The Saboteur

You find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

You’ve been here before, but each time you return the darkness feels more suffocating, the weight of guilt and shame heavier. Your first inclination is to lie down and accept it, to let it all just smother you. At least that way it would end. Something inside you, though, keeps telling you to get up. You’re not exactly sure what that something is. Your best hope is that it is the will to live. Your worst fear is that you are too selfish to give up on the awful creation you have turned out to be.

You fumble through the space around you until you find something you can touch, and then you begin the slow, arduous climb out. You’re not exactly sure how deep the pit is or if there is even a top to it, but you continue to dig your nails into the walls and make your way up, up, up. Occasionally, you imagine you hear a voice or two encouraging you, telling you that you can make it if you just keep trying. These voices are faint, however, and you don’t trust your senses enough to believe they are real, so you brush them aside and continue your ascent.

sabotageEventually, you see a light. At first, you don’t believe it is real. As it becomes sharper and more intense, you begin to move faster toward it, desperate to feel its warmth and heat. Suddenly, it is real before you. It moves from the world of abstraction to become an oasis in your desert, a shelter from the wind and rain that has pounded you senseless for so long. It illuminates you, so much so that the voices you thought you heard earlier become real as well. You begin to shine yourself, thanks to this amazing, saving grace.

As wonderful and light as you suddenly feel, however, you still feel the weight of your worst fears like an albatross draped around your neck. You know the terrible darkness which resides in your soul, and you know somewhere deep inside you that you are not good enough for this moment. You are not capable enough, smart enough, attractive enough, skilled enough, mature enough to maintain it. The light burns as brightly as it ever did, and it continues to reach out to you and beckon you, but in your mind you are convinced it will see you through you one day and withdraw itself.

You begin to try to secure it, to make sure it cannot abandon you. You begin to form constructs around it, essentially boxing it in and dulling its luminescence. You know you are effectively contaminating the purity of what exists, but your fear blinds you to all logical thought. You realize you need the light to survive, but you are convinced it will not choose you to receive its blessing, so you begin to crave it as an addict would crave a needle in his arm. You are fully aware of your selfishness, and you resolve to do better a thousand times, but each time you look at it you are overridden by one horrible, terrible thought: It will leave me if I grant it freedom.

Then, one day, you are confronted with the truth you knew all along. You really are selfish. You really did destroy the beauty that was before you. You really can’t change what you have done. Your heart begins to race, your thoughts begin to scramble, and you begin to admit your every sin and flaw. You are devastated when the light suddenly speaks to you and says, “You foolish, foolish man. I chose you all along, but you could not receive what I offered you.” You feel your grip loosen and the air begin to rush past your ears as you begin to fall, down, down, down. The light becomes more distant. In fact, you even notice it beginning to turn away, slowly, reluctantly. It wanted you, but you could never believe it.

Your fall is swift, much more rapid than your ascent, and it is not straight. You bump against walls that once seemed smooth, but now seem to be jagged and rocky, puncturing you as collide with them. You recall that you have felt pain like this before, but it seems more intense this time, as it does each time you fall. You wish at times that the fatal blow could be delivered, but it never comes, and you chide yourself because there is still that part of you that is selfish enough to want to cling to life with all you are worth. Then you feel the dull thud of yourself hitting the bottom. The light is gone. You are alone.

And you find yourself in a deep, dark hole, with only yourself. You know full well how you got there. And you have only yourself to blame.

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Super Weird, Part II

Oh, America, America. What has happened to you?

I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. I mean, it’s been this way for years and years now. The ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, even during this young century: Everyone is looking for love. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to give love to someone else. Everyone just wants everyone to love each other. Love, love, love.

It’s always the funniest commercials that usually make the headlines the morning after the Super Bowl is played, and those are usually the ones which leave people talking the longest. Every year has its share of serious spots as well. Oddly enough, some of the most touching commercials in recent years have been advertisements for beer, although other companies struck a more gentle tone this year as well.

1422463197_budweiser-lost-dog-zoomMacDonald’s is encouraging people to pay for their food at the restaurant “with love.” A computer tech spilling a bottle of Coca-Cola inspired all kinds of thoughtful acts in an ad for the soda company. Numerous commercials touted the noble attributes of family and fatherhood. And then, of course, there was that adorable little Budweiser puppy dog being rescued from a pack of wolves by a herd of thundering Clydesdales. Even the horses were showing love.

There’s nothing wrong with love. It’s great. It’s fantastic. Close-knit families, kind human beings, even affectionate animals are all wonderful things.

They’re just not enough. They’ve never been enough. And they’re not ever going to be enough.

