suicide

Inspiration, Leadership

You CAN Predict the Future. Will that Change Your Present?


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What if I told you that it is possible to see the future, even predict it?

If you could see the future, would it change your present?

You can see the future, but perhaps not in the way you think. Some of you will be tempted to stop after what I am about to say, but press in. Stay with it, because this is something that can make your life truly meaningful, truly remarkable:

The future is hardship.

I know, it’s not a pleasant thought. Stay there, though. Linger long enough to see past hardship merely as something to avoid. Consider that every relationship you have ever had was strengthened through it. Remember that every time you have grown more mature or able somehow, hardship forged you. Understand that the most effective you have ever been was likely in helping another through hardship of one kind or another, perhaps even one you had experienced yourself.

And considering, remembering, understanding that, how does it inform your present?

Too many move from here to “carpe diem.” While “seize the day” has its merits, it is fundamentally flawed. When we make our lives about making the most of today, we position ourselves “in spite of” or “against” the inevitable.

And often, we do it alone.

Friends, the future for every one of us is hardship, and that is why we cannot merely make the most of our days.

We must see into the future, and make the most of the days of others.

We must change our present not just for ourselves, but for everyone we can.

For the older among us: if you had known in middle or high school that the person across the room would attempt suicide at some point in his life, would it have changed your present? If you knew the young lady in your class would become a teen mom, or the kid you saw every day but whose name you didn’t know would be diagnosed with cancer in his 30s, would that have changed your present?

And for the younger among us, if I could tell you right now that one of the people you eat lunch with would be a widow 10 years from now, or that next year one of his parents would pass away, would that change the present?

Would it change what we talk about? What questions we ask? How we greet people? What we post on social media?

We are too often concerned about what divides us into our categories, and not enough concerned about what categories unite us. Difficult though it is to experience, uncomfortable though it is to share, hardship unites us.

What would it look like if hardship united us, rather than isolated us?

You can predict the future. Will that change your present?

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On Suicide (after Robin Williams’ passing)


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I wrote this originally as a facebook status yesterday, and the response was rather overwhelming–probably more people interacted with it than any other post I’ve ever written, so I thought to share it here also, in the hope that some part of my experience will be helpful to others.

 

 

Most people who commit suicide do not want to die. They want to be whole. They want to cure what ails them. If they are addicts, they cannot forgive themselves for one more lapse, knowing that however long and hard fought their sobriety, there will likely be another, and sooner or later the will to start over erodes. Surrounded by those they love, given assurances, they remain tortured, feeling like they have disappointed and failed so many times that this grace, this love, could not possibly be true, and if true, surely not lasting. And so they turn to what they can control, convincing themselves that the world and all those people would somehow be better without them. And they are always wrong.

 

Still others are depressed or struggling somehow with mental health. They try to figure it out with meds, they get counseling, they endure the well meaning but terribly misguided comments of friends and family who explain that everything is going to be alright, or, worse, that they can somehow snap out of it if they would just think more positively about life. And slowly they are drawn into the abyss of loneliness and hopelessness, until one day they have the courage to make it stop, and they feel, for once, like they can choose. And though it is always the wrong choice, let us not judge, for most of us have been spared this fight and do not understand it. Rather, let us love without expectation and without condescension, which might be the only hope for any of us.

 

Faith

When I Am Weak…


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“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I have never known the truth of those verses in my own life until today.  Today—as I returned to grief on the 8th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, on the heels of the Super Bowl and sex trafficking, Coca-Cola commercial controversies, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s struggle with heroin reminding me of my dad—I didn’t have it together.

I’m a person who has it together.  I’m self-disciplined, successful by most standards, faithfully married, dad to two great kids, in control.

I don’t need God.  Not like I’ve seen people need him, anyway.  People who know their limits and have felt the failure of having reached them.  People who, by their own doing or someone else’s, have seen their lives spin out of control or take a direction they never intended.  I didn’t have much of a head start in life, probably got started late in fact, but most appearances wouldn’t indicate it these days.  Call it grace, favor, hard work, blessing, whatever you want, but the curse didn’t reach me.

And that has always been my problem.  I have always been my problem—because I don’t worry about things, I don’t feel like there is anything I can’t handle.  I’m not really afraid of anything.

But I do get tired.  And I move toward pain and grief and not away from it.  At first, many years ago, I did it to try to understand, and then to try to take it on or confront it somehow.  Neither worked.  Now I move toward it to heal, and out of that healing, heal others.

