I know. Being the best you is not an innovative idea, but it is a life-changing one if we really believe it and commit to it. There is a multi billion dollar industry dedicated to that one thought — to be the best you that you can be. Some self-help books and the people who write them can be enlightening and help us to grow, but the self-help charlatans can lead you down the path to financial ruin.
Why should you waste your money on phoney self-help experts? You could use some of your financial blessings to reaching out to those around you who desperately need your help. One way to be the best you is by giving more than you receive. For example, let’s say someone gives you some of their valuable time to read your professional profile on Linkedin and offer constructive comments on improving it. How can you be the best you that you can be in this situation? The best way is to do something more for that person than they gave you.
I have a cherished contact on Linkedin. She took valuable time out of her life dealing with an ailing mother to look at my profile and help me make it better. Too many profiles focus on our experience and education, which while important lacks something fundamental. The question should be not what you have done, but moreover what can I offer? A comment I put on many of my emails with my connections is this. “Please let me know moving forward how our connection would be of the greatest benefit to you.” I am not assuming what my connection wants, but instead am leaving it open for them to decide how I can help.
Each of us has a unique gift to give –ourselves. No one can give that gift away but you because it has been uniquely shaped by your experiences. In so many of my conversations I hear comments like these. “My life is boring. I haven’t done much with my life. I’m not special. I don’t have that much education. I have nothing valuable to offer others.” Sadly, in my experience as a counselor much of this negative self-talk stems from abuse whether it is physical, emotional and/or sexual. The abuser seeks to have the one who is abused believe in a false self, not the true beautiful, giving, kind, creative and intelligent person that wants to be loved, valued and appreciated.
You have a story that is your story that no one can tell or write quite like you. You know the life experiences that taught you the most about life. You have weathered life’s really tough times or you are going through them right now.
The pain we have endured becomes our overcoming story if we allow it to be. It is the window through which we can truly feel for those who are suffering.
I came across this poem on the value of suffering I share with you to reflect upon as I did when reading it.
“I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.”
– Robert Browning Hamilton
One of the things that touches me the most about when I have watched Undercover Boss is how upper management is transformed by the hardships of their employees, especially if the employee is caring for a sick parent or spouse. Many start out with the concept of how they are going to bring greater efficiencies to make their company more profitable. While seeking that knowledge by going undercover they learn what is far more important — that the greatest profits come from investing in their employees. I think some of them need to work on their disguises much more though. It is rather embarrassing to have one’s moustache fall off while speaking with an employee. Some of those hair styles are so 1970s.
Our story no matter how painful it is can inspire others to achieve their life goals. We are like the audience cheering on a hero in a movie. We don’t want the villain to have the victory. We desire that good will be victorious over evil. I share some of the story of my life to further illustrate what I mean.
Many of you who have read my blogs know that I am a survivor of child abuse from my schizophrenic father. In his manic rages he would attack me in every way you could think of and maybe in ways you wouldn’t think of. In my childhood and well into my adult life my father would tell me all the ways I was and always would be a failure. The few times he told me he was proud of me stood in sharp contrast to the thousands of times he told me I was stupid, lazy, weak and clumsy. He would tell me until I was sick of hearing it that my brother was smarter than I would ever be. The one comment that penetrates my heart more than any other is this. “I wish you had never been born.” That ultimate condemnation of me was like he had taken a knife and stabbed my heart with it.
My father drives our car on roads few travel on. He gets out and kisses the ground. He says he is God blessing the ground.
He would go to many different churches and say to us he was Jesus visiting all of the churches.
I see things that no one should ever have to see. At age 5 I watch from the top of the stairs in our home feeling helpless as my mother attempts to commit suicide by hanging herself. Tears come down my face as I see my mother’s body swaying back and forth, back and forth. I shout out, “Mom, please don’t die! Please don’t die! ” The living hell of her abuse becomes too much to endure. She grows so weary of the daily battle with my father beating her and telling her all the ways in which she is weak and a failure as a human-being. Dad cuts her down in one of his sane moments.