That was my pervading thought as I watched all these messages of love flash across the television screen in front of me. We live in a love-starved world. It’s a vacuum we are all desperately trying to fill. My question would be, though, if we have been promoting love for all this time, in so many creative and different and uplifting ways, why is it not taking hold? Why do we all still seem to be so lacking in it, and why do we still feel the need to promote it, as if our message is going to resound differently than the million that came before it?

We are running from God. We are running from the only love that can save us. We’ve been running from Him forever, decade after decade after decade, thinking we can replace His place in our hearts with just enough of this or just enough of that. It’s folly.

I am certainly not going to disparage anyone from promoting peace and love, especially considering the heinous acts human beings perpetrate on each other on a daily basis. Love needs to be shouted from the rooftops every chance we get, even during the Super Bowl. It’s an incomplete message, though, and it’s going to keep missing the mark until we understand that in order to love fully we have to turn to the one who loved us first.

I applaud every company which used its advertising dollars for this year’s Super Bowl to promote positive, encourage messages aimed at making this world a better place to live in. They can’t make us love God, though. We’re the only ones that can do that. He’s still waiting. Why are we?

Someone, Sometime, Somewhere

Someone, sometime, somewhere told you that you didn’t matter.

Someone, sometime, somewhere told you that you weren’t good enough. Actually, worse than that. They told you that you would never be good enough. Ever. They didn’t apply that to what you were doing; they applied it to who you were. It wasn’t a matter of your ability or your skill level of your aptitude for learning things. They made you believe you were so flawed as an individual that nothing you ever did would succeed.

Someone, sometime, somewhere made you believe you couldn’t really be worthy of love. Sure, you may have found love in different places or relationships. You may have experienced it on a deep and personal level. But you never felt like you deserved it. If anyone ever found out who you really were, they would take their love away. All of your relationships would have to be maintained by you never quite letting the other person see everything. You would always be one bad move away from being left all alone.

ImproveSelfEsteem_thumbSomeone, sometime, somewhere made you believe you would never get better. Your depression, your addiction, your sickness… You were going to have to live with those forever. You could try a lot of different things – medication, therapy, prayer – but none of them were really going to work. You might make a little progress here and there, but you would always slide back to your basic state. They may have event old you it would be better just to put an end to everything, so you could save yourself and everyone around you a lifetime of heartache.

Someone, sometime, somewhere told you a lot of things. You’re ugly. You’re crazy. You think too much. You feel things too deeply. You over-analyze everything. Your feelings aren’t relevant. You’re too shy. You’re too loud. You’re not aggressive enough. You’re a hothead. God couldn’t love someone like you. You can’t change. You’re going to be the way you are forever. You might as well just give up.

Someone, sometime, somewhere also told you that you were wanted. That you were loved. That you had hope for a future and strength enough for the present. That you didn’t have to stay the way you are. That it might take years and year of work, but you could actually get better. That you were handsome enough or pretty enough. That you would never be left all alone. That you could actually win every now and then. That you had hope.

Someone, sometime, somewhere told you that you did matter.

Who do you believe?

I Love Everybody

For a brief time in my life, when I was in college, I started listening to a lot of Lyle Lovett. There’s actually a story behind that, but it’s not really one I like telling because it has a not-so-good ending, so you’ll just have to guess as to why I started doing this. My favorite album of his is probably Joshua Judges Ruth, although The Road to Ensanada has some really good stuff on it, too. Joshua probably wins out, though, because of “North Dakota,” still one of my favorite songs of all time.

i love everybodyI had a decent collection of Lovett’s albums for a while, although I think I traded them all away over time. One of the more peculiar ones was I Love Everybody. I say “peculiar” because it just had some weird songs on it, like “Fat Babies” and “They Don’t Like Me.” I also thought the title was a little strange. I mean, who loves everybody anyway?

I can’t put my finger exactly on when it happened. Maybe it was after my dad passed away, and I realized I hadn’t told him a lot of things I wish I had. Maybe it was when I turned 40 and realized I wasn’t going to live forever. Maybe it was when I started taking an antidepressant, and my brain chemistry changed. Whatever the case, I’ve not only found myself loving more people these days, I’ve also caught myself telling them so more often than I ever have.

There’s a fine art to telling someone you love them, and it’s one that I haven’t quite mastered yet. I mean, you can’t just blurt it out unannounced, but you can’t really telegraph it either. And you have to have a pretty solid relationship with a person to even think about going there. The danger is, once you do it a few times, it starts to feel surprisingly good, so then you get tempted to just start throwing it out there at random. This, I can tell you from experience, is not such a great idea.

