Recently I have had many conversations about stagnation, self-doubt and struggle. One thing I didn’t expect was the common cause of the situation; I mention it in a moment. Remember what I said about setting the stage at home for potential radicalisation? Let me take it a little further.
Home is meant to be the place of building, encouraging, mentorship that will raise a solid individual for life. Yet there’s no perfect home because homes are made up of humans creating life and doing the best they can with the skills they have. So imagine a person raised in an abusive home unaware of the impact and having built in the mechanisms to cope joining with another similarly crippled. What kind of environment could develop? Contrast with one raised in a stable loving home. How different would this home be? Now find these two together, building a home…I won’t even go there.
Many of us were unwittingly exposed to extreme situations at home and we acquire certain behaviours as we grow up based on this. An abusive parent creates an atmosphere of fear, doubt, anger and hurt with no possible solution and outlet. An absent parent creates a gap in training and connection leading to confusion, hurt, anger and pain. An overbearing parent creates a sense of uncertainty and the inability to decide.
The common result is…Pain…lots of pain.
Ongoing conversations around me have uncovered insane levels of pain covered up in low self-esteem, self-hatred, demanding behaviour, a sense of entitlement, anger, lashing out, withdrawal, silence, mood swings, binge behaviours, outward conformity, ‘obedience’, and a plethora of other things. We learn early to appear to be what is expected of us regardless of how we feel until we are outside the situation and are able to become ourselves.
Have you ever wondered why people ‘change’ when they leave home or get that dream job or get married or leave the country? Well, often once we are out of the environment that makes us feel the pressure. What we don’t realise is that the pain is still there in the background, undercover, hidden until we get to a trigger situation and it comes out like a full on explosion breaking through the veneer of calm and goodness.
A recent conversation has me looking back at my own journey with pain.
I lived under the spotlight of the Christian community, active in church, engaged in ministry and loving it all the way. Our home had an open door policy and so many people were in or out. I was a stellar student until high school and on the surface it was all good. The truth is different because I was struggling but had learnt the skill of masking and covering.
Different situations created pressure, hurt and anger that was simply put aside after prayer assuming it would go away. Intense emotions were shoved into the background because I believed that when you walk with God pain is not my portion and so it will just disapper…poof. The pain of broken relationships, disappointment, personal failings and societal expectations became the press that would in time break my external shell and me.
One day in my adult life, it all crashed and I wept for days then walked through it for months.
The pain was so deep and being one who didn’t cry it was the most insane feeling ever. It has taken a lot of deliberate daily dealing to remain in balance including walking away but these had to be learned. Looking back was almost impossible because it was dark and bleak but I knew I had to and I knew that was the way to healing.
I couldn’t reach out to many people for help because I was a pillar in my community and most couldn’t deal with this struggling side. Finally, my can do personality and strong exterior was the perfect deterrent for questions. My saving grace was the love of a Father, medication, the ability to journal, a form of prayer and psychology knowledge gained from reading my mother’s books since I was twelve. Story for another day!!!
So what about those who don’t have access to information and the services needed to deal? What happens in families who believe that certain behaviour or traits like anger are part of their genetic makeup yet it is a learnt pattern of dealing with it? What happens to the young man who is struggling with a sense of failure who takes it out on a weaker person? Does he find peace? What of the woman who finally explodes after years of abuse, picks the knife and stabs her man? Does jail or the death penalty really help her?
Pain is part of our fabric and we need to deal with it carefully.
Pain fundamentally changes who we are and will keep affecting us until we deal with it. Pain can cause individuals to do seemingly unconventional things. Despite how difficult, dealing with pain is the best way to come to terms with our past, accept the things we cannot change and make the choice to be different and thrive in the present and future.
Some of my children are wounded deeply. The pain is driving them nearly insane and they don’t know how to deal. Asking them to track the pain leads to deep sighs because it will hurt like crazy to do so and many walk way. Some take out their anger on God, others on life, others on family and even others on themselves. Some, very few, are choosing to deal with the pain, one breath, look, tear, scream, conversation, hope and dream at a time.
