“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
– Ernest Hemingway
The simple fact is this: we’re all a little broken.
It isn’t a pretty truth and certainly not one that most people like to cling to, but it is a fact, none-the-less. We’ve all been hurt by someone as a small child, whether with words or fists. We’ve all seen horrible things happen. We’ve all got some form of addiction – turning even a good thing into The Thing we need in order to numb out from the daily toll of life.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve likely even seen this played out in our lives, when someone who’s having a horrible, no good, rotten kind of day turns around and berates us for the smallest thing. They didn’t mean to lash out, but their words hurt all the same.
So what do we do with all that? How do we move forward in life recognizing that sure, maybe we’re not quite as well put together as we’d like to believe and that, yeah, we can even recognize how we’ve hurt people we care about without even meaning to?
It seems to me like we have a couple of different options.
Option 1: Fake It Til You Make It
This is the approach that a whole lot of people take. They white-knuckle their way through life, striving to be disciplined enough, strong enough, smart enough, attractive enough, good enough. These people likely have the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. They’ve probably heard this message and others like it throughout their lives, messages including, men don’t cry.
But…what if…after all the faking it, you still don’t quite make it? What if you strive and strain and reach and just…don’t…get…there…?
Honestly, a lot of people are able to go through life with this approach and even do alright. They work hard, have all the right things, look put together enough on the outside, they even seem happy. And maybe some of them are. But maybe not quite as happy as they know they could be.
Option 2: Deny, Deny, Deny
Listen, I am well gifted in this approach. I have been known to quite literally bury myself in a pile of blankets and hide because the checkbook needed to be balanced and I knew it was going to be a big ugly mess caused by me.
Denial seems like such a simple way to make the problems go away. We like to fool ourselves into believing that if time heals all wounds, then surely it will cure the mess that is my life. But that is a lie and every one of us who has lived on our own and seen the credit card bills come in can attest to that. Denial will get you nowhere but further behind your problem. Whether it’s overdue bills, an eating disorder, an undiagnosed lump on our breast, addiction, anxiety, or a wounded relationship it will not correct itself. Our problems only seem to grow as we try desperately to shove them into the closet.
Option 3: Name Your Monster and Face It
This is probably the least popular approach to dealing with the messier side to life, but it is hands-down, my favorite.
I’m assuming that everyone reading this has probably watched a movie or tv show where there are good guys and bad guys. Let’s, for example, look at Harry Potter. Harry, along with his friends, has faced many monsters in his time at Hogwarts. They’ve dealt with Death Eaters, a three-headed dog, a spider the size of Chicago, Bertie Bot’s Every Flavor Beans…you get the point. They’ve fought some very scary foes.
What did they use to fight these adversaries? Well, it’s easy to say they used magic. True. Most of the time, that’s what they used. But more specifically, they used certain types of magic. In fighting Dementors, they used a Patronus. When Harry needed to do reconnaissance work, he wore a cloak that turned him invisible. To disarm another wizard, the spell, expelliarmus was used. The point is: there were different tools used to fight against different opponents.
The same is true for us as we face the issues that are causing us to live in a cyclical pattern of bad choices. Unless we know what “monster” it is we’re fighting, we don’t know how to fight against it.
I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about alcohol addiction, but if what you’re fighting is grief because your spouse died and you don’t know how to move forward in life without that person, the knowledge you may acquire about addiction isn’t going to do you an ounce of good. It’s important for us to be able to name our monster because then we can be better equipped to overcome it.
This is why recovery matters not just for the “obvious” people – the strung-out junkie or the inebriated raging alcoholic. Recovery is for everyone. Recovery literally means to “return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength” (Oxford Dictionary).
God didn’t create you broken. He made you a masterpiece (Eph. 2:10) and then placed you into a broken world where you experienced hurt and abuse and the ugliness of sin. He wants to return you to the state you belong: whole and complete in Him.
We won’t get there 100% this side of Heaven but we can experience joy more fully, we can find healing and forgiveness for ourselves and others, and we can understand our purpose and the purpose for our pain when we allow God into the broken places of our hearts and begin the transformative work of recovery.
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