I am not the Green Lantern (sad). I am a guy who reached heights of over 5000 feet today in beautiful New Mexico. I am a guy who is worried about his tires and tubes and whether or not they will survive the final nine days of riding on this trip. I am a guy who has ridden nearly 20 million revolutions of my bike wheel and over 2000 miles. I am a man who rode about 40 miles today with very little water (I forgot a bottle!). I am a man who has published poems and written papers that, according to professors, should be turned into books. I am a man who has graduated from college summa cum laude in the top 5 of my class, and graduated 4th in my graduating high school class. I am a man who has won many hockey championships and many individual awards. I am a man who has done, experienced, and accomplished a lot, but still feels worthless.
I am not practical. I am a guy who prefers writing letters to e-mail or telephone communication. I am a guy who would rather he didn't own a car. I am a guy who hopes to one day only own clothes made from bamboo. I am a man who wouldn't mind if he had no job and lived in poverty with the simple hope of writing a book or two, or so I say now. I am a man who shies away from commitment and marriage even though a wonderful woman is right before me. I am a man who, when it comes to close relationships and personal expectations, is very picky and demanding.
I am not sinless. I am a guy who struggles mightily to return or make phone calls, or any other type of communication, when I feel like I have let someone down or will let someone down. I am a guy who often takes teasing and joking with people a little too far. I am a man who angers easily. I am a man who isn't really sure if he believes in God but tries to live like he does. I am a man who has struggled with pornography from an early age.
What can I do to overcome myself for the sake of others? I think it's rather clear. I need to not expect other people, especially those closest to me, to be just like me. I need to not expect them to even try to be like me. I need to be more gentle, more loving, and not drag people on my speedboat to bring them to my little isolated paradise. Too often I push people to the false choice of "with me or against me." While I think that dichotomy has some usefulness in many situations, not many people work well when they are essentially being yelled at to do something. It's almost hypocritical of me to intellectually believe that every individual must come to their own conclusions with no outside influence for it to have any real meaning, yet getting angry with them when they don't listen to me. On one hand I say that the only influence I should have on people is through my actions, but on the other hand I argue and argue with my words until the cock crows three times.
A lot of what I need to do to overcome myself for the sake of others involves trust. I need to trust that God's love for me is all that I need, that I don't need to become some great influential writer or have any giant impact on the world to have meaning in my life. I already have meaning in my life simply by living it and I need to trust that fact. Without that trust, I divert to my "Please make me feel important" mode which does nothing but hurt others and derail the true love train. I cannot truly love anyone, whether romantic love or Christian love, if I am seeking for something in return. I cannot serve those held in torturous slavery if I am concerned about what others think of me and, even, what I think of myself. I can try and think that my little emotional and spiritual squabbles don't affect anyone but those closest to me, but that's not true. It affects all those that I am called to love--even if I weren't called to love, my moral conscience does not allow me to sit back while there are 27 million slaves. Yet what can I do if I am working hard to end slavery just so that others might tell me that I'm a good person? Very little.
And, of course, even if it were true that the emotional and spiritual bumps that I run into only affect those closest to me, that still has major impact on many people. First of all, how can I love the world if I can't love my family or friends? For those who see my actions and think that maybe they are inspirational enough to follow, but then see how miserable I am and how upsetting I can be to those around me, they might walk away from whatever inspiration I had given them because of my personal life.
Probably the most important part of overcoming myself involves pornography. All of us, I think, have a secret (or not so secret maybe) sin that haunts us. We try to hide it from others and sometimes we try to hide it from ourselves. When we can't resist temptation, we do our best to rationalize or block out our memory even while we are sinning to convince ourselves it's not a big deal. I use the word "sin" because it's the most appropriate word from my faith background, but don't mistake yourselves and think that what I'm saying doesn't apply because you don't believe in God. As far as I'm concerned, a sin is not something that rewards us with eternal damnation. Instead, a sin is something that separates ourselves from God, from ourselves, from others, from love, whether we want to admit it or not. Committing a sin is like smacking our potential truly content selves in the face. Many times it also includes smacking potential content others in the face as well because our spirits don't like how it feels to have smacked ourselves.
Watching pornography is a sin. I've done well to significantly cut back, but still I fall into the trap now and then. I get frustrated with myself because I know that I don't feel "good" after, and I'm contributing to the industry that degrades women (mostly) and men, and degrades all who watch it by instilling thoughts and desires in us that don't belong. There's no rationalization imaginable that can erase the degradation that I cause by watching pornography, to myself, to those involved in the industry and those who feel like they have no choice but to become a porn star, and to the countless women that I will encounter in my life that I might not be able to fully love because there's a stain on my heart and soul.
Maybe you are uncomfortable with my talking about pornography. I actually hope you are, strangely enough. It is a rare person who doesn't live with some tough-to-talk-about habit or character flaw. So, if I make you uncomfortable, then it is likely that you also make yourself uncomfortable. I don't want you to feel bad about that. What I want you to do is to really dig deep into yourself like I have tried to do to understand yourself, to understand what it is about you that holds you back from living the best life you are capable of living and that, I hope, includes helping put an end to slavery. For me, the traits and habits I've listed in this post are the obstacles I must hurdle to reach my full potential and that I must obliterate if I want to see an end to slavery.
To be honest, these are not the only reflections that I've had in response to my own question from a few days ago. I have one other major reflection that I will share with you all tomorrow. For now, I have opened up my heart and soul to you quite a bit. I hope it is helpful to you as you look inside yourself, perhaps I will give you courage to deal with what about yourself makes you uncomfortable. But in some way I hope that your heart will also open up... not necessarily to me (though feel free to share your own reflections on the blog), but to those who need your heartfelt support and love the most.