Why did my mother stay so long? In the 1960s and early 1970s divorce is viewed as a scandal to the family name. My mother tries to leave. She approaches my grandmother, Mary, asking for help. The response she gets is cold and callous. “You leave Jim and I’ll leave Thornbury and never speak to you again!”
Mom takes five more years of abuse, five miserable and agonizing years until one day she draws up the courage to unbutton her blouse and show my grandmother the many scars, the many bruises especially on her back. the injuries my father ordered her to remain hidden.
My mother tells me how my grandmother weeps saying to Mom, “June, please forgive me for not believing you! I should have listened to you when you came asking for me to agree to you leaving Jim. You can no longer stay with him. You and your children can stay with me and George (her husband after the death of my grandfather, Sanford Dobson, after his third heart attack) as long as you want.”
While staying with my grandmother I eat many chocolate Rosebuds. The sweet taste of them soothes some of the bitterness and hatred towards my father. They are a temporary escape from the growing fear that Dad will come to my grandmother’s home and kill us all.
Staying at my grandmother’s place gives me vital time to start healing within.
That fleeting time of peace ends when my father figures out where we are. He takes our other car and drives it into my grandmother’s driveway. The tires squeal as my grandmother goes out to reason with this insane lunatic. She says right in front of the car as he revs it back and forth, back and forth, each time getting closer to hitting my grandmother, “Now, Jim, you need to leave. I won’t let you hurt June or the children any longer.”
Her husband, George, first tries to pull my grandmother out of the way of my father’s car. He yells out to my father, “Jim, leave now! I have called the police.” Mom cries out, “Mom, get out of the way! He’s going to kill you!” Mom rushes out and pulls my grandmother away from the car, which is between my grandmother and the outside garage only seconds before my father would have hit her. I scream out from inside my grandmother’s living room, “i hate you! I hate you! I hate you! I never want to see you again!”
My father backs up the car and races it into the streets until soon he is caught, arrested and admitted to the mental hospital in Owen Sound.
I reflect at age 11 coming home from school. I look for my mother but cannot find her. I call out, “Mom. Mom! Mom!” There is a faint cry that I hear from the basement storage room. I open the door and turn on the light. Mom is huddled in a corner shaking with terror through her body. I feel her crippling fear looking into her eyes. She tells me Dad dragged her down the wooden stairs. I see slivers mixed in with the blood flowing down her legs.
I hold her in my arms and let her cry, let her pour out her terror, release it.
Hatred for my father grows within me like a cancer raging out of control. I lay awake many nights plotting, planning, scheming of all the ways in which I can kill him and get away with it. Finally, I decide on a plan after seeing a man stabbed in a movie with a knife that is plunged into his victim and given a quick upper thrust and twist. I see the man laying dead with the blood oozing out of his body.
I cry as I see that sensitive and loving soul replaced by a monster I loathe and find disgusting. How joyful we all will be when this evil man is dead! Monster, you will no longer hit my mother or make her so sad. I am going to murder you and delight in doing so.
The plan is simple, so easy that I know I can make a good case for self-defence. My father already has a history of admissions to the local mental hospital in Owen Sound, Ontario. He has a record of times he has abused my mother, brother, oldest sister and me. I will get him furious with me by telling him what a piece of garbage I think he is. He will come at me. I will take the knife from behind my back and stick it in him with abounding joy into his chest until he falls dead. I will no longer feel helpless. My mother will be so proud of me.
My father could not keep up his game of deception pretending to family and friends that he is okay. At parties the true picture of his schizophrenia becomes more on display. More people begin to finally see that my mother’s claim that she and her family are the victims of abuse is true. More of the violent side of my father rears its ugly head as the sickness inside of him grows like a parasite sucking out all of the life from its victims slowly, painfully, with an evil and exacting precision.
Dad hits my mother in places where the bruises don’t show. As the schizophrenia worsens my father can hide his abuse of my mother, brother, two sisters and me no longer.
Our town police constable is a coward. He could have protected my mother better but he doesn’t. He is terrified of my father. He doesn’t have to live with him 24 hours a day, seven days a week living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, kind one moment and devastatingly cruel the next.
