I vividly remember when my mother would comfort me as a kid when I would see people in wheelchairs. To see someone being wheeled around while everyone else was walking definitely pulled at my young heartstrings. It is a reminder of my early compassion for people. I sit this morning and think about just how that compassion for others has gone through its many transformations as I have reached my current point in life.
Early on, I was witnessing a lot of trauma. My father was an abusive man. I witnessed things and heard words that no child should ever have to deal with. With that being said, the filtering and mindset that developed throughout my growing years had taken many turns. As I watched the figure whom I called my dad violently lash out as I was just learning to run, I became deeply frightened. I became unknowingly ashamed. This rage and fear that I had witnessed became entrenched within my childhood, and well into the future boy and man.
I was always around a very loving family outside of my father’s periodic presence. When my mother couldn’t take the hitting and verbal abuse any longer, she would reluctantly run to her parent’s home. They had raised several children, and the lessons learned were ‘been there and done thats.’ This made the environment very comforting for me, and it was no sweat for them to take care of a little boy. My mother only wanted to be with her husband, but the abuse was not acceptable. I’ve wondered throughout my life just how my dad grew up. How were his parents? What was his environment like? What designed his filters and mindset? It must have been a devastation. The reflection of my father is what I saw for many years when I looked into my mirror. The traumatic life is most likely what he had also witnessed as a child, but never dealt with through therapy and treatment of chemical imbalances within the brain. The man is nuts. I hate to say that, or this, but I would be nuts too if I had never chosen to pursue proper treatment. Traumatic events really change people in ways that are never completely understood.
For fifteen years my mother and father were on and off again, and the violence never halted. My mother was a very forgiving woman, and I have had a very big problem with that throughout my years. I would often ask,”What about the trauma I have witnessed?What were you thinking, staying with an abusive man?” I failed to understand for a long time. She had given into the abuse so I could have a father, and sacrificed everything that she was in order for me to have a man to look up to. Sadly, my father is far from a man. I consider my mother’s dad to be my true father, even though his role was limited. I became my own father so to speak, and that early road without my dad, hating him, despising him, crying out to him and begging him for attention to no avail, left me bitter. The compassion that I once knew was coming to an end around the time I hit puberty. It was replaced with the shame I had mentioned. I was blaming myself. I was looking around at school and seeing all of the bright and shining faces. Successful and happy kids who would talk about how their parents were supportive and wonderful. It started to become a horrible place for me to be. I couldn’t deal with new emotions being thrown around by the onset of hormonal changes, the constant insecurity at home and the bitterness that started to take root. I wanted out. That’s when I met the bad kid named Nick, and that’s when I was introduced to marijuana.
We both had dads who were violent. We both escaped by smoking, and we both started to run with others like us. Damaged kids. We were developing in ways that we had thought were okay. I mean, if dad was doing it, then it must be okay? We could be violent, we could smoke, we could cause trouble, we could forget about compassion. It wasn’t long before Nick was sent off for breaking hundreds of laws which I somehow managed to always dodge, but the residual lifestyle that we embraced remained. I was a rebellious, drug addicted, hateful and totally heartless kid. I was important, and no one, not even my sweet guardians mattered. I would steal from them. Blame them. Use them. I became a man early, I had thought. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how to live. I developed into a standoffish person. I hate to say it, but it still rears its ugly head today at times. But, praise God, He is showing me a different way. His way.
So, my compassion for others was pretty much extinguished. It became buried so deep beneath my hardened heart that I would just make fun of people who couldn’t walk, or look at others as much, MUCH less than me. That jerk-mentality went on up until just a short time ago. The bad habits to mask deep-seated pain also continued up until a few years ago. I truly didn’t know how to love myself or others in a true way until I met my wife. Her compassion introduced me to new feelings. Her soft heart was gentle. She was a godsend. My life began to unfold in new ways. Healing truly began. It was through the love of my wife and her family that helped me to hang onto the compassion that was so fleeting throughout previous years. I only allowed limited acceptance of others because of the fear of being hurt by them. I only saw the bad in people, and the good was under powerful magnification until they could prove themselves worthy of my approval. My wife helped me to see how a gentle heart can make more rational decisions. How a relaxed mind, not full of anger and hurt, can aid in being more compassionate towards the world.
This heart that is on the mend is also, above all, being softened by the love of God. That love was never welcomed, nor wanted. It is the love of God which keeps me in balance. The balance which allows the deep scars of the past to be bandaged, and healed. Jesus is who continuously breaks up my hardened heart, removing its blackened layers. Layers of torment, disgust, shame and true hate. He shows me His compassion, and I call upon Him to be more compassionate, and less of the man who is used to living in the past. My walk with the Lord is cleansing the filter, and changing the mindset.