The Act of Feeling And Being Unwanted Can Impact Your Life’s Outcome
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
“You were a mistake,” my friend’s mother told him. “Your father was upset when I told him I was pregnant again.” Recently, my friend shared he was about five or six years old when his mother broke the news. She later found out he was gay, which only fueled an already complicated relationship.
After this traumatic experience, my friend said he didn’t live his life. He existed for many years, pushing from day to day. Too often he thought “people are being polite when they invited me to things. They didn’t want me. They were just being polite.”
Fortunately, he eventually learned folks were being genuine and they did want him. It took him a long time to realize that he was not a mistake. Despite the childhood trauma, he described his parents as “good, troubled, God-believing people, who did the best they could.”
According to him, his parents were not sophisticated and struggled with their own demons stemming from individual childhood trauma. He eventually realized it wasn’t about his parents wanting him, it was about God intentionally placing him in the world.
If you ever doubted why you’re here, look to the stars on a quiet night, even if there is no one to hold your hand, and know you were meant to be here. Think how amazing, mystical, and wonderful the cosmos is. You’re part of it. There is something to the saying “the miracle of life.” Think about the odds of being here. And, yet you are.
Although my friend would never want to relive his childhood, he concluded, after years of reflection, it probably made him kinder, more empathetic, and more compassionate toward others.
In some ways, his sojourn reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant pastor and Christian martyr who spoke truth to Nazi power in the 1930s and 40s. Bonhoeffer’s horrible experience deepened his faith and caused him to “ponder the strange and wonderful ways God had led him. It was no easy, peaceful meditation.”
One of the things my friend took away from his uncharmed childhood was to use whatever cruelty or injustice he may have endured throughout his life and channel the energy for personal growth and toward the benefit of others.
Adam Rippon, the Olympic skater who incidentally, as you may recall, is gay, says he couldn’t be a great athlete without hate and rejection. He drew strength from these experiences. Adam channeled the energy toward great things and into being a role model for young LGBTQ athletes.
The best revenge, it’s been said, is not getting even, but success. Success comes in many forms. Not allowing someone’s negative opinion to become your reality is success. Making it as an athlete, when others mock you, is success.
But, you don’t have to be a gifted, disciplined athlete to be successful. Take a negative, personal experience and be sure it never happens to someone else. Have you ever been to an event and seen someone wandering around not sure where to sit? Invite him or her to join you and your date or colleague.
Are you a seasoned professional at this point in your career? Do you remember what it was like starting out and the awkwardness? Take time to mentor a young person. I’ve professionally mentored at least one person uncomfortable with marriage equality. Today, he’s in a position of authority and much more sympathetic toward LGBTQ issues. Although an intern, I treated him as a colleague, and it made all the difference in the world.
Attempting to understand the “strange and wonderful ways” a higher power tries to help in one’s personal awakening is “no easy, peaceful meditation.” Life is. Sometimes it’s best not to try to understand it. Experience it at the moment and embrace the perspective that it may offer now and in the future.
*Paul is a personal chaplain/spiritual director, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”