Chapter One: The Courage to Confront — Facing Your Own Indifference
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
In just a short time I will have been on Earth one half century. I've already started celebrating this benchmark. So many memories. When this milestone birthday came up recently in conversation, a friend asked me, "What words of wisdom have you garnered? What would you do differently and what would you say to those who feel that they only go around once and feel powerless to correct what may be perceived as less than glowing results?"
I thought before I answered and then said, "There is nothing worse than reaching the end of your life and wondering what could have happened, or should've happened, but somehow didn't happen." The sad memories of a lost opportunity have made many people bitter the rest of their lives. Often it is not the fatigue of the Olympic competitor that is debilitating as much as it is the feeling that if he had lunged farther, or pushed harder, he might have been holding the golden cup of victory as opposed to the bottled water of defeat.
None of us welcomes regret. We want to live to the fullest, spiritually, financially, and even relationally. Yet we often settle for less than the best life we could live. Lulled into sleep by a sense of apathetic compliance, we accept as limitations situations that could be transcended. Are you tired of living from paycheck to paycheck? Do you feel like you're stuck in a job while wishing you had a career? Hold your breath while credit cards clear? Do you grow weary of those closest to you feeling as if they cannot get in touch with who you really are? No one knows but you the extent to which your public success masks private failures. Do you want more out of this next phase of life than what you have now?
Most of us do not want to wander aimlessly, taking life as it comes. We want to take charge of our destiny and see goals accomplished progressively, according to a plan. There are things in our lives that limit us.
You can only correct what you are willing to confront. Now, I have to admit, confrontation isn't always something that I enjoy. But I have learned over the years to say what has to be said and face what has to be faced.
Many choose to live in a perpetual state of denial rather than do the hard work that is needed to confront issues, weaknesses, and inconsistencies in themselves and others.
Do you have the courage to face the dark, silently sinister enemy that may be lurking inside of you? Do you have the courage to confront yourself? Don't worry, I am here with you. For the purpose of healing and not hiding, take a heart-to-heart look at some issues that may be stopping you from reaching your goals and living your life to the fullest. Things can turn out the way you want, if you're willing to hear the truth.
Stop the Madness
Perhaps you're familiar with the process known as intervention. Frequently used for cases of abuse of alcohol and drugs as well as for addictions to unhealthy behaviors, intervention is a valuable tool for helping the person who has destructive behavior see the patterns of his life and their effect on those around him. While an individual will deny the problem and resist assistance from friends and family who attempt to aid him one-on-one, the intervention brings the entire circle of key relationships abruptly into the addict's presence, often using the element of surprise. Surrounded by those who know her best, the person is forced to look at her addictive or compulsive behavior and examine her life, perhaps facing the truth of it for the first time. As each person shares what she sees and feels about the deterioration of her relationships, it becomes next to impossible for her to deny the problem. Here are the people who love her the most, all sharing similar observa-tions, concerns, and solutions for the problem that has taken over her life.
Interventions can be extremely effective in helping addicts accept help. When conducted in a spirit of love and encouragement, the intervention can save the life of the addict and reawaken her to a world filled with opportunities for health and wellness. It is simply amazing how love can win out over obsessions, addictions, and adversities. Love can be a tremendous deterrent to destructive behavior; it gives the individual the support she needs to change her life. Though the Bible says that love is as strong as death, it is stronger than debt, divorce, depression, or any obstacle.
This intervention will not consist of a normal group of teary-eyed, emotionally charged individuals. You're likely not addicted to drugs, and not overtly destructive, but there has been an erosion of growth and wholesome abundance in your life. Today we are staging an intervention to get you out of this rut!
Who is joining us? We could certainly have your spouse or partner testify; they have witnessed the consequences of your apathy. Your kids could speak up as well. Perhaps your best friend. Your siblings. Your parents. Coworkers. Your pastor. Your apathy has affected each of them, dulling the edges of your talent and ambition and hiding the best parts of yourself from them. Many people in your immediate circle may be watching you live your life in ways that are far beneath your potential and character. Ask those people in your immediate circle what they've noticed and witnessed in your life.
