Friday, April 12, 2013

Reflections from My Lenten Journey with Anger

The Lenten season has ended, but my journey with anger is just getting deeper. Over the Lenten season, I thought about: How deep my self-hate actually is; why I root for underdogs; and How I may unknowingly discriminate against others.

During the Lenten season, I began to really grapple with how deep my self-hate goes. I wrote about this in my first blog post, but at that time I did not know just how deep it is and how I have held a grudge against myself. Upon this realization, I thought that if I just started to love myself the self-hate would magically disappear...

Sadly, it does not work that way. By focusing on my self hate more during the Lenten season through therapy, writing, and mediation, I was able to explore how I have internalized people's opinions of myself since a young age. I have sought outside reinforcement of my worth because I do not have a high opinion of myself. I thought I would gain this through other means, but I never have. As I have discovered through the Lenten season, no outside reinforcement has been enough to build a sense of self-worth, it ultimately has to come from me and me alone.

For most of my life, I have been active in helping others and advocating for social justice. I always thought it had to do solely because of my Quaker upbringing. But during Lent, I reflected more on this. In late February the poet Shane Koyczan released a video of the slam poem "To This Day" and it made its rounds across the internet. Then in early March his TED talk was released as well. I have listened to the poem several times and his TED talk once. His words connected deeply to my experiences growing up feeling out of place and why I root for the underdog. If I believe that the underdogs would never win, I would never have a chance. I always thought if they could win, I could win. I am still working through this realization and how it has impacted my life and my outlook on life.

Thinking about this "underdog" mentality also reminded me of the movie, Simon Birch, which I saw years ago. At the end of the movie when the title character dies, everyone else reflects on what lessons they had received from him and his tragic circumstances. This is how people, usually children, with disabilities are portrayed in popular culture as being here solely so that other people can learn valuable lessons. Afterwards they are promptly discarded or ignored. They are not to be recognized as regular human beings with the same desires and feelings, instead they have a mythical presence. This might be because people with disabilities are largely ignored or avoided in the real world.

Society largely does not know what to do with adults living with disabilities. As kids, at least society will raise money and make movies about us. As adults, we are often left alone and the discrimination just gets worse. Another famous example is Helen Keller. Most people learn about her childhood and about her teacher, Anne Sullivan. But did you know that as an adult she graduated from college and became a socialist activist, fighting for human rights? We all like the story of Helen overcoming her disabilities to communicate, but we never hear the rest of the story of how she used her communication skills to advocate for others.

Shane’s poem also raised up the subtle ways my teachers and friends compounded my self-hate and discriminated against me with their use of words and their actions. Realizing how language and actions impacted me has made me wonder how I might discriminate against others with my words and acts. Now I am looking at what I say and how I act towards others. I have explored how I treat people and the words I use. In a recent sermon, I explored the concepts of Light and Darkness. This is just the beginning of that process in exploring ways I might have discriminated against other.

I did not write a lot during the forty days but I hope to continue to write and to develop something for children growing up with disabilities and their families and friends. I continue to welcome anyone who wants to dialogue on any of these topics. This journey will continue as my journey with God and Christ continues after the end of Lent.   

1 comment:

  1. Greg, this is beautiful. I have no words but wanted to let you know that I am sitting with you on your journey.