It never occurred to me how much pain some people carry around.
I’ve experienced the pain of friends dying young, my own poor judgment, and loosing every possession to name a few… but nothing that goes into the really dark side of pain. Physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse have never been part of my immediate experience, so I’ve been relatively sheltered from their effects.
If I spent any time listening to the media accounts of these tragedies, my view of their victims would be limited to the real basket cases. Porn stars, serial killers, and the like are the ones who get the headlines and their particular abuse is the reason for their behavior. Or so it seemed.
During the years after opening my coaching practice and speaking career to more than corporate clients, I’ve encountered a brand new reality involving abuses and the world of personal pain they cause.
On any given weekend at a conference or seminar, I will make sure I have time to eat lunch and hang out with the attendees. It’s one of my favorite things about my profession. I’m regularly blown away by the depth of engagement and vulnerability people will allow when they’ve followed my blog or newsletter but have never actually met me.
For example, I recently sat down to eat lunch and purposefully left three chairs empty and asked God to fill them with who He would. Three women asked to sit and “pick my brain” about how to be more successful. Within a few minutes and using only a few Spirit led questions, I learned that the core issues for each of them stemmed directly from abuse. Two were sexually abused and one psychologically abused. This isn’t uncommon.
What’s more, you would have never known it to see them or talk to them casually. Throughout that particular weekend, I met doctors, lawyers, accountants, business owners, fitness professionals and more that look like the picture of mental health and function. But because of the God-given gift I used to consider a nuisance, they share with me the darkness they carry.
Maybe the part that stands out to me the most is that none of them sees how that pain is their roadblock to prosperity. The layers of emotional scar tissue that cover the pain are so thick, they don’t see things clearly.
In just a few minutes, over lunch, walking down a hall, or standing in line for coffee, they reveal details of horrific attacks or years of torment. We clarify the picture and identify how those pains of years past are holding them back now and that, as unnatural as it may seem, they need to forgive all the parties involved if they ever want to be free.
The forgiveness exercises are simple and I’ve covered some of them in other videos or articles, but they aren’t the thing on my heart right now. Most of my life has been lived thinking that people who have experienced horrible things were obvious. Scars of one kind or another would always be visible and let me know when I was dealing with a broken person. Wrong.
Reflecting on my own pains and tragedies tells me that we can cover and adapt to almost anything. Every person I meet could be, and probably is, battling a personal darkness that has them trapped…limiting the light they shine into the world.
It’s this realization that now causes me to treat everyone like they are carrying pain and that they need my compassion, not my criticism or sharp wit. Viewing the world through this lens makes things look and feel different. I lead with my heart, trust my instincts, and have a greater opportunity to make a difference. I don’t always get it right, but I increase my odds with every attempt.
Take a moment and remember a time of personal struggle and darkness. How did you want to be treated? You probably didn’t want sympathy or special attention as much as you wanted courtesy, sincerity, and respect. Now take that forward and treat everyone you meet that way. Lead with your heart and watch the world open in front of you.
Be your best,