to look at them.  I had thought that those kinds of things were not a part of my makeup, but there they were, red-eyed and snarling, staring me down.  It was kind of like biting into a slice of bread and tasting mold.

I think I always knew those beasts were there, but I had tried to ignore and forget them.  Unfortunately, they refused to stay completely hidden.  Looking back, I could remember those regrettable moments when one or the other beast would take over a conversation, or an action, in a way that would produce hurt for others.  I had for a long time decided to treat them as enemies, foes to be fought and held at bay, if not defeated.

I spoke to the facilitator of this process and her response surprised me.  She told me not to hate them, but love them, and make them my friends, acknowledging that they were actually a part of me.  If I could do that, she advised, I could then find love for the one person in this life I really needed to love fully:  Me.

"You are imperfect, permanently
and inevitably flawed.
And you are beautiful."
--Amy Bloom

There are, generally speaking, three types of Us.  There's the person we think we are, the person others think we are, and then the real person, the one behind the overt, the spoken, that weird relative that we try to keep in the basement so we're not embarrassed.  Very few of us can say with any honesty that we have successfully merged all three into one person.  How we treat others, and hence how they perceive us, is so often an element of a specific situation.  Our self-image, whether good or bad, can be an orchestra of delusion and contradiction.  And despite what one may say about an honesty policy, to be completely and totally frank can prove to be fatally destructive.

We spend parts of our lives in conflict with ourselves.  Fighting those inner foes over issues of compassion or integrity is in many ways the hardest war we can wage.  But when you strive to turn an enemy into a friend, conflict ceases.  Despite our best and most sincere efforts, we don't always succeed.  Some people just want things to stay the way they are.  But I think it's important to make the effort.

"You have peace when you make it with yourself."
--Mitch Albom

My inner uglies are pretty tough characters.  Although they don't involve any desires to commit homicide, they still make days difficult.  But after thinking about it, I think that my facilitator has a good point.  Perhaps they're my inner uglies because I've never truly made the effort to treat that as anything other than enemies.  So, I'm going to try to make peace with them.  I will probably fail the first time, and perhaps the second or third.  But I will keep trying, because I know that if I can't love myself fully, then I can never really love anyone else.  

There is an innate beauty in a life, even one that seems broken, or just flawed.  We can concentrate on the flaws and the brokenness until all we see are cracks and shattered pieces.  Or we can embrace the revelatory idea that even the most beautiful rose that ever bloomed is still covered in thorns.

"God already knows I'm human.
It is I who needs to learn that."
--C. JoyBell C.
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