By Jon Levesque
As a young man I was selfish, greedy, envious, and violent.
All of these traits intertwined within me and I don’t think I could have ever shown where one ended and the other began. It is just who I was.
I didn’t care about you. I just wanted to survive and at that point in my life, survival was justified by any means. If you had something I wanted, I was going to take it from you. If you could benefit me, I’d allow it, and probably only return chaos.
I can recall many times being called a bulldozer. Sometimes it hurt me to hear, to know that I couldn’t relate to myself, relate to others; that my only tool was a hammer. Other times I just knew this label to be accurate. I was raised to believe that I was the only one who mattered in my life, took out for myself at all costs, to view every problem as a nail.
As I got a little older, my situation became less dire. It became less about survival and more about sustaining. I still had no idea who I was or what I wanted from life. I had no definition of who I wanted to become. Now, instead of being violent, I was just angry. I could control my physical temper but what raged on inside me still didn’t allow me to relate to the world. It didn’t even allow me to relate to myself.
I landed a shiny new job that paid me well, and I racked up all the debts and collected all the stuff to go with it. Ah! Success!I became a somewhat functional walking contradiction. I looked like a successful man on the outside and was a complete clueless little boy on the inside.
I started going to church and pretending I had figured life out. Outside church, though, I was still me. I struggled with lust constantly, looking at porn online all the time. I struggled with finances, I struggled with intimacy with my family, and I struggled to live up to all I promised at work. I was a fake. I never had anyone guide me. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. No one ever told me to set a trajectory in life, to pursue goals. I thought the goal was just to keep breathing.
I struggled with God, being led to believe that I had to believe all the things these people said were real, to achieve that magical formula of wholeness or inner peace.
I wanted it to fit so badly… Maybe if I was just holy enough, If I prayed enough, if I led enough groups, If I read my bible and believed how they believed, that somehow I would be healed of being me.
It didn’t happen like that. Instead it gave me a guilt complex that I was never good enough. That my life wasn’t exemplary enough. I just kept getting farther away from myself and from God.
First, I had to hit rock bottom. Everything had to be broken before it could be rebuilt. I had to almost lose everything. My family, my ideas of God, my sins, loved ones, my habits and hang-ups, and ultimately the scraps that were left of me.
In losing myself, I gained perspective on my relationship with God. I gained perspective on relating with those I loved. I gained a passion for others who are lost and hurting.
I didn’t do this alone or overnight. It took my wife almost leaving me. It took my friends backing away in disgust at my hidden life. It took therapy, and lots of hard work to be better.
It was never easy, but each step of the journey I have gained something. I have gained another new brick for my foundation and another piece to my story, and ultimately learned that at the end of all of this, one single thing remains.
That is how we have loved.
If we do not relate to all things through love, then the way we relate is broken.
There are 7 billion individuals on a snow-globe hurling through space at 67,000 mph, all being held down by invisible forces as we rotate around a single star, one of billions. Our individual lives are but a vapor. All we get to leave behind are our stories, and we don’t even get to control what stories will be told of us. Instead all we get to do is live day-to-day and hope our legacy is carried well.
We fight with each other over stupid things like religion and politics. We are more worried about being right than we are about treating each other right. We separate ourselves into labeled groups and point fingers at each other from distant places, neither side ever seeking to understand the other.
Life and how we relate to it should be full of wonder and mystery. Each of us is unique in how we are crafted. Our back stories, our pre-dispositions, our upbringing and the things we are taught make us all snowflakes, and that fact is magical.
We should relate through love to our fellow man. Instead of walking past the homeless man and judging him, shake his hand, treat him as a human and find out his story. Instead of telling people who have less than us to work harder, share our stories with them so they can better understand the path to success. Instead of sitting home talking about how bad the world is, we should change it in small, tangible ways right in our community. We should allow the same freedoms we want to others. They’re just as valuable and awesome.
Relating to the world is about love. Love each other well, be kind to all people, share what you have often and try to be better tomorrow than you were today.
This is how to relate to the world with true significance.