Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories. Zadie Smith
“I’m not very coordinated, so I’m not very good at things like this.” So stated a rather capable person at the beginning of an ice-breaker exercise known as a “ball toss.” It’s composed of two parallel lines of people who toss balls, underhand to each other. But first, the thrower establishes eye contact with the intended receiver. It’s an exercise in non-verbal communication. It’s not at all challenging for most of us. Nor was it challenging for the person who stated “I’m not very good at things like this.”
“It’s not what you don’t know that holds you back; it’s what you do know that isn’t true.” Jack Canfield, The Success Principles
I regularly hear others define themselves by means of their history. Too often, their self-description provides an excuse to remain where they are, firmly entrenched in their comfort zone. “I didn’t go to college.” “I always procrastinate.” “I’m always late.” “I was abused as a child.” “I’m not very good at this.”
In her book, The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, author Edwene Gaines, tells of being so badly sexually abused from the time she was four months old to the time she was four years old, that it almost killed her. She states that the experience so damaged her self-esteem, that for many years she played the victim-role.
While it is understandable that such a trauma deeply impacts an individual, one day while she was telling her tale of woe, a teacher stopped her in her tracks. He did not give in to her “poor baby” victim story. Instead, he strongly advised her to start telling a new story.
He suggested she try this one on for size. “You came onto this planet to be a woman of power. Your soul chose this pathway, and because you chose it, you also chose to take an initiation in the misuse of power at a very young age. During this initiation you learned what it feels like when power is misused, and it is horrible. Therefore, it is now safe for you to be a woman of power in the world because you know now that you would never misuse nor abuse this power. And in this process, you have gained the most valuable of all spiritual gifts – the understanding heart.”
I suggest her teacher was urging her to create a story from a victor perspective, as opposed to a victim perspective. There’s a lesson here for all of us. When we dip into our wells of history, utilize past challenges as teaching moments, and tell your story from the perspective of your growth and success.
“Forget what hurt you in the past, but never forget what it taught you. However, if it taught you to hold onto grudges, seek revenge, not forgive or show compassion, to categorize people as good or bad, to distrust and be guarded with your feelings, then you didn’t learn a thing. “ Shannon L. Alder
Kathy Lamancusa tells of her son Joey. When he was born, his feet were twisted upward with the bottoms resting on his tummy. It meant that Joey had been born with club feet.
The doctors assured her that with treatment he would be able to walk normally, but would never run very well. Joey spent the first three years of his life in surgery, casts, and braces.
His legs were massaged; they were worked and exercised. By the time he was seven or eight years old, you would not even know he had a problem when he walked.
If he walked great distances, like at amusement parks, or on a visit to the zoo, he complained that his legs were tired and that they hurt. They would stop walking and talk a break for a soda or an ice cream cone and talk about what they had seen, what they had to see.
She said, “We didn’t tell him why his legs hurt and why they were weak. We didn’t tell him that this was expected due to his deformity at birth. We didn’t tell him so he didn’t know.
“The children in the neighborhood ran around as most children do during play. Joey would watch them play and of course, would jump right in and run and play, too.
She said, We never told him he probably wouldn’t be able to do that, to run as well as the other children. We didn’t tell him he was different. We didn’t tell him so he didn’t know.
“In the seventh grade, he decided to go out for the cross country team. Every day, he trained with the team. He seemed to work harder and to run more than the others.
Perhaps he sensed that the abilities which seemed to come naturally to so many others did not come naturally to him. We didn’t tell him that although he could run, he probably would always remain at the back of the pack.
We didn’t tell him that he shouldn’t expect to make the team. The team runners are the top seven runners of the school. Although the entire team runs, it is only those seven who have the potential to score points for the school.
We didn’t tell him that probably he would never make the team. And so he didn’t know.
He made the team. The only seventh grader to make it.
Doesn’t Kathy’s story have us stop and think, in terms of our history, “What if we didn’t know?” What if we didn’t know that we had been humiliated, had failed, been abused, committed wrongs, perpetrated misguided deeds on others? Even though we do, in fact, know, are we not called on to act as if we did not know? What if from this day forward we only knew what we are capable of in terms of the infinite potential that exists within each of us?
Let’s hold focus on the gifts and possibilities of today, and tomorrow, and let yesterday be yesterday. Can you recall the old cliché, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” Let’s consider that worn-out statement is worn-out for a reason. At times, it’s true. Move forward, free of your past.