Just like me, there have been and will be instances of breakdowns, some private and some very public, that though embarrassing, are the key to resolution. As I look at my young ones, I realise that we all must deal with our pasts and the behaviour that is affecting others. Each one must see how their upbringing has affected them and is affecting their present.
‘I think my father doesn’t love,’ an eleven year old boy told his class mate.
This little one said this because didn’t see his parents much any day, but he saw his father least. Dad is always busy outside home working and looking to make enough money to fill the house with all the things he, the father, has determined are important yet his son would prefer just more time and less things. Clearly father and son are on different pages in reference of what is important.
Today’s reality is that one income is hard to live off and many parents are in very demanding work roles to remain afloat. Many feel they cannot change demands and schedules because money has to raised and lives have to be fuelled. So we are going to work very early to get ahead of the traffic and coming late for the same reason. I remember when I was still employed, I was up at 5am to get everything ready for the day including making lunch for the young king. I would drop him off at 7.30am and start my two hour commute to work.
I got to work tired because I have been up and on the move for 4+ hours already. I’d put in a full eight hours and leave work at 7.30pm to avoid the same traffic. I worked some weekends and got home exhausted to make dinner and black out sometimes leaving him awake alone. I was irritable because of exhaustion but the bank account was good and I could afford things that were previously out of reach. More was available but I slowly found that other sectors were suffering greatly.
The major casualty in this routine was the young king.
I tried to make it up by spending weekends together and worked hard to go out together and visit people we loved. It was the time we really bonded as mother and son and to date some people think we are too close. Yet because time was short, it had to be more than just hang out time. Every ride was a conversation, a lesson, a time to deep reflection or just jokes. We didn’t even switch on the radio and we didn’t realise that until a trip with the whole family where we kept turning the volume down to hear each other and daddy would turn it up because he is all music and we are all conversation.
So when I heard the young man question his father’s love, my heart broke.
He doesn’t understand that his father loves him and his expression is to provide a good life. He doesn’t know that there is a major cost to more time at home. On the other hand, daddy doesn’t know his son misses him so much and would rather he was home than out working. Daddy isn’t aware that the money isn’t making the big difference he thinks it is making. Daddy also doesn’t know that the ground for uncontrollable behaviour is being laid and unless something changes his son won’t grow up with his values because others will have raised the young man not him.
There is an ongoing conversation across the world about radicalisation and we keep wondering how it starts. I think the comment at the start is exactly where it starts. I know that sounds strange but hear me out. We have left and continue to leave our children exposed. We are out making money for the family to give them a lifestyle they don’t even know or need but miss out on key elements of training we need to be passing on. We are not teaching them simple skills like thinking, problem solving, pivoting, tenacity…the list is endless. We aren’t taking our children to the business and teaching them the basics. We don’t show them how we find it challenging to make ends meet and how to deal with toxic environments.
How do we expect them to survive?
Every conversation I have with a struggling young person brings me back to “6Train up a child in the way he should go, [a]And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov 22:6 (NKJV). Tears fill my eyes because as I raise the young king I am aware I don’t have all the answers but I have to keep learning and leaning in to God for direction. I am nothing without the wisdom that comes from above and would be lying to say any different.
I have many who call me stuck and wondering and others looking for ways to raise fees and don’t even know where to start. It was so funny when a couple of them said that they want to quit work because it was boring and repetitive. I laughed out loud but within me my heart broke and the tears fell and when I composed myself we had a discussion about it. How do I help a team of young adults who are untrained and unskilled to proceed? How do we deal with children who are insecure, lonely and rudderless because of parental absence?
It all leaves me unsettled.
I am unsettled because there are millions of young people as rudderless and unprepared for life especially the young men.
I am unsettled because unless we do something for these young people their future is bleak.
I am unsettled because if we continue to live as we are the future of our generations is at stake.
I am unsettled because we seem to be unaware that if we leave our children so unprepared we have set the stage for their radicalisation.
I am unsettled because the days of complacency are over and my Father has called me to work.
Join me as unsettled and let’s change the world around us one person, smile, touch, conversation, book and interaction at a time.