But for now, imagine you just got home from work, and as you walk into the house, you unexpectedly find, sitting around the table, your friends who cared enough to come to this intervention to get your life out of the dismal realm of the ordinary and into the spectacular realm of extraordinary possibility thinking. Supposedly to support you, but more accurately, as we are about to see, silently enabling you. These friends today are confronting you. Are you ready?
The Distant Dreamer
Beads of perspiration appear on her forehead as Dee opens her mouth to speak. You know Dee. She is the dreamer who always stayed near you in the early years. She is like the voice in your car's navigational system, the one who used to navigate your decisions. Lately, she has been quiet, silent, as you make wrong turn after wrong turn, delaying your arrivals and hindering your progress. But now, with a nervous edge, hating that she has been selected to be the icebreaker, with a parched throat and a crack in her voice, she begins the process:
"It's been so painful to watch you settle for less and less in your life, working a job beneath your talents and capabilities, accepting the roles that others assign to you, giving up the creative pursuits that once fueled your ambition. I'm the part of you that longs to be all that you were created to be, the dreamer inside you who loves to look ahead and aim for the top.
"I remember so many big plans we had back in the beginning. We knew there would be obstacles, but we were young and had set our eyes on the stars. We were going to go beyond what you had growing up, to have a fuller, richer, more liberated existence. You had so much imagination and such a vision for where you were going and how you were going to get there. You could see yourself in your mind's eye, growing, reaching, and attaining a life of satisfaction, contentment, and joy."
It is obvious to the others waiting to speak that your walls of defense are as high and formidable as the walls of Jericho! Dee knows it, too. But with a strength that only comes when we finally share the truth, she releases her concerns. She now realizes that she should have said this to you years ago instead of silently letting you go this far off course.
"Do you know how hard it has been for me? I mean, I love you, and I hate to watch your life get harder and your ability to see the pinnacle that was once your destination and motivation seem to disappear in the daily fog of working, living, and then working some more." Looking you in the eye for the first time, she continues: "I watched as your circumstances got tighter and choked the wind out of your lungs. Disappointments set in, followed by losses and realities that threatened your hopes for ever experiencing a different, better life that would allow you to be who you really are and live out your God-given purpose. Those around you did not encourage you. I tried to come around to nurture and support you, but you pushed me away, becoming more and more distant and detached.
"Instead of fighting to keep the fire inside you alive, you let the embers die by becoming addicted to a life without dreams, without hope." Almost venting she continues, "After all I did for you. I brought you through the hard times. Don't you remember? I was there when life was bad. Did you just forget all of that? You locked me up in the cellar of your soul and placed me on a starvation diet. All I hear from you is complaints about who 'wasn't there for you' and who didn't treat you right. But I was there," Dee Dreamer continues.
"Or I would have been if you had let me! Over time you've become cynical and negative, subtly bitter and internally angry, looking for targets to blame — your parents, your lack of opportunities, your family. People don't know it because you are masterful at covering up your true feelings. I know this is not the life we dreamed of for you when you were younger. This is not the love you wanted, the house and career you wanted. I know better than anyone sitting at this table how you dreamed of more than this. You were meant to be a high achiever. My God, you have gifts you aren't even touching, much less using. This ordinariness doesn't become you, and I had to say something today! It is beneath you and what you were created to be. Your answers, your power, is in your dreams!"
Reaching out to you with a warm hand and a now wet face, Dee gently touches your shoulder and says, "I need you — no, we all need you." The others sitting at the table give a warm nod. There is the sound of a few quiet sniffles. Dee Dreamer finishes her appeal with these final words: "Instead of being fully alive to the possibilities of the future, the pursuit of the dreams that God has planted like seeds in your heart, you have resigned yourself to an existence without dreams, a parched desert place of indifference where nothing can grow.
"You can't go on this way — it's killing you. Fight for the dreams that were once such a vital part of your life. Don't give up hope. Throw off the limits that other people, organized religion, and many other forces may have placed on you. Like a butterfly emerging from her cocoon, you must discard the useless husk that you continue to let cling around your dreams. I know it is not too late. You can use all that you have been through as wind beneath your wings. Come on, it's time to fly!"
