David Simmons was a retired cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, and speaking at a men’s seminar, he explained about his childhood. His dad was an extremely demanding man, rarely encouraging and very critical. He never let David feel satisfaction from his accomplishments, rather instead reminded him that there were more goals to achieve. Instead of being praised for doing his best, he was hammered about what he could have done better.
When David was playing football in high school, his dad was unrelenting. After every game his dad would point out all his flaws during each of his plays. When he entered college, he hated his dad so much he chose to play football at the college furthest away from home that would have him.
After college, David was the second round draft pick for the St Louis Cardinals. That year, Joe Namath was the first round draft pick. When he called his dad to tell him this exciting news, his father simply asked “How does it feel to be second?”. OUCH!
I can remember something very similar happening to me, but I was only 11. I had just finished running the 400m race in a MASSIVE Track & Field Meet. The Meet was my very first multi-school race, there were probably over a thousand kids! It was a huge event held at a BIG stadium. My mother was there to cheer me on… well… she was there.
Anyway, after the race, which I did my personal best in, I climbed up the steps into the stands to see my mom, excited and filled with joy at how well I had done (I didn’t win, but it was MY personal best), saying “Mom! Mom! Did you see me?” only to hear “Yes dear, but look at how fast that girl is?” while she pointed to some other unknown 11 year old currently running on the track.
38 years later, I still remember that moment. I was crushed! But that was much of how I felt growing up… like I never quite met any of the expectations that were put on me. If I got a C, I should have had a C+; if I got a C+, it should have been a B. I never felt encouraged in anything that I was actually good at, but was always told about the things I was no good at or should be better at. Perhaps you can relate?
During college, David Simmons came to Christ… And with God’s help, he started an intentional relationship with his dad, and slowly the relationship started to change. As he got to know WHO his dad was and his dad’s own upbringing, he realized that he himself could have had it much worse off. He was able to sympathize with his father and by the time his father had passed away, he was able to say that they were friends. The story doesn’t say whether his dad came to Christ or not, but I’m assuming there was a lot of forgiveness on both sides if they were to have been able to have a relationship, let alone a friendship.
For many years I had boundaries to protect me from the onslaught of negativity, discouragement and unworthiness that I felt from those who were ‘supposed’ to lift me up, protect me and encourage me. It crushed my identity and I literally moved half way around the world to escape it. Moving locally from one city to another and then to another that even required a long distant phone call to call home wasn’t enough. I needed to allow space for myself to be broken, grow, heal and start to become who I was meant to be. To this day, who I am (really) can sometimes still be a struggle because of the ingrained negative perception I grew up with.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too? You struggle with who you are because of who you were told you were? Or you’ve never achieved because you were told you wouldn’t? You’ve been labeled ‘this’ or ‘that’? Or you can’t trust because a parent or some authority figure manipulated you or harmed you? You are NOT alone!!! And you don’t have to continue feel alone or live with all those feelings!
I am glad to say that like David Simmons, the more I get to know about my mom’s own upbringing, I too could have been far worse off than I was. I can also say that talking to my mom, uncovering things, letting perceptions and feelings be known on both sides, has lead to forgiveness and a better understanding. This process has taken years and it still continues today… It wasn’t an instant fix and in my case, it has taken two people (well, 3 if you include God).
There are things that my mom no longer remembers though, or adamantly denies. But, thank God that the importance of the memory or the denial of any events, no longer holds as much significance over me.
But what if the other party in your story is no longer around? Perhaps they’ve passed away or you are so estranged that there is no contact? What if making contact with them could actually risk harming you even more? This is what I know from my own very personal experience as well as the experiences of others… The deeper I go into discovering who I am in Christ and what God really put me on this planet for, the more the hurt seems to erase or diminish or lessens the significance. And it will for you too!
Everything I have endured, everything that’s been done to me or that I’ve done, seems to be painting this gorgeous picture of who I was really designed to be.
Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version (NKJV) says: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Let that sink in… Just dwell on that for today... Let it roll around in your thoughts and maybe even speak it out loud to yourself... Hear it with your own voice... God’s plans for you are good! No matter what you’ve endured or even done! YOU have hope and a future, and God is WITH you in that!!