Today is the first Father’s Day without my dad, and I’m good - I was simply reflecting on my interviews with him last year and one theme he had running throughout his beliefs was an unwillingness to give up on people. He had an eternal hope in the worst of the worst ultimately being reconciled.
My father made many mistakes, as we all do; but when I listened to his life story told so matter-of-factly, I kept thinking, “how did he not give up at that point?”, and a few minutes later the same thought crossed my mind, and a few minutes later, and so on.
One thing he did not do was render a final verdict on a person. He lived incredibly free in his heart that way. Situations which he faced were genuinely unreasonable, unthinkable and unimaginable to most of us. Yet, his ability to soldier forward versus our general readiness to give up is sobering. I asked him about acutely vindictive people in his life who had harmed our family overtly. He said, “I hope they find peace in their hearts.”
You’ve heard the sentiment to “pray for your enemies.” He honestly did that. People whom we should’ve sued at the least or “taken out” if this were the Wild West, he just wished them the best. I’d start a sentence, “remember that dirtbag who...” and my dad would interject, “that’s a person.”
From a certain point-of-view, one could call this resourcefulness. Not many people could see the opportunity hidden within “impossible” odds. It’s a skill to be sure.
I think about how it applies in emotional management and the health and fitness domains. There is always hopeful possibility. But you must train your brain to see it.
I’m not pretending there aren’t genuine challenges or enemies. I’m merely stating that my own propensity to label a person or situation was counterproductive. I was really used to thinking of enemies as “evil” or “idiotic” or “uninformed.” But now I see it more like enemies are “damaged” and “hurt” and “scared.” Rather than destroy them, I pity them. I try to figure out a way for compassion toward them.
You can apply this concept however. Trying to pretend like you know the future, and it must be “impossible” is immature thinking. You have seen the worst leaders on earth give rise to the best. You have seen the best leaders give rise to the worst. You have seen yourself go from weakness to strength and vice versus. It’s all impermanent.
In fitness, I’ve worked with some of the most physically and psychologically damaged people on earth. The breakthrough is often a mere step away. But the location of that step is in the ONE place where that person won’t place her foot. There’s pain in that step. There’s a history in that step. Or on that step there’s a label which we refuse to change.
No matter how great the challenge, the threat, or the enemy, there is always hopeful possibility. We can see it. And we can make it true. Or we can fight indignantly to make it untrue, occupying our minds in a never-ending series of witch hunts and victim narratives.
I still have a stubborn part of my heart which believes most people won’t try to unburden their hearts, or they won’t challenge themselves to love an enemy, or they will fly first to a set of thoughts which reinforces personal victimhood.
But my dad would say “that’s a person” and “I hope they find peace in their hearts.”
Happy Father’s Day