I fought back tears all day today.  On the phone with clients, coaching clients ironically, it was literally all I could do to keep talking and listening and asking questions.  And in the 5 or 10 minutes I had between a few calls, I wiped away the tears that wouldn’t wait any longer.

Today I didn’t have it together at all.  Today I wasn’t in control.  Sure, I could have, and probably did, fool the people I talked to all day on the phone, but I was weak.  Tired.  I wanted to go to bed and wake up to a different day.  I wanted to disappear, as much as I ever have in my life, I just wanted not to feel the way I was feeling any more.  I didn’t want to eat; I didn’t want to help my kids with their homework after 11 hours at work; I didn’t want to carry the laundry downstairs for my wife; I wanted to be selfish and withdraw from everything, just for a little while.

And as I reflect on it now, the whole of this day, I am struck by the notion that millions of people wake up this way every day, and go to bed hoping, praying, that when they awake tomorrow it will be different somehow.  Yet for all their will, prayer, desperation, or support, all of their tomorrows become todays, and all of their todays become yesterdays.  All the same.  And they lose hope, turning back to the addiction or medication or withdrawal from the world, or whatever they do.

And I don’t blame them.

Because today I wanted to join them.  Today I would have done just about anything to feel better, to be able to function as I normally do, to push grief to the back recesses of my mind and be at my best.  Just about anything.

But I have too much history for that.  I have learned from the mistakes of others, and do not repeat willfully what I can avoid by example.  So I did what I needed to do.  I ate. I helped my kids with their homework after a long day at work.  I carried the laundry downstairs for my wife.  But there is no way I have done these things well, or in my own strength.  If you have read anything I have written for the past 3 days and received anything from it at all, then you have the Spirit to thank.

Because for once in my life, I am weak.

And I am not at all ashamed to say so.  In fact, I’m writing this to boast about it.  I’m writing this to be thankful for it.

Because someday one of you reading this will think to reach out to me, and you will hesitate because of something you have seen me do, or some attribute or accomplishment I have…  but then you will remember this, and you will find the courage to call or text or push send.

And we will both be glad you did.

Because we will be weak together.

And together is always better than alone.

courage

Courage.


I first watched this video because it was linked to a post by my friend Kelly.  I resonated with it not so much for the music or for the video, but for the lyrics.

Brave.

Don’t run.

Stop holding your tongue.

Let your words be anything but empty.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live.

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in.

Show me how big your brave is.

One of my greatest causes in life is to give other people courage.  People are afraid of all kinds of things—afraid of their past, afraid of the future, afraid of dying, afraid of being alone, afraid of what others think of them, afraid of failing…  it seems like so much of what we do is driven by fear.

And yet “perfect love casts out fear,” and the thing God says to us more than any other is, “Do not be afraid.”

I wonder if we are afraid because we don’t feel like we are loved.  Because if you feel like someone loves you, like they will stay no matter what, like they are on your side forever, then all of a sudden it doesn’t matter as much how many times you fail, or that you aren’t as smart or pretty or whatever as someone else is.

But that never should have been the standard to begin with.

You see, part of the reason I want my life to be about inviting people to courage is because I believe with everything I am and have that the whisper of greatness was spoken into every single person who has ever walked this earth; that before the beginning of time one who knew your name before anyone ever uttered it set a light in you that was meant to shine forever.

Too many of us have forgotten that.  Too many of us think that courage is dancing in a town square or jumping out of an airplane or zip lining.

No, courage is living your life the way it was meant to be lived.  Courage is hearing that whisper and doing what it says.  Courage is a lifetime, not one time, which is why for some among us, courage is as simple as getting up this morning.  For some, courage is living today because what they really want more than anything is to die.  For some, courage is a first or second or third day without the drug or the drink or the person or the job or the life they had imagined.  For some, courage is just making it through today.

But courage is also fighting the battles with and for others while we fight our own.  It is taking the time to listen or help or encourage.  It is realizing that if we are courageous in this moment, then it is not just for ourselves.

Courage looks a little different from everyone.

Courage looks a little different for everyone.

But it always leads to a life of significance.

Mine looks like this: someone reading this will write me a note; it might be right away, it might be months from now, but it will start with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to reach out to…” and I will say, “It took a lot of courage for you to reach out like that, and I will help you in whatever way I can…”

So if you are that person, know that my courage is waiting for your courage whenever it is ready.

And whether you are that person or not, I’d like to know what your courage looks like.  I’d like to know what you’d do if you were not afraid.  I’d like to hear your story of what happens when you exercise courage, and I’d like to see you be that way again and again and again.

