I’ve been Blessed to have talked with and even met in person some truly incredible people. What makes these people incredible is not their wealth. Many of them have little material wealth. Some continue to struggle financially. It is not their stunning good looks, although they tend to glow with a stunningly beautiful presence radiating goodness from the inside out. It is not their fame, power, or influence that attracts me to them.
What makes these people so admirable is that they are survivors.
When I think of the people I most love, trust, and admire, they are not always the ones closest to me physically or even in my own family – although I love each of them dearly. The ones I would sit and listen to for hours, who I know I can count on, and who I would do anything for, are the ones who have been tested.
These are men and women who have been through hardships and who refuse to surrender to negativity. They’ve experienced extreme trauma including child molestation, rape, kidnapping and repeated rape at gunpoint resulting in a life-saving pregnancy, catastrophic injury suffered in war on foreign soil, a loved one’s suicide, the death of a child, loss of a parent at a young age through the parent’s death, abandonment, or divorce and more. Many tragic stories of difficulty began in childhood.
There are so many unspeakable tragedies in this world. Life is not fair. Suffering is unavoidable; however, staying stuck in tragedy or choosing to move through the tragedy toward triumph on the other side is the result of seemingly infinite small and personal decisions. These decisions often seem insignificant or irrelevant at the time, but they add up and change the trajectory we put ourselves on.
The men and women we most admire, love, and trust are those who have put themselves on a trajectory that turns tragedy to triumph and victim to victor. These are the stories we want to hear. These are the stories of reformed screw-ups and sinners turned saints. These are the stories of devastating loss and newfound hope of broken hearts and renewed love for life.
Whether we are talking about people like those above, a Church that has gone off its Spirit-led path and finds renewed vigor and zest for the Eucharist, repentance, Confession, and a humble submission to the Glory of the Sacraments, or a nation, purported to have been founded on the principle of freedom before the world fully understood what freedom means, that still manages to advance the cause of goodness and equality, the dignity of hard work and opportunity and the hope of forming a more perfect union, we can only be inspired by entities that have struggled and overcome.
We must not mistake loving for a desire to repeat harm done. Instead, each of us can love our pasts, as well as the past of Catholicism and America, because the past provided for us the opportunity to become our best selves. Hardships of our pasts can weigh us down with baggage we, as adults, can choose to shed, but we can also choose to see the strength of character they’ve given us and the opportunities to see things through a perspective others might not have. Our past hardships provide the stepping off point for our own ability to empathize and experience compassion for others – if we allow them to.
We are not solely present bodies. We exist on a continuum. Our pasts help shape us into who we are today. We cannot be the person we are presently without having had the past experiences we had and making choices we did with those experiences. We are not a blip in time, but a soul with an unfurling discovery of who we are meant to become.
We cannot change the past, but we can choose to see it differently. We can choose to forgive ourselves and others. We can choose to see goodness that emerges from any struggle if we pray for our eyes to be opened to goodness. We can choose to comfort ourselves and release old wounds. We can choose to find virtue in ourselves or those who brought goodness in our moments of hardship. We can realize those moments, even though they may have lasted a long time, been cyclical, or cut us off from support, really were just moments compared to the lifetime and eternity we have in this moment and ahead of us. We can choose to complete a timeline of life’s tragedies and triumphs and go back to explore how God worked for good in ourselves or in others in each moment even though we may have missed it at the time.
Most of us do not have tragedies quite as intense as those I mentioned earlier. We should not beat ourselves up for being weak or ungrateful but realize that continuum still exists and that we are imperfect with leaps forward and slides backward, and continuous calls to return to the foot of the Cross, which is the only place suffering makes sense.
Without your past, you could not be who you are today. If you want to love today, you must make peace with your past and learn to love, not injustice, cruelty, or evil, but the lessons learned from them.
Your past is just part of your story. Today’s present will be tomorrow’s past. Knowing this, before thinking, speaking, or acting, consider how the choices you make today will effect how much you love this moment tomorrow.
Gratitude Journal – May , 2023
Thank you Lord for…
- Getting the dishes done.
- PT today
- Making it to C’s game.
- C coming to get me before the meeting
- Borrowing C’s stapler!
- A neat desk and less paper clutter!
- Another beautiful day!
- Learning to love my history.
- Z’s ride from the pizza place
- Meema taking us for dinner
- The people who inspired this post. God knows who they are…
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