“My father told me I was a disgrace to the family.” With tear-filled eyes, a young woman told me this today.
In my line of work, I often have people telling me their life’s stories. No, I’m not a bar tender, I’m the local convenience store clerk. I must have an sympathetic look about me, because over the years I have heard more stories than I can even fathom. Many times, people talk to me because I do try very hard to just listen. I try not to offer advice unless they ask, I listen and sympathize. That’s it. I’m empathetic.
Listening can be hard. Our brains jump to conclusions, come up with strategy and advice, organize and plan. Our brains think they know everything, what’s right, and what’s wrong, with us and other people. Our brains say that we are right and the other person is wrong, we know what we’re talking about and we know the correct thing to do next, or say, or retaliate.
But our hearts, if we can learn to listen to our hearts, know truth much more than our brains. Our hearts can imagine these scenarios with “us” as the main character. Our hearts can see and hear heart break, pain, worry, fear, but also joy, love, happiness, and all the things in between.
Shame. This girl felt shame when she told me what her dad said to her. But she also felt abandonment. This dad who loved her said these cutting remarks in front of her whole family in a moment of anger. This shaking young woman became a teary abandoned little girl right in front of my eyes as she told me this story. My heart broke for her. I know how it feels when you don’t meet the expectations of those you love and respect.
I know this woman, and I know her dad, who loves her very much. But all those years of love and care, and hard work for your family, and the respect a parent has built up can come crashing down with just one word. Words are very important, and very dangerous. You have to be very careful using words, and think about the words that you choose and how they will affect the people you are giving those words to. Words can build you up, or words can cut into your heart like a dagger and leave horrible wounds and scars that last forever.
Is it unfair for me to expect unconditional love from my dad or my mom? What if I’ve never had that kind of a relationship with my parents? What if my parents were the kind who were selfish or absent, unloving or uncaring?
Regardless of how our parents treated us, we all need to remember that we are who we choose to be. If you choose to live in your despair, you will always feel the negative things in life. But if you choose to live in your happiness, you will feel the the positive things in life. Some of the happiest people I know had some of the worst childhoods. Some of the most depressed people I know grew up in higher class families with attentive parents and had all the material things they could ask for. How can this be?
You have to choose which words you believe. And always remember that you don’t have to take the words that other people try to give you. Its a learning process, but saying “no, thank you”, to the words you don’t want is much better than taking those words anyway and trying to figure out what to do with them later. Once you’ve taken the words as your own, its much harder to get rid of them, than if you just refused to take them in the first place.
Only you have that power. Only you can choose what to believe about yourself, which words you choose to keep, that you feel define you, who you are to yourself. Those are the words that mean the most, the words that live in your heart. If you can find a peaceful place to listen to your heart, which words would your heart say you are?