Serenity Now! – Velvet Rage Skill #2

“Peace I give unto you”
Oh wait,
Jesus’ words – not mine.
Peace
is not mine to give
to anyone else.
Must.
Stop.
Trying.
Can’t give
what I don’t
possess
myself.


So, here is what most of May is going to look like on Defying Atrophy, in case any of you need a warning to avoid it…

A couple months ago I read a book called “The Velvet Rage – Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World”, by Alan Downs. It was one of those “life changers” for me.

Toward the end of the book, Dr. Downs has a chapter of various “Skills for Leading an Authentic Life”, which are not necessarily “gay life skills”, so anyone of any orientation could/should benefit from looking at these with me, unless you’ve already got it all figured out, in which case, “Well done, you!” For myself and the rest of us, I’m going to take one “skill” a day and blog about it. Some may be brief, some may be more protracted, who knows?

Here is today’s:

Inner peace above all else. 

When trying to decide between two or more options in life, honestly assess which option is most likely to contribute to your own inner peace. Choose the option that holds the greatest promise of bringing you peace in the long term.

Well, this seems easy, right?

Wrong.

I mean, who wouldn’t always choose inner peace?

Me.

If you grow up with the belief (whether it was hard wired in you, taught to you, or picked up on your own like a dimwit somewhere along the way) that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYONE ELSE’S HAPPINESS, you will routinely choose “all else” over “inner peace”. If you do this long enough, you eventually believe you can achieve your OWN inner peace by making sure you’ve made the best choice for OTHERS in any and every situation.

This sounds good and noble, yes?

It will look that way, yes.

It doesn’t work

And it will eventually kill you. Or try to.

  1. You will never, EVER, be able to make enough “right” choices for enough people to make everyone happy.
  2. When everyone is not happy, you will feel like a failure and either a) double-down on your efforts to make others happy, or b) quit.
  3. Doubling-down only works until something inside of you snaps, and then you’ll quit whether you want to or not because you’re in the hospital, the psych ward, dead, or some similarly unpleasant place where I guarantee NO ONE IS HAPPY.

So the very first thing you have to believe is it’s actually to your benefit to choose “inner peace” over something else.

And, to most of us, this will feel extremely selfish.

To others (especially if you’ve made a lifelong habit of “others’ peace”), you may look extremely selfish. Even “mean”.

My only advice: push past that, believing the eventual outcome is worth more than the present pain of the process.

And here is what I am finding is the outcome of inner peace:

AN INCREASINGLY ABUNDANT SUPPLY OF LOVE FOR OTHERS.

What?

Yes, it turns out when Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself”, it only really works right IF YOU LOVE YOURSELF.

Huh.

I remember puzzling over that verse even as a young child – 10 years old, maybe? – “What if I don’t love myself? Then how do I love people?”

My solution was to get others to love ME, no matter what. And I did that by DOING and BEING for others whatever I thought it was that would make them love me, like me, or at the very least, not abandon me. This made me LOOK giving and loving, but it was really self-engineered to make myself feel loved.

It was paradoxically very selfish.

And It doesn’t work.

Tired of seeing me type that?

Sorry.

It doesn’t work.

Because every time you feel like you need MORE love in your life, you will start doing MORE for OTHERS so they will love YOU more. And it’s so, so backwards.

I’m just now coming to realize it. Only took me 50 years.

So, start practicing the skill: When trying to decide between two or more options in life, honestly assess which option is most likely to contribute to your own inner peace. Choose the option that holds the greatest promise of bringing you peace in the long term.

Push back on the feeling that it is irresponsible, selfish, and that people won’t “like” you if you care for yourself.

You can’t make people like you. it’s an illusion.

Be the real you. At peace. Then (I can almost guarantee it) REAL love will flow OUT of you, and you won’t care if they love you or not.

But they probably will.

3 Comments

  1. “Yes, it turns out when Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself”, it only really works right IF YOU LOVE YOURSELF.”

    Ben, this made me tear up a bit. Eleven years ago, I made the move to love myself more than the person I was married to. It was difficult to make that emotional change, and I still struggle with this because I spent too many years being co-dependent. I forget who I am, that I am loved, and that can keep me from the neighbors as Jesus intended. Inner peace is so important to get through difficult times, but you are so right that it starts in our own inner being. My peace today is greater than it has been in a long time and I’m hoping that post vaccination and pandemic, I can reflect that peace on others in the community. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

    Liked by 2 people

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