Faith, Leadership

Why Honor Is Greater Than Forgiveness


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I originally wrote this in 2011 as a note on Facebook.  Today would have been my dad’s 65th birthday, so I thought it appropriate to revisit it today.

 

I just don’t care enough…

What other people think of me.  I’m going to be the one who speaks out loud, who says too much, who pushes “send,” who gets people thinking, who gets people talking, who invites people to touch their lives by touching mine.  I’m not excited about putting this out there for public consumption, but I’m going to do it anyway, because that is what I do.  I refuse to live with the notion that even one person could benefit from something I think or say, and I failed to say it.  So whether this is for you or someone else…

My dad’s birthday was last week.  As of this year, he has passed more birthdays posthumously than he did living.  He committed suicide when I was 5.  It was an ignominious act for which I struggled to forgive him for much of my life.  It yoked my then 24 year old mom and 2 younger sisters with a tremendous weight, part of which I bore though it was not mine.

But over many years, as I have thought about forgiveness, I come to a full realization that forgiveness, though difficult, is, well, comparatively easy.  What is difficult is honor.  Forgiveness inspires us, but honor amazes us.

Many of you know the hymn “Amazing Grace”—Amazing is the right word.  Here’s why: It’s comparatively easy for God to forgive—He’s in the right; He’s holding all the cards.  But He goes beyond that.  He honors us, gives us grace, prepares a place for us.  It’s crazy, really.

But you know this more intimately than that.  Even if you don’t believe in God, you know this.  You’ve been wronged.  You’ve felt pain inflicted deliberately by another.  You’ve felt hurt by someone who, because they did not intend, would not acknowledge.  You know what it is like to have someone who hurt you not be sorry for what they have done.

And you know what it feels like not to be sorry for what you have done, too.

It’s hard to forgive when any of those things happen, isn’t it?  Crazy hard.

But honor.  Think about it.  Honor for someone who isn’t sorry, who doesn’t think they did anything wrong, who protests their innocence or ignorance, who remains unwilling to acknowledge the mere possibility…  honoring that person goes beyond forgiveness.  It’s harder.  You don’t see it very much, but you remember it when you do.  Because it’s extreme.

Because it’s God-like.  It gives us a glimpse—dim, yes, but a glimpse—of what that honor bestowed on us will look like, what we are capable of because of the Spirit that dwells within us.

But then we feel guilty.

Because we fail to practice this.  We don’t live up to it.  We “can’t,” not with that person, at least.

But we can.  It just isn’t fully up to us.  Wasn’t, isn’t, meant to be up to us.  I can’t honor on my own.  I want to hold a grudge, to be pissed off, to lament and pout and cry and wish I had all the things that growing up with a good dad would have afforded me.  I want to put my fist through a wall and turn it all to anger (oh, and I used to…) so I don’t have to feel the grief and pain of memory and forgiveness and honor.  So just for the record—I didn’t do it.  I couldn’t have.   Not possible.

The truth is, honor surprised me as I was writing the words that follow.  I intended to forgive (again), but I couldn’t.  Because it wasn’t enough somehow.  I’ve been doing that for years.  I had to honor.  In my novice way, incomplete and still somehow holding all the cards, I must, we must, honor.

So here’s the poem I wrote my dad.  I’d love to hear from you if something in it is for you.

 

It comes when I expect it

And when I least expect it

It has marked me now

The loss

I know its touch

I hear its voice

It settles with me

Ignored at times for some distraction

Though not forgotten

For far too bright the light that shines

 

Making plain my shadow

A reminder to my heart

Of how I would have loved you

How I would have basked in the light of your prime

What I would have given

To have your life

A shield for mine

To see your steps from just behind

To see a way

To know a time

 

How you would have beamed with pride

At the toils and trophies of my life

And how I would have loved your smile

Yearned for it with all my might

I would have been your prince

I would have seen you king

My children

The glory of your line

So many apples for your eyes

 

And were our lives not filled

With happier times

And if golden memory failed to shine

Eclipsed by a reality of something less fine

Still you would be enough for me

I think so

Though

I do not know

I did not know

I will not know

 

And maybe you were prescient

And maybe I naïve

(How I wanted to believe)

I have forgiven myself only moments

And lonely moments conceive

The reign of an ill-fitted crown

Bequeathed before discovered means

Worn askew

But I have straightened it for you

In spite of everything, it honors you

 

I honor you