I recently had the opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony at Allen which is a small town approximately 30 minutes east of Saskatoon. It was not a typical graduation that we tend to think of in regards to students completing high school or convocating with a university degree. However, it was typical in the sense that close family members and many friends attended. In fact, I was amazed at the large number of people who attended, of which only three were adult family members.
My description of the graduation may make it sound a little different or unusual and considering there was only one graduate, the ceremony was unique. I have learned over the years that different does not mean inferior, sub-standard, or worth less than its counterparts.
Oh contraire, some of the most rewarding experiences I have had come from stepping out of my comfort zone and looking at life and events with a new perspective. In other words, using a viewpoint that is not based on my old values which are rigid and not very flexible. Trusting only my preconceived ideas and the status quo is a sure-fire recipe for closed-mindedness and prejudice, but now we are getting into a philosophical realm that I do not plan to pursue.
Getting back to my young friend Ben, his childhood years were extremely difficult because his father was struggling with a drug addiction that had a huge impact on the entire family. That is a nice of way of saying his father’s slavery to a drug and his judgment-impaired decisions deeply hurt his wife and children at every level: emotionally, financially and developmentally. People who have never dealt with a family member or friend who is deeply scarred or screwed up have no real concept of how a twisted individual can totally mess up the lives of their loved ones.
When I learn what emotionally-injured individuals have gone through, it absolutely amazes me that humans can function as well as they do after suffering massive trauma, especially when it occurs during early childhood. I am not talking about a person’s excuses for criminal or socially-unacceptable behavior, I am referring to the root cause of the problem. A permanent solution to an individual’s problem – call it healing – cannot be found until the victim agrees to address the source of the issue at a heart-felt level.
As I say this, images of a brother-in-law flash to mind. He is a very likable guy and seems to have his act together. However, behind the scenes he exhibits strange and destructive behavior that has ruined his marriage. His peculiar and addictive patterns are a telltale indication of a person who is living in bondage – that is emotional, spiritual or physical slavery to a mindset that has been firmly established in his thought process. After a thought pattern becomes entrenched, it then dictates a person’s actions, often without the individual being aware of it.
My brother-in-law is a skilled and talented individual. He has so much going for him and I only wish I had half his inclination for mechanics and repair of malfunctioning equipment. While he can repair or build almost anything, he is unable to rebuild his life or his marriage since he has chosen to ignore the underlying issues.
Why am I discussing a family member’s dirty laundry and a graduation? Both individuals are linked by a common denominator – wrong thought patterns that led to incorrect values and beliefs which initiated actions that destroyed their lives. However, unlike my brother-in-law, my friend Ben pursued an in-depth rehab program at Teen Challenge. The year-long commitment transformed his life, but it was not a quick or easy transformation.
The old saying that old habits die hard is very true. Furthermore, old destructive habits only die if their root cause is addressed. That requires time and a personal conviction to revisit the past and confront painful situations that often began with a traumatic event. A desire to find the truth is essential and for some individuals that is a decision they are not willing to make after years of living with a particular mindset (even if it is wrong or illogical).
I first met Ben after he had been enrolled in the Teen Challenge program for a month or so. When asked how he liked it, Ben answered honestly and said, “I hate it.” However, he addressed issues in his life and also found purpose in his life – something that had been lacking since his father committed suicide. The young man’s story deeply touched every person who attended his grad, and most of those who packed the small hall were people Ben had met after he started to turn his life around. It is interesting to note that when he was preparing to graduate and leave the facility at Allen, Ben was complaining again. However, his complaints were about some of the new guys who had arrived and their bad attitudes. I am sure they had the same attitude as Ben when he first arrived.
I congratulate my young friend on being an overcomer and a man of courage who was not afraid to confront his past. Well done and may you continue to grow with every challenge that is encountered.