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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Gift You Cannot Give

Throughout the various stages of my life, I had always known there was something wrong with me. It was an intuitive belief- a feeling. It was always hard for me to identify precisely what it was or when I was going to sense it.

It went something like this.

I'd see my peers having completely normal relationships. They would exchange "I love yous" having sincere exchanges with their families and friends. Many of them had mapped some actual course for their life, had a plan and goals, and seemed very happy. When life intervened and threw a wrench in their plans, they had acceptance and changed course with a minimum of frustration or disruption.

I could never do that. I would dwell, lament, and get angry when things didn't go my way. I had no acceptance. I blamed the exterior world. My perceived enemies. And yet I'd see peers having the same type of problems. They had emotional tools for dealing with those things. Nothing illustrates that point better than a funeral I attended once. The death of a young police officer in a firefight. His name was Mark S.

As a police officer, I had always attended police officer funerals. They are always large affairs. Bagpipes, memorial services, giant parades of police cars lights whirling as we followed the hearse to the graveyard. Military burials, honor guards, 3 shot salutes, American flags. So it was on this particular day, I attended the largest funeral I had ever attended. A young police officer in Boise. It was held in a gymnasium. The crowd was very large. There on the stage stood his family. Parents, widow, young children. All of them dare I say, almost beaming. I will stop short of saying they almost appeared happy. No crying, no stuttering voices at the microphone, no sobbing. The entire family was that way.

I was in awe. I had been to a number of these funerals. This was not how people acted. So I listened intently to what they had to say. I can sum it up this way. They were very Christian, they had complete acceptance, and they had a 100% intuitive belief that Mark was a devout Christian and that he was in heaven which is where he had spent his life on earth preparing to go.

I would learn all of this at an awards ceremony- seated with Mark's parents and family- several months later.

There was no way on earth I could have managed the strength that they displayed yet the term strength is a misnomer. They had emotional tools and an absolute belief. It was unshakable. They had something that not only did I not possess but I didn't even know how to acquire it. I have never forgotten that day.

They had truth, preparation, love, and an intuitive belief or tool with which to handle the worst event life throws at any of us. They handled that incident bravely and with forgiveness. Not once did they utter a harsh word or direct an attack on their sons' killers. I could not have handled that situation in a similar way. Not even close. Yet, I knew they had something I just didn't get and it was clear that whatever that was, their way of dealing with that trauma was a hell of a lot healthier than anything I could muster.

They had received the gift of desperation and responded with spirituality. A spirituality born of their beliefs and the ability to respond with love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

You see, there is no question that life is going to deal you the desperation card. It is inevitable. Sooner or later, adversity is going to come your way. By knowing that, preparing for that, and when it happens...responding correctly is a lifelong commitment and process. When it does, you have the emotional tools to respond, to accept, and to recover quickly.

It doesn't take the death of a loved one to call on those tools. It might be something as disappointing as a bad grade, a conflict, losing a game because you fumbled the ball. Recognizing that I simply didn't possess those tools happened long before I was given the gift of desperation myself. I had to retrofit my life and find those tools. Had I not been given the gift of desperation myself- I doubt that I would have ever sought the answers or the tools. It has been an arduous task for me. A lot of retrofitting has had to take place. Hard work and commitment.

Of all of the gifts I'd like to give someone, anyone, it is the gift of complete desperation that may matter most and the ability to respond to desperation in the appropriate fashion. With love, tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. The elimination of ego and self- that part of me that wants to whine, complain, blame, defend, and act like a victim. To respond inappropriately, to deny, and thus prolong the depression of an event that I've always known that I was unprepared for anyway. An event I cannot escape. It is coming whether I want to deny it or lie to myself and say, "I will deal with it when it happens." That intuitive feeling that you get when you see someone deal with adversity in a way you cannot conceive.

Just recognizing that is a gift. Finding a way to achieve complete acceptance has been difficult but not impossible. Unfortunately, it is a gift you must give yourself.


  1. Very nicely written my friend......I think that you have touched on something very deep, but I am not sure that man can give the gift to "respond to desperation in appropriate fashion." As someone who believes in God, I firmly believe that He is the provider of such gifts.
    Question:Does anyone ever find complete acceptance?

  2. I'm not sure Kacey.

    Because of our roles as parents' we certainly can't practice acceptance as instructors or the children would be a mess.

    Children aside, and perhaps a job where you are held responsible for the actions or productivity of workers are the two areas where complete acceptance might not work. Those things aside..

    I've been able to minimize non-acceptance and conflict to absolute minimums- reduce it by 90-95% of what it used to be. Not too shabby.