Shortly after I posted “The Landscape of Our Lives,” I received the following note from a friend:
Thanks for today’s post. I read it with great interest, because, as you know, I’m someone who looks back on their past a lot. I really like the idea of treating the exercise like an Easter Egg Hunt. The problem is I have more than just a few bad eggs in my basket and I’m not sure what to do with them. I wonder if you have any thoughts. If so, I’d appreciate it if you’d share them. I doubt I’m alone.
Truth is: I knew an e-mail like this was coming the instant I hit the “publish” button on that post. It’s incredibly naïve to suggest that anyone can simply pretend the “bad eggs” don’t exist – and I certainly didn’t mean to do so, though I can understand how a reader could have come away with that impression. The fact is “bad eggs” are as much a part of the “houses that built all of us” as the “good” ones. Sooner or later, they have to be dealt with. However, from my perspective, there are several things to keep in mind when it comes to doing it:
First, it is imperative that we not give “bad eggs” a place of prominence in our lives. Simply put, we cannot allow them to obscure our (or others’) view of the “good eggs,” let alone crowd them out of our metaphorical baskets entirely. To carry the analogy forward, while they may be every bit as much a part of our “houses” as our many gifts and attributes, our “bad eggs” belong in the storage rooms – not the living rooms of our lives! That space should be reserved for pieces that are warm, inviting and comfortable. And make no mistake about it: Ultimately, we are the final arbiters of such interior decorating decisions.
Second, we must be diligent and steadfast in reigning in our natural human inclination to vest our “bad eggs” with more power than they deserve and, at all costs, avoid the urge to let what, in the totality of our lives, is (or was) only a “brief moment” in time or a misstep (however great or small) define us. We need to appreciate the fact that our “bad eggs” only have the power we give them. I suggest we use that power more wisely, lest our “bad eggs” become a permanent millstone around our collective necks, rather than the potter’s clay I believe they were meant to be in helping us to shape our future.
Indeed, if the last several years of my life have taught me anything, it is this: There is a turning point in all of our lives – a moment, often in the face of adversity, when we decide that we no longer will allow ourselves to be held back by the pain, brokenness and dysfunction of our past. We decide instead to use that past as a catalyst for positive change. We begin to give ourselves the credit we deserve for being courageous and resilient through it all, the good and the bad, and, along the way, we allow ourselves to entertain the possibility that, as those who know us best have insisted all along, we are loved and, most importantly, we are worthy of love.
James Arthur, the eventual winner of X-Factor UK (2012), is a living, breathing example of someone who reached that turning point, embraced his past, channeled it, allowed himself to be vulnerable and changed not only his life, but the lives of those he loved – forever.