The Listless Lover
Each person looks around the room, wondering who will be next to speak. L Lover speaks up and says, "I want to tell you something." L Lover had been loving, optimistic, romantic. The giver. "You know as well as I do, love gives and lust takes. You have replaced love with lust; you take but you stopped giving. Lately my attempts to engage your heart have been thwarted by regret and sabotaged by bad memories. These memories are what you use to justify being emotionally detached, lustful, and selfish. The only reason I agreed to speak today is that I want to love you actively again."
Everybody at the table listens as he speaks. Each takes in his words, which reflect the true substratum of the issues they all have had with you. They all know that true love has been absent from your life for a while. They know you have been faking the feelings that used to be genuine. L Lover clears his throat and says, "Our relationship with each other has become so strained I don't even know where to begin. Whether you think of me as your heart or desire or love, I am the part of you that longs to love and be loved, to be in a healthy dynamic relationship with another caring person. Like our friend Dee Dreamer, we started out strong and were inseparable.
"We shared the fairy-tale dream of finding that special someone who would get us, who would see us as we really are and love us unconditionally. We thought we had found that soul mate a time or two. I stayed with you throughout those first few tender, sweet, and painful relationships. We thought we were in love and maybe we were, but for various reasons, the relationships didn't work and you were alone again.
"And then, over time, you pushed me further and further away. As you've gotten older and continued to struggle in your search or watched a once special relationship stagnate, I've grown tired. And instead of seeing what you're really worth, you start selling yourself off for so much less than you're worth. Low self-esteem pushed you away from me. What I could have fixed, you hide. Lust for power, for money, and even for sex has taken away your passion. You used to really be there, in the moment, present in the conversation. You were open and warm and giving and sincere. Now you're concerned with who has the best job or who can get you where you're trying to go.
"Look at you now. I see you faking your interest, distracted by what you need. You stopped giving, so you stopped getting back. You can't sow indifference and get back affection. Forget about the relationships that went bad or had issues. Don't lose sight of the loving person you were meant to be. You stopped loving the idea of love. Your authentic self is camouflaged by a self who has no feelings. Do you know that living inside of you is like being trapped inside of a mannequin?
"You've accepted status quo security and predictability over what you and I both know you long for deep in your heart — passion, spontaneity, desire, and intimacy — don't get me started about when you quit hoping for intimacy! Those have all gone by the wayside. Getting ready to be intimate with someone now is like October thirty-first. You dress for Halloween! You start the relationship like it is trick-or-treat night. Neither the tricks nor the treat are what they would have been if you had knocked on the door with a come-as-you-are openness. That is why you keep getting tricked. It is that layered costume you wear to protect your heart. That costume has imprisoned you! Take off all of those silly masks and be yourself!"
A nervous giggle breaks out in the room and then a somber sobriety sets in again as he continues. "The relationships you do have seem flat and unfulfilling. You don't communicate. You don't dare hope for romance. You're jaded and cynical about everyone's ulterior motives and the way they ultimately betray you. You're angry at your heart for longing for love. You blame the other gender for being so different, so fickle and untrustworthy, so unavailable.
"But listen. If you keep pushing authentic love away and settling for your apathetic lifestyle of one-night stands and dismissal of those in your life who could love you, then you will never know the intensity of pleasure for which you were created. And I'm not even talking about sexual expressions here, although we both know that plays a part.
"You deserve to love and be loved and to face the fears and disappointments that haunt you, and move on. It's time to love boldly and passionately, to bring romance back into your life, to hope again, as Dee already said, for a good person in your life who could love you for who you are."
That is when you speak up. You have had enough of this confrontation intervention mumbo jumbo. Annoyed and embarrassed, you reply, "I am not addicted to anything! I am in control of myself and my circumstances. I did all right for myself without any of you. I am still okay by myself. I am not addicted to any of you or anything else."
L Lover and Dee Dreamer speak up and in unison they say, "You are addicted! You are addicted to apathy!"
L Lover continues: "You stopped caring. You stopped dreaming and believing."
Dee Dreamer says sadly, "You are hooked on indifference. No real passion burns inside you...not like it used to..." She sighs. "Not anymore."
Manny the Manager
A new voice enters the conversation. "Your addiction to apathy has affected everything. It has affected your business — your finances are going to hell! And don't even get me started on your credit!" His anger boils as he says, "You are just letting things go. You don't handle your business anymore. You won't face up to issues and they are not getting better. They are getting worse."
