“God enters through the wound.”
Years ago I read this quote attributed to Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. The words have remained sacred to me, and I have applied their balm to even the most superficial of wounds.
I find it easy to confide in others about the deep wounds life opens. Yet, it’s these small, seemingly insignificant scratches that, for me, cut as deep as glacial ice. Over time they have carved out my self-image. These are the ones that I keep secret because I am embarrassed to show them. But, as I have learned in recovery, it is what I keep secret that makes me suffer.
Today is no different. I have found that I have been living a lie. It’s another one of those silly scratches that I struggle to reveal because I don’t want others to laugh and say, “Really? Is that what you’re upset about?”
Yet, silently, I am in awe how God enters the wound if we allow ourselves to acknowledge that we have, indeed, been wounded.
Just yesterday I was completing an exercise from the book The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris. It asked what values and goals I have in four facets of my life: love, work, health, and play.
All was going great. I was experiencing a flood of warm, glowing feelings of how much I have grown in my ten years of sobriety and my work as a spiritual life coach. I was really patting myself on the back.
Yep, I was feeling like the Lebron James of love, the Wayne Gretzky of work, and the Hank Aaron of health.
Then I came to writing my values and goals for play. WTH! Crap! I felt like I was hit on the head with a bat. I came to the realization that I am the Pete Rose of play. I have sabotaged my career as a player, the very thing that used to bring me joy. I tried to remember the last time I went out on the town with a friend.
I came to the startling realization–a core truth: The reason I drank was because I believed it was the only way I could feel a connection to others.
WTH! So I am sitting here today bleeding from the epiphany that I know as much about play as Donald Trump knows about public service. I don’t just suck at playing, I haven’t even put on the uniform for what seems like years. I have been so busy with my career and my commitments that I’ve forgotten how to engage in play with my friends. I knew the power of play as a child, but my career and my commitments rob me of my play time.
At least that’s the lie I have been telling myself. The truth is that I find play to be uncomfortable. It puts me right back into the story I have been writing over the years that I am socially defective.
I think about all the amazing people I have known in the past 20 years of my adult life. Many of those I have worked with. But I poured myself into my work-a-day world so I went numb to my own needs and to theirs, neglecting the power of play to create the connection we needed between us.
So it grieves me to admit it, but I am suddenly—and consciously—aware that the reason I haven’t been doing fun things with colleagues, friends, and other loved ones is that it surfaces my own inadequacies.
As a child, I played fearlessly. But as I entered adulthood, I just sort of gave up. I felt—and still do at times—that I am unworthy of play. For years, I stood on the edge of my circle of friends, envious of the joy and laugher they shared, giving my social shame the power to keep me sidelined.
Is it any wonder that I worshipped the effects of alcohol? That it did for me what I couldn’t do for myself? Instantly, without doing any work on myself, I could suddenly connect in play with others with just a couple of drinks.
It’s easy to blame my socially-isolated parents who never modeled for me what having friends over looked like. Yet, I promised my sponsor and myself to abandon my victimhood as I did the bottle when I became sober. I know there are things that happened to me that I am not responsible for but, as an adult, I am responsible for healing them.
God really does enter through the wound. And it’s my commitment, just as it was with my 4th Step, to fearlessly look at myself and surface my character defects that keep creating the wounds. And, just as before, I will get on my knees and ask God for the same miracle that got me sober. Surely, if God’s grace could free me from the power of alcohol, then that same grace can free me from the prison of my own social fears.
I acknowledge to myself that play is crucial because it is how we, as human beings, connect. It will take time and courage to tear up the story about my social defectiveness. In The Confidence Gap, Harris says that our problem is not that we lack social skills, it’s that we become fused with the story that we lack those skills.
Today, I am making a vow to call up a friend and ask him to join me in play. It takes practice to overcome any of our perceived defects. Harris’ words hearten me in keeping me committed to this crucial project: “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.”
I thank God that he used the simple exercise in Harris’ book to reveal to me a deep truth about myself that I have been hiding from for years.
God really does enter through the wound—even the scratches—and transmutes the pain into victory.
If you would like to work one-on-one on with me concerning an issue that is robbing you of your happiness such as depression, anxiety, relationships, negative thoughts, or esteem, contact me. I’m at rjhandley.com. Google my name if you’d like to find out more about me.
RJ Handley, Spiritual Life Coach