“The last of the human freedoms…”

Today I will share part of the message I delivered on several occasions over the last month. The message was meant to be useful for anyone who has faced or is facing a personal or professional challenge.

The key is that we all face challenges. These challenges are custom made for each of us; designed to fit our personalities, our circumstances, and our levels of resilience.

The cornerstone scripture for the message was taken from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians,  2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 9 KJV:

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”

Though the troubles they would have faced in those times were different from ours the gist of the message is the same. There is always trouble, in different forms and intensities, but there is always hope.

The challenge one person faces may seem larger than that faced by someone else but nobody’s hurt and pain should be minimized by another. What seems easy for you in your particular circumstance may be traumatizing for someone else under different circumstances.

I prefaced the story of my own challenge with those words so as to emphasize that I did not think my trouble to be greater than anyone else’s; to reassure anyone listening that I only used my story as an example, as a springboard, for the greater message.

Being shot and the recovery process has been called the defining moment in my life by my mentor and the author of the foreword of my book, Mr. Philip Rochford.

It was defining because at that time everything had been taken away from me, my life was threatened, my appearance would be changed, my job was compromised, my car had to be sold and my independence was lost.

I was left with two choices, just like anyone else who faces tribulation. According to Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust,

“Everything can be taken away from a man but… the last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”

I could have chosen to adopt a positive approach or a negative outlook to my situation. We all come to that point at some time in our lives.

The choice was simple.

A negative attitude would have left me paralysed by hurt, bitterness and anger. Moving on with life would have been like trying to lift a truck – a task of daunting proportions.

On the other hand, choosing a positive approach freed me to continue praising and serving God. This choice removed obstacles like revenge, lack of forgiveness and ingratitude which would have hampered growth and prevented me from being able to move forward with renewed vigour.

The choice was simple but not easy. It happened as part of a process of grieving.

When the injury was incurred, I was left at hospital for a month. During that time I was able to grieve in my own way, in my own time without anyone else being part of that process. I could not share those intimately sad moments with anyone.

Sharing that grief would have meant clogging up the lines of support that had freely opened up to me. I had to present a happy front for them all, at least that’s what I did and felt I had to do.

(My only regret about that is that there are people now who can never understand the trauma this incident wrought on my life. They saw only the smiles of a survivor, not the tears of the victim. Perhaps that is a good thing because I have emerged better than before.)

After some period of grief and questioning, I came to a point of acceptance. The damage was done. It was bad. Deal with it, I told myself. And that I did.

Acceptance brought me to the point of being able to move forward.

Thus there were three main avenues available for me to set out on this journey of renewal:

  1. Faith
  2. Support Network
  3. Personal Responsibility

How does one hold on to faith when everything is taken away?

A Humming Bird is a tiny bird whose flight mechanism allows it to change direction suddenly, immediately, drastically with a minute twist of its body in reaction to some stimulus.

Similarly we too must respond to stimuli in our lives by sudden, immediate and drastic reactions.

Some say why would God allow this to happen to you? I say God stepped in to prevent something worse from happening because of the evil intentions of others.

In the face of this trial I responded drastically by grasping on to faith in several ways. Perhaps the cynical amongst us could regard it as my way of holding on to my sanity in an effort to be able to move past that moment.

Holding onto my faith meant, for me, the following:

  • Praying for myself; having others pray for me.
  • Reading the bible and other inspirational books
  • Listening to inspirational music. One song stood out for me: “Thank you Lord” by Don Moen.
  • Giving thanks for everything and everyone in my life.

Embracing a network of supportive individuals made up of the following:

  • My son, my mother and my brothers provided the major portion of my support network.

My elder brother played the part of father figure.

Family provided the safety net I needed to be able to bounce back from this tragic situation, without asking too many questions or making too many demands.

  • Friends were present in the moment when they were most needed.
  • Hospital staff

This support network provided the security I needed and buffered against all the daily tasks I could no longer have done for myself. The advantage gained is that I was able to focus on healing and not dwell on mundane tasks.

Having reached to acceptance through faith and the cushioning effect of the support network, I now had to take responsibility for recuperation and renewal. I did this by:

  • Making the conscious decision to adopt a positive attitude
  • The initial written accounts were raw and emotionally charged but provided a great way for getting rid of many haunting feelings, giving me release. I no longer had to keep these thoughts to myself and I did not have to worry about the paper or pen judging or pitying me.
  • I took up jogging once again. It started off with strolling, walking, walking/jogging and then jogging became the main part of the program. In so doing I was able to eliminate feelings of anger, rage, hatred or revenge; there were also the benefits of muscular toning, getting rid of toxins, producing “feel good” hormones like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine and alone time for reflection.
  • I acquired a coach and mentor in the person of Mr. Philip Rochford, without setting out to do so. This helped me to bring my book to fruition.
  • Being self-aware and mindful as well as mentally strong enough to recognize that I was spiraling into depression, I sought professional assistance.

So the message was that life is full of challenges of varying magnitudes but there will always be hope for a brighter future. We have the power to choose our attitude in any given set of conditions.

We can be come face to face with a pitbull on a rainy day in an enclosed space and walk away with our ego, faith and love still intact. We can do this by allowing ourselves time to grieve, coming to acceptance, holding onto faith, having a support network, taking personal responsibility and developing self-awareness.

Leave me a comment. Let me know if, upon reflection of your situation, past or present, you are going to adopt a positive attitude in the shadow of negativity. Perhaps you too have overcome a difficult situation. Why don’t you share how you were able to soar like an eagle after the storm?

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