In a field near our home is a monstrous heap of horse poo. It’s absolutely massive. We often pass it as we trundle through the little lanes, and each time the mountain of excrement has noticeably grown.
To most people, this is an unsightly and disgraceful heap, a blemish on the landscape. To a farmer though, it is a gold mine. Right now, billions of worms and insects and microscopic beasts are tucking into it, and converting it into lovely, rich fertiliser to spread on a field. This will keep the soil healthy, enabling it to produce fruitful crops.
This nasty pile will enable many people to eat good food.
I wandered past it yesterday with my nephew in his pushchair, and it got me thinking. I contemplated the other kinds of waste, the other unsightly heaps that have the potential to become a cause of good, despite our first impressions.
Our own stinky heaps
Many of us have stashed away, in some recess of our being, piles of hurt and shame. We have all done things, and had things done to us that have hurt us. Some would call it baggage; debris from the past which, for some reason we can’t shake off but drag it with us wherever we go.
This ‘baggage’ continues to cause us difficulty, and hinders our ability to forge healthy relationships. The shame and hurt we cling to from past events, ensures that the destruction continues wherever we go. Being ashamed of our past, and holding onto resentment ensures that our hands stay clenched-white around those baggage handles.
Did you know, it doesn’t have to be this way? Did you know that the mistakes and the pain 20 years ago, last month or yesterday, do not have to be a source of shame today, but can instead a source of peace and joy? This may sound too good to be true. Perhaps you don’t believe me. Not yet, anyway.
At best, you might have thought that you could leave those things in the past, and walk away until they can no longer be seen. But it never seems to work out that way, does it? They always seems to fight their way back into our lives.
Flowers grow in the valleys
There was a time, a few years ago while I was at university, when life became difficult. I had never experienced before the kind of deep pain that I felt, like a knife twisting in my stomach.
One morning, in the midst of the agony, I stepped out of my front door, heading for the shop. Growing out of a crack in the path in front of me was a beautiful, white flower – I knew instantly it was a ‘Lilly of the Valley’. My granny used to pick them from the garden and put them in a little vase on the dresser.
A small wave of hope washed over me. It is in the valleys that beautiful things grow, I thought. I knew the pain wasn’t going to go away soon. But I knew that at least there was a purpose for it.
Things got worse for a while after that. There are things I experienced in that time that still hurt to think about. I can honestly say though, that out of that time many beautiful things have grown in my life. I am a better, wiser man because of it.
It is possible, that your life can be better because of bad things that have happened. The muck heap can become a source of good. I am not suggesting that pain can just go away, but I do believe that times of difficulty, if you are willing to let them, can have significant positive effects on your life in the long run. I think this happened in my life because, somehow, I managed to make two good choices.
1) Dealing with guilt and shame
Guilt and shame will prevent you from throwing away destructive baggage. It is crucial that you forgive yourself for mistakes you have made. You are not doing a noble thing by punishing yourself. In fact, punishment will have the opposite effect to that which you intend, and will prevent you from changing. By not forgiving yourself you will be caused to continue making the same mistakes of which you are ashamed.
To do this, you must look at the source of your shame head-on, and accept that whatever happened, happened. If you did something wrong, accept responsibility. This might be uncomfortable, and may take some time.
Then, make a commitment not to punish yourself any more, or think negatively about yourself because of what you did. You will have to work on this everyday, but it’s worth it. The world needs you whole, not in pieces, so forgive yourself.
2) Dealing with hurt
If someone has hurt you, to be free and to enable yourself to be healed, you have to forgive. Forgiveness is an incredible way of releasing yourself from destructive baggage.
We think that by resenting people, we are repaying them for the things they have done to hurt us. However, in reality the only person we are hurting is ourselves. Resentment and unforgiveness are toxic, and will grow like a cancer inside of you, manifesting themselves in all kinds of mental and physical ills.
You might think a certain person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Well, that’s that point of it. We forgive people because they are undeserving. I understand it is difficult, possibly one of the hardest things you will ever do, but it is unbelievably worth it. You can do it! It may help you to think about all the times you have been forgiven by others.
Making these two decisions to forgive yourself and others will enable difficult things to have a positive effect in your life, rather than a toxic one. I hope that they help you to step into a new level of freedom!
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