It was the rape. Or the break-in. Maybe it was the wreck that took that loved one away. When your dad packed up and drove out of sight and never returned. Maybe it was your own decision, when you slept with that one guy, when you slapped your little boy, when you took the money that didn't belong to you, when you drove away from the accident you caused.
Life is full of decisions, and when a bad decision is made by others that hurt us or by us who hurt others, those moments can not only imprint painfully into our lives, but can create lasting, seemingly permanent damage to how we think about ourselves and our value.
That one moment, or even a series of one moments, can break us. We question our value, struggle with constant demons and face years or decades of guilt and pain. It colors our thought lives and can produce addictions, dependencies and otherwise poor life choices. We ask questions resistant to satisfactory answers. No amount of reasoning or logic dismisses the frustration with ourselves as lingering pain continues to define what we're willing to believe about ourselves and the path to recovery.
If this is you, let me assure you that you are not alone. Our world is full of broken people breaking other people. Any broken moment that seems to define you has done the same damage to others, many of whom walk your streets and work in your office.
Many of us are living the same lives at different points in our journeys. Where your pain might be fresh, another person has endured for many years and many experiences and seasons. Many people know how you feel -- the same self doubts, self incriminations, self hatred, anger at what others have done to you, shame at what you've done before or since ...
You are not alone.
More importantly, there is hope. Others have endured the same broken moment you have. They have endured. While few recover without scars, many have found healing that makes life better. There are paths out of your head, away from your pain and guilt, into a place of peace.
What thought I'd like to offer you comes from the film The Last Castle starring Robert Redford. Redford portrays General Irwin, imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, who encounters a young Marine Aguilar who murdered a fellow Marine. It's obvious Aguilar carries guilt for his actions and lives without dignity for himself.
Aguilar killed someone. His guilt was from an unjustifiable act served as a moment that broke him. For others, those moments might be at the hands of someone else. Irwin clarified for Aguilar that moments are often just moments. He never told Aguilar that Aguilar didn't deserve the consequences for his actions, or that he shouldn't feel pain, but he did make clear that single moments in our lives don't have to define every element of who we are.
Single moments don't have to become our identity, however tragic or painful. In no way should realizing this take suddenly resolve all pain and heartache you've endured, but you can take stock of this moment, right here, and take stock that in this moment, you are in a good place. Maybe you're on your couch, or sitting at your computer. Perhaps you sit at a bar or a restaurant. You are in a place where you can peruse someone's blog post, which is probably pretty benign. (Please don't be driving.)
In THIS moment, you're not in a moment that breaks you. Look to the moments that are NOT breaking you. You can look back and fixate on those difficult moments -- we all do -- but doing so will never solve your pain. No amount of poring over every detail or voluntarily reliving that moment will heal you.
You cannot heal a burn by drawing closer to the fire.
If you want change in your heart, you must seek change in your mind, and as the old adage goes about "you are what you eat," you are what you think. Feed your mind better life. Not merely "positivity." You have real problems and real challenges in life. However, look to change how you value THOSE moments. Dismissing all those perfectly valuable moments -- so easy when we're depressed or fixated on painful memories -- won't bring us healing. We must start to see how today's world is good.
Pain is often about perspective. I've been suffering back problem much of the past year, and yet as I've gained better perspective on what causes the pain and how to overcome that pain to fix the problem, I can suffer the same discomfort or nerve spikes and not perceive it with the same alarm or value as I did in the beginning. I have perspective on that pain.
Mental anguish can be similar in that as we gain perspective on the source of our pain and look to a healthier focus, the pain is put into his place and, hopefully, healing is found.
There's no perfect solution, but cling to hope. You are not alone. You can find healing. While you might need therapy -- and I always encourage you to seek faith -- life can get better.
Don't give up!