Manny had held his peace as long as he could. He seemed annoyed, almost belligerent. Everyone at the table looked at him, surprised. Dee Dreamer pats Manny on the shoulder and tries to calm him down. He is angry because you won't allow him to confront you about this apathetic attitude that has ruined your business opportunities, carjacked your credit rating, and murdered chances you had to be further along financially. Manny is a number cruncher, you know the type — a computer geek of a guy. He is not tender like LL or diplomatic like Dee. Manny is a guy who deals with facts and figures.
He continues: "You are getting older, and if you keep spending like this..." Manny shakes his head and then says, "I am in your life to ensure that when you are old you have a retirement. I am in your life to make sure that you do not keep going on emotional buying binges. I watch you buy what you want and then struggle for what you need. Honestly, it makes me ill. I wanted to set your finances on track so you could pay for your children's education or have money to invest in a home or that little vacation spot you saw in the Bahamas. If you had followed my plan, you would be shocked how much further you would be today. If twenty years ago you had invested the price of a Happy Meal every day, you would have been wealthy by now!
"But it is not too late. That is why I am here today. You have to stop this apathy. You seem to have caught a spendthrift virus or maybe a financial flu!
"Maybe it is because you and L Lover are not getting along. I notice when your love life isn't right, you compensate by overspending. Or maybe it is because you and Dee Dreamer aren't working things out. You seem not to have any capacity for delayed gratification. If you would just wait, you could have so much more of the good life and reach your dreams. In the absence of the dreams Dee talked about, you spend. When things aren't going right with L Lover, you stop managing your business and spend too much of your time, and I daresay your money, on things that are not valuable. Your priorities are all out of whack! It affects you and me.
"When they called me about this meeting, I was the first one to show up. I was here early." He reaches into his briefcase and starts throwing unpaid bills onto the table. "This has gone to a collection agency — a collection agency! It is a forty-two-dollar bill. Now there's a thirty-five-dollar late fee attached. That's ridiculous! You and I both know you could have paid this. But you aren't handling your business!"
Manny looks at you and growls, "I bet you don't even know your credit score. How can you correct what you will not confront? You won't look into getting out of this rut. What I am trying to say is simple. If you stick your head in the sand and ignore things that you have the power to change, you can't blame anyone when they don't turn out right!"
He takes a deep breath and calms down a bit. "I am here today because I care for you. I am here today because I believe in your dreams. But most of all, I am here to try to get you to wake up from this apathetic sleep you have been in and get a handle on your life. Listen, I know you have faith and I know you believe in God. But God helps those who help themselves. Or maybe I should say faith without works is dead. You can't just pray about business. You have to do something. Doesn't the Bible say that a blessed man is one who 'whatsoever he doeth shall prosper'?
"Listen, God can't bless what you won't do. You haven't been taught correctly. Prosperity doesn't just come from giving an offering. It's good to be a giver. But you must also be a thinker, a planner, and a worker." Manny sighs, glances around the room, and then says, "I am not trying to get you to be rich. I just want you to have the best and most positive life you can have with the gifts and opportunities God has given you. I don't know if you have any will to fight this. But it is not too late to turn this mess around." He looks down at the financial statements, disconnected-service notices, student loans, and foreclosure notices flung all over the table. "If you fight back you can beat this addictive destructive habit of apathetic indifference."
The Blinded Believer
Before you can catch your breath and let Manny's words sink in, Bee jumps in. "I am your spiritual self, the one who relates with God and seeks His truth in all areas of your life. Your addiction to apathy has starved you spiritually, seeking to fill the place only God can nourish with material items — expensive clothes, new cars, and other toys. But we both know that there's something so much deeper and satisfying that you crave. The contentment that comes from fulfilling your God-given destiny. An awareness of the many blessings that He daily sends your way.
"But you don't expect much from God because of your painful past wounds; life seems so unfair. You are disappointed with pastors and churches that appear hypocritical and focused on judging you. You idolize the material in the hope that it will fill a spiritual void. God breaks through and wants you to dream, to reposition yourself like Zacchaeus the tax collector climbing the sycamore tree to see the Savior. But you numb out, tired and exhausted, preferring to go through the motions rather than really engaging in a relationship with your Creator, the One who wants to comfort, heal, inspire, and motivate you to new heights.
