I didn’t know if I should separate the next two tools. I only knew I didn’t view them as interchangeable. One is about what’s on the inside; the other is about what you show on the outside. The next tools in your toolkit:
HONOR & RESPECT
Honor: Honesty or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions. I tried to find a way to encompass this idea in a short sentence, but couldn’t. Someone else may be able to do so, but it’s something I’m still learning about. I do know it’s difficult to have honor when you’re always lying to yourself and everyone else. I’m learning that having honor means that I believe what I say and will make my best effort to do what I say I will do. Whether or not I have honor depends on whether or not I choose be honest. That being said, I suddenly realized that there are plenty of wicked people who are honest about their decision to choose wrong over right. So it’s more about choosing right, not because it keeps you out of trouble but because you want to choose right, especially when it’s hard.
Respect: High or special regard. This is what you give to others, and what you earn because of your honor.
Shortly before I began writing this book, I spent over a month studying honor. I realized it was something I lacked, and I wanted it. In my heart, I knew it was good and desirable. It wasn’t something I’d grown up with, and quite frankly didn’t actually truly understand what it was or what it meant.
So I studied and practiced. Yes, it is something that can be learned, through practice. It started with that ‘stop lying’ concept. In order for me to be honorable, I had to stop lying, not only in my words, but in my actions as well.
Here’s an example of what I mean by that. When I felt like I was being bad and deserved to be punished for something – for instance, when I had been eating unhealthily — I would eat food that I knew would make me sick. Really. That had to stop. I think I’ve finally reached the point where, by and large, the war with food is no longer a battle; it has become a game, and it’s fun to play. More times than not, anyway. I’m working on it. Granted, holidays are difficult and throw things off because of the surfeit of stress, but in my effort to be honorable with myself, I eventually find my way back to eating more healthfully and finding time to exercise.
I have yet to figure out how to stop punishing myself with lack of sleep. When I sleep regular hours, several days in a row, I begin to wake up with nightmares. However, sleep deprivation stops the nightmares. Talk about a pickle.
In my heart, I know it’s all tied together. There is little that is more annoying to me than those who believe that ONE THING will solve everything. If there truly was only one thing that solved everything, then wouldn’t the problems of the world be long over?
It is my new-found sense of honor and respect that tells me that I am responsible for myself, and what I had always dreamed for myself is not what God had in mind, and I am willing to bend to His will. The world is made up of as many possibilities as there are people. Each person has the opportunity to fulfill his or her own full potential. They also may choose to throw away those opportunities.
Though I’ve been writing this book for several months, and working on the lessons within it for years, it is this lesson in honor that is finally reaching one of my weaknesses, in a way I had not anticipated.
That ugly, nasty, mean tape on automatic play.
I’ve always known that I needed to recognize how I talked to myself. I’ve taken classes and read books about the right way to do this. I understand the reasoning, but when I’m having a difficult time going to sleep at night, because it feels like my thoughts are rats racing around in my brain, the old negative mantra is calming, even as it’s hurtful… but it’s familiar. But if I am to encourage honor in my life and to respect myself, I must also learn to speak to myself differently than I have in the past.
With the above perspective, as well as the combination of having to stop lying to myself and needing to be honorable and respectful, the old tape no longer makes any sense. I have done good things. I have good friends who do love me, so the tape is a lie.
The negative tape must go.
I never imagined that requiring truth and honor and respect in my life could demand such remarkable changes. I freely admit that the changes have not ended my troubles or made my life easier, but I am more peaceful. I smile more.
Through the years, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to help others on their journey. I do recognize that this is an honorable blessing. And I feel a sense of awe and amazement that I have been privileged to be an influence for good. It is difficult for others to accept help, especially if they don’t feel respected.
I sorrow to know that there are a few lives I’ve pulled down instead of lifted. I pray that those persons and God will forgive me.
But I will not accept responsibility for those who believe I have dragged them down because I refused to allow them to use me as they pleased.