My two sisters get married and leave finally free of their perpetual hell of abuse. This leaves only my brother, mother and me. We move to Owen Sound after my father sells our beautiful home and land for much less than it is worth.
The night before leaving my father my mother says to my brother and I, ” Pack one bag only. Tomorrow we are leaving your father.”
That night I cannot sleep. I must not sleep. It is my duty to protect my mother. I lament that I will not get the opportunity to kill him I was looking so forward to.
As my sleepless night ends and I hear the birds singing their sweet songs I think how much easier it would have been for me if I had been a bird. When I look out our window and see the birds so happy, so carefree, I am so sad I am not a bird.
I am a prisoner who will soon be free, free from that mocking smile, free to sing songs of joy, free to truly know the joy of waking up to discover my father is no longer there hovering over me, wondering how he can kill me and get away with it. He will be finally free of this weak failure, this waste of flesh that is Kevin.
I rush to our car with the paper bag full of clothes. The bag rips from the bottom. Clothes fall out. I grab them. Mom calls out saying, “Kevin, you don’t have time to pick up your clothes. Get in the car now! Your father will be home any moment”
I think how stupid I am that I packed the bag so full. That is the terrible and destructive damage abuse does. After being told thousands of time what an imbecile you are as a child you begin to believe it and play this false role your abuser gives you. It is far safer to do that than to be intelligent and be beaten, ridiculed and in extreme cases murdered.
My brother and I hide laying down between the front and back seats of our car. We dare not sit in the back seat for fear that our father will discover us. If he does we know this mad man will kill us all.
As the sign for Owen Sound fades in the distance we breath a deep sigh of relief that this hellish nightmare is over.
I breathe a prayer of thanks to God that I never got that opportunity to murder my father.
Before his death from pneumonia in November 2005 I see him one last time. I ask God to give me the words to say that will bring comfort to my father as he shakes all over. I feel he is praying for the greater mercy of death to come so he no longer will be gasping for each breath. I ask God for the willingness to truly begin that long and arduous journey I will have in forgiving my father, the eyes to see that he is a tortured soul who when he was on his medications was so kind, loving and would show flashes of the brilliance and wonderful sense of humor that would have been seen more often if he had he not been given electric shock treatments.
As I close my eyes and pray for him I remember that more loving man, who would carry be piggy back as ice-cream from my ice-cream cone dripped down my face on to his shirt. He would say brimming with joy to all the people he would meet, “This is my son, Kevin!”
I recall the time he sends me a letter about how he shows everyone he could an article I get published in The War Cry, a Salvation Army magazine entitled Searching for God in a Megabyte. He gets it published in the local Canadian Mental Health Association magazine. A copy of my story in that magazine is with the letter.
I hold his hand. I tell him I love him. I sing songs to him about a God who loves him. His hand grows cold. His pain is no more. He is released from his unrelenting prison of mental illness.
I cry as love’s grasp from my father’s hand loosens. Dad, you are with the angels in Heaven. I love you. I don’t hate you any more. Oh, God, in Your time make me willing to forgive my father as much as one can upon this earth. Amen.
I am alive to tell my story to encourage you that the most painful and tragic story has within it the power to change the lives of others. Our overcoming story no matter how awful it is, inspires others to not give up in their challenges. Your pain and how you overcame it lights the pathway of hope for others in their struggles.
These are some of my thoughts about how our overcoming story can help us be the best me we can be. I welcome what you have to share. What is your story? How has it helped you to become the person you are? I have a listening heart to really hear it if you would like to share it.
If you want your comments to remain confidential, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today and every day can be your overcoming story too.
Dr. Kevin Osborne, B.Th with honours Canada Christian College & Graduate School, M.A. -Ph. D student in Clinical Christian Counseling St. James the Elder Theological Seminary, D.D., D. sc is a certified Christian counselor and Christian Life Coach, who lives in Englehart, northern Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Karen and two kitties, William and Catherine, a.k.a. Sir Lounge a Lot and Princess Catherine of Chaos.
I am available for motivational speaking, advocacy work, preaching, teaching or singing. If there are magazine or book publishers out there interested in seeing more of my stories, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com