"If you truly want to break through your addiction to mediocrity, your recovery must be spiritual. It doesn't necessarily involve going to church. That is good, but without a personal relationship with God, churchgoing is empty. Focus on what your soul hungers and thirsts for: to relate to God."
Bee looks you directly in the eyes and shoots her questions like bullets into you. "Do you want a meaningful life? Do you want to experience a peace that passeth all understanding and an abundant life of purposeful joy? Then it's time to fight to win your life back. To rekindle the hunger for the holy in your life and seek out God's destiny for you. Renounce the troughs of pigs' food and return home to the Father who's waiting to run down the road to meet you.
"God will guide you, but only you can take the first step on the exciting journey known as the rest of your life. Aren't you tired of the slop for which you've been settling? You may have squandered your resources so far, but God delights in providing His children with what they need when they rely on Him. It's time. It's time right now. I have been praying for you.I have been praying for you while you drove to work. I have been praying for your mind, amidst the clutter of day-to-day demands. I have been praying about your instabilities, infidelities, and insecurities. God said, 'Return unto Me and I will return to you.' God is just beneath the distractions in your life. He loves you even when you are wrong and ignore Him. Can you imagine what it would be like if you really got together with God again?"
The group huddles around you and joins hands. Bee lifts her voice, then Manny, followed by L Lover and by Dee Dreamer. They each pray a prayer of courage and relief for you. They ask for divine guidance and assistance in breaking through your addiction to apathy and bringing you back to your senses.
As troubled and disturbed as you are by their confrontation, you know that something has to give. Something has to change in your life. You can't hold back your emotion any longer. And as their voices fade, you whisper, "I'm ready."
Do-over vs. Make-over
These characters exist in all of us. I have had to face them myself in my life. These characters are the voices of reason that we often muzzle rather than listen to. But if they could intervene and confront us in love, we would all be better people. There is more life in your life. You could be more fulfilled if you took courage to make some minor adjustments and repositioned a few sadly neglected parts.
Did you ever play baseball or kickball as a kid and get to have a do-over if you missed your swing or your kick? We all wish we could have a do-over for the many mistakes and missteps we've committed. We can't. We must live with the consequences, the mistakes. But let's not do so without questioning what we can learn and how we can grow from them.
You can't have a do-over but you can reposition yourself and have a make-over. It doesn't involve plastic surgery, a radical diet, or a new wardrobe, although by the time you're done, you may be inspired to do all three! No, the kind of make-over I describe in the pages that follow involves throwing off the shackles of your addiction to apathy and embracing the tools needed to reposition yourself for a life of freedom and enrichment.
If this feels selfish or self-absorbed to you, then realize how many other lives are affected by your well-being. One of the key reasons why an intervention is often successful is it produces an awareness of how your behavior hurts those around you. Any time you're not focused on what matters most because you're allowing yourself to be distracted and numbed by some feel-good urge, it's hurting those around you.
If you know it's time and you are more than ready for a major life change, your recovery has begun. Your desire to change will only fuel your fight to reposition yourself into who you were meant to be.
If you're dissatisfied with your life, long for much more, and feel the desire to take some risks and make some changes, but those impulses are countered and blocked by your past disappointments, by the safety of your present status quo lifestyle, and by the uncertainty of your future, you are on the fence. You are flirting with the tragedy of a life wasted and regretted. Get off the fence and onto the road of recovery through repositioning.
If you are so deeply embedded in your addiction to apathy and mediocrity that you don't see what you're doing to yourself, afraid to let yourself hope, committed to busyness so that there's no time to think and reflect on what your life means and where it's headed, it's time to stop. Don't be afraid to want more and go after more. Winds of change are blowing your way.
You can have a better life. The question is: Are you willing to fight for it? Like an alcoholic recovering from the throes of his addiction, are you willing to fight the urge to settle for less and to endure the hard work required to reposition yourself? If the answer is yes, then turn the page.
Copyright © 2007 by TDJ Enterprises