Rule#7: Deal with your truth
I have watched my children, family members and close friends all struggle at one time or another with the “pains of life”. They have all faced loss, unfairness in life and the hurt inflicted by actions of another- none of them have gone through this life without crap happening to them.
When I was growing up my father’s answer to me when “bad things” would happen to me was to tell me to just “deal with it”. He had personally been through lots of pain in his life and his tolerance for ‘whining’ about life’s unfairness was measured in blinks an eye, not hours or days.
I watched my father-in-law, Capt’n Bob as my kids affectionately referred to him, deal with a real physical loss this past week. He was working at his company Queen City Riverboats and while preparing one of the large party boats for transporting people to the Cincinnati Reds Home opener, when he got his left hand caught between the dock and the massive boat. With no time to react his hand was covered with blood and the bulk of his pinky finger rested on the dock.
In classic “Capt’n manner” he looked at his now independent appendage, cursed it and kicked in into the Ohio river. He then ran up the hill to his truck and drove himself to the hospital.
I wish the story had a better ending, that someone found his finger and raced it to the hospital and was re-attached. But all I can report is that Bob is a fully recovered man with 9 fingers.
I spoke to Bob 18 hours later while he was on the way back to the harbor to pick up engine parts. I told him that when you lose a finger you can take the whole day off, but I knew that was never going to happen.
He had lost his finger, complaining wasn’t going to change that, so he was just moving on.
Now “Capt’n 9 Fingers” may have gained a new moniker but he wasn’t going to let the loss of something like a finger define him in anyway. He was going to muscle through it, and just deal with it.
In reflecting about his actions over that day I first thought that I was seeing a lesson in life about “dealing with pain”, but in thinking about it more I realize it is a lesson about dealing with the “truth” of your life.
Most problems in dealing with the crap life throws at you comes from trying to understand the “why” or the ” how could they”‘ of life. Its easy to replay the boats accidents of your life over and over again asking yourself- why did this happen? why am I being punished?
The truth of life is that things happen both good and bad everyday. And both need to be recognized and accepted for what truth in life is- it is our reality.
It isn’t the toughness that is needed in life to survive, it the ability to deal with the truth.
The truth is that things happen to everyone, and sometimes its your own fault and sometimes it is someone else’s fault but the blame doesn’t change the truth of what is happening.
Does it really matter if the boat was bounced back against the dock because of pilot error, a boat driving by too fast causing wake or an invisible river monster- the reality is that the finger would be gone regardless.
Too much of our time during crisis is spent looking for the “why is this happening to me in life” and too little is spent on the “truth” of what has happened. And the faster you focus on the truth the happier that life becomes.
In your life you will hear at least some of the following…
“I don’t love you anymore”
“The test show is is malignant”
“Your child is failing chemistry”
” We have eliminated your job”
” It looks like the car is a total loss”
In these moments you can hide from the truth by blaming others, denying its happening or feeling sorry for yourself. But the reality is that these actions are only band-aids that cover up the reality of what is happening to you. Hiding truth, or blaming others for truth just delay the recognition of “what is”. Learn from what is happening, but focus on what to do next.
Accepting that your wife has left you , that you have loss your job or that you have been cut from the team allows you the freedom to find a new love, a better job and a more exciting hobby. Yes, sadness happens for loss- but joy can from certainty of knowing what has happened and focusing on what will come next in life.
My advice to you is to recognize that bad things happen to ALL people and that acceptance of it isn’t failure, it is life. The acceptance of truth, and the ability to create your own new truths is God’s greatest gift to us. Our truths do not defined us, we define us.
One final piece of advice when you see Capt’n Bob down by the harbor its is probably not a good idea to shout ” hey 9 fingers” because although he only has 9 of them he is certain to give you one of them.