In Matthew 5:39-42 Jesus admonishes, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He does not say that I need to be a doormat. “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” He doesn’t tell me to give away all my clothes. “And whosever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” He did not suggest I carry that person. “Give him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” He did not say give away everything; He said not to turn away.
This isn’t about them. This is about me or you, as the case may be.
Do you have a healthy sense of honor? Do you respect yourself and others? Did you notice that? Yourself and others.
Do you know what honor and respect mean? If you don’t know or aren’t sure, find out. Read some dictionary definitions and some books on the concepts. I popped “honor” into a couple of different search engines on the internet. Then work to add these tools to your toolkit.
“Everyone has turning points in their lives. Something that changes them irrevocably. Sometimes those moments can be pinpointed, but often not. I had one such moment: 1 March 2010. I chose to answer a question posed about my romance reading: Did I preferred Happily Ever After or Happy For Now. This was my reply: HEA or not at all. HFN are just sad, on so many levels. No, I’ve never been blessed with HEA, but I’ve seen it happen for others, and I’m happy for them. HFN is too much like the life I lived, and it wasn’t happy. To live that life required a lack of respect for others and myself, a willingness to use them and allow them to use me. Been there; done that; never going back. I don’t think I’m capable of HEA, but I still believe in it, heart and soul. Yes, I’m alone and have been for a long time, but I finally respect myself and that brings a peace that is absolutely priceless.”
This response was the first time I felt like I honestly respected myself. It was difficult revealing that much of myself, even knowing that it wasn’t a big deal to anyone but me, but I’ve challenged myself to live more honestly, which requires a great deal of vulnerability.
It wasn’t until I started seeing my current counselor that I came to realize how much I lied, to protect myself, to protect others, out of habit. Since that unpleasant eye-opener, I’ve worked relentlessly to think about what I am saying, and am I being honest with myself. When the HEA/HFN question was asked I could have skipped the question, not replying at all, but some part of me knew this was important, to me, to my perception of myself, to greater self-realization. As nervous as I was to push that “publish post” button, there was also a new sense of self. I didn’t try to placate or please anyone. I asked myself the question and endeavored to search for a concise answer that would help me understand myself and cut away some of the lies I’ve always told myself. The answer was true for me, and I thought, “Wow! I’m getting it! I’m changing! I’ll never be the same.”
Sigh. Then a couple of events happened, shortly after this realization. I attended a reunion and an open house, two completely different groups of people, and an astonishing contrast in my behavior and perceptions and participation.
I am able to be honest with myself when I have time to think things through and question every thought, examine it, explore it, and test myself before I have to reveal it to anyone. Editing is a necessity.
It’s a whole different story when I find myself actually talking to people, and being asked questions. Answers pop out that are automatic. I respond in ways that speak back to my old thoughts and feelings. I don’t want others to feel left out. I don’t want others to be hurt. I don’t want anyone to feel like he or she is an outsider. I know what that feels like, and I don’t want it for anyone else, even if it means I’m uncomfortable or unhappy or feel used or ignored in order to make someone else feel better. Not very respectful to myself.
At least now I am more aware of how deep-seated the behavior is, but how do I change it? Respect for myself demands that I make the decision to change, and follow through.
It was after this realization that I spent the summer studying honor and learned that I was pretty clueless, but I’m catching on now. I’m discovering what it means to take responsibility for my choices, and realizing how angry I am that so many people, as imperfect as I am, think they have the right to dictate to me what I should do, eat, buy, believe. No more!
I will not stand by idly, basically unchanged, and simply allow my life to slip away. I’d rather go down fighting than with a whimper. I’ve permitted too many decisions to be made by default, pretending it was God’s will. Choosing to make honor and respect a part of my life demands that I change.
God gave me a brain to think with and a heart to pray with and free will to choose to stand with Him or not. We’re all born with the light of Christ (a conscience, if you prefer), and it is by our choices that we encourage that fire to burn brighter or extinguish it. It isn’t too late to blow on an ember and watch it revive and blaze once more.
© 2010 The Project: The Tools I Wish I’d Known About Sooner / My Abuse Survivor’s Basic Toolkit by Judy