All of this leads up to the question: How do we know if we love someone or not? Well, I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer that question. sammy hagarMaybe Sammy Hagar had it right when he sang “I can’t tell you, but it lasts forever.” In all seriousness, though, it’s a tough call to make. I used to feel as if I didn’t love very many people at all. These days, I’m realizing I love a lot of people I don’t even like all that much. Something just clicks in your heart.

I think my recent affection has something to do with my realization that while not everyone in the world may be dealing with depression, they’re all definitely going through something, and if their something is anything like my something then my heart maclaren[1]goes out to them. Whether it was Plato or Philo of Alexandria or Scottish author and theologian Ian Maclaren who said it, we all should “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” When you touch the bottom of something like depression, you have an urge to not waste any more time in letting the people you care about know how you feel about them. I think this is because we don’t want them going down there, too.

Guess what then? I love you and you and you and you. If you don’t like me saying that, I’ll just apologize now, ’cause I’m probably gonna say it again at some point. I may not love everybody yet, but I’m workin’ on it.

SLA Nation

“All you need is love.” “Love is all you need.” “The greatest of these is love.” “Love is patient, love is kind.” “When love speaks, the voice of all the gods makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.” “Love is a many-splendored thing.” And so on and so forth…

Love is a pretty wonderful thing. Especially romantic love. There’s just a certain charge when chemistry is felt between a man and alove11 woman. Romantic love has been the cornerstone of some the greatest works of art ever created – poems, songs, plays, films, television series, photographs. Even the hint of it is enough to lure a perfectly sane and rational person down all sorts of roads they never thought they would take. “To have loved and lost is better than to never have loved at all…”

If it’s love.

Does anyone even really know what love is anymore? There seems to be an awful lot of searching for it going on right now. Consider that nearly every TV show or movie that is set before our eyes today contains some type of romantic plot or sub-plot. Over the years, we’ve been treated to “Will they or won’t they?”, love triangles, extra-marital affairs, genuinely sweet and loving relationships, and even seen people defy God and heaven above in the name of romantic love. The “love story” element is so ingrained in our storytelling and artistic expression, it’s almost become a requirement.

There’s nothing quite so thrilling as the quest for love. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we’re chasing it so hard we’ve lost sight of what it even means. If I were to throw out the letters SL, and A, they probably wouldn’t set of any particular alarms. I’m sure if I wrote the words Sex and Love Addiction, though, you might be a little intrigued.

Pinning down an exact definition for SLA can be rather difficult, as its very existence still seems to be in dispute in some circles. In general, it means repeating specific thoughts or behavior patterns to create a physical or psychological arousal. Tremendous mental and physical consequences are almost always at play, ranging from dangerous or risky behavior to massive feelings of guilt and regret to a sense of desperation in relationships. The internet is teeming with organizations dedicated to treating this condition, and most approach curing the addiction with the traditional 12-step model.

Obviously, if I were to label someone a sex/love addict, your perception of that person would alter dramatically. You might picture a man (or woman) hunched over a computer keyboard, filling their brains with images of pornography. You might imagine someone constantly cruising the bars and clubs in search of sexual partners. You might imagine someone trolling internet chat rooms, maybe not making a physical connection but certainly an emotional one. With any one of those perceptions, you would possess a high likelihood of being correct.

What about the more “respectable” of us, though? What about the soap opera or romantic novel addict? Television can string us motheralong in the quest for love for years, which How I Met Your Mother recently did for nine seasons. Celebrity couples are a fascination for the more “common folk.” We want to see love enacted, and sometimes we aren’t even satisfied with that, as we want the relationship to be consummated before we’ll believe it’s genuine.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I’m not here to beat up on sex/love addicts, nor am I here to loudly proclaim our culture is going to hell in a hand-basket. Men’s minds and spirits are under siege these days from sexual attack after sexual attack, to the point where pornography or sex addiction is almost always the elephant in the room of any men’s discussion. Even worse, SLA is tremendously difficult to talk about without making yourself sound like a complete pervert. My heart goes out to anyone dealing with it.

My point here is twofold. First, I want to open the floor to discussion, to get the ball rolling on this topic, because it will probably be addressed here again at some point. Second, I want to throw out the possibility that SLA is a lot more ingrained in the collective public consciousness than many realize. Why do movies with sex scenes require nudity and simulated sexual activity? Why do the scenes need to be included at all? Why does every story require a love interest? These are questions I don’t think many of us consider.

If you believe you might be struggling with SLA, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous has posted a list of 40 questions for self-diagnosis. They can be found here.