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We're All Orphans

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 307

There's just a lot of pain, anger, bitterness and grief here and I just wanted to offer to take some time to give you some support, relief, and feedback. Ouch!

People-oriented people (like "Counselors") have difficulty with rejection. It appears most of the comments below relate to that. It's a "biggie." The others relate to your sense of self-identity. As your reading of Cloud's Changes That Heal indicates, any relationship that one who has no solid, healthy self-identity and sense of self will be unhealthy, unfulfilling and dominated/sustained by things peripheral to mature, vulnerable, sharing relationships.

Such "peripherals" include sex, money, things, etc. Indeed, any of these relationships are essentially dead end relationships. Unless the cycle is broken, the pattern of isolate will perpetuate itself in endless string of "non-relationship relationships." This simply means relationships that are based on the peripherals.

What this means, then, is that the path toward healthy relationships starts with one's self. One has to be able to bring a strong, healthy sense of self-identity to any "table" of relationship.

What this means is that...

1) Sooner or later we must recognize that all of us are orphans. Whether by death, tragedy, emotional separation/distance/rejection, or by marriage, we must be able to develop an identity apart from and totally independent of the approval or rejection by parents (Painful stuff!). 

But it is the final stage of the normal developmental stages involved in maturity. Until we're 40 we can blame the parents. After that, we have to realize it's not them controlling our lives anymore. It's us

Sounds like Pogo, doesn't it!? Jesus talked about this relative to the Kingdom of God (faith). "Unless one hates their mother and father, they are not worthy of Me." The word in the Greek IS "hate." It doesn't mean despise them. It just means to no longer be controlled by their "love" or "control", etc.

2) Through the pain we must recognize that the healing of the pain of rejection, loneliness and emptiness is the pain of an existential searching for our own self. Who are we really? Are we doing in our lives what we really want to do? Or are outside forces (approval, fear of rejection, etc) really driving our lives.

3) When we finally realize that we do have a valid, self-supporting, God and self-confirming sense of self, we find that losses are always involved. And so are faith issues. St. Paul puts this in terms of self-denial and taking up Christ's cross. This denial means to renounce control (recall Philippians 2:5ff....Jesus didn't think that He needed to keep "sporting" His powers. He renounced them... completely!!!

4) This renunciation of control also means that we will necessarily become Children of GOD. Note that this spiritual condition doesn't occur until we "hate" our parents, give up control, and let go and let God. This is akin to the first steps of AA's "Twelve Step" program. Humble yourself to the higher power...and admit weaknesses.

5) When we renounce control, it's a "free fall of faith." Yes, it is painful. But it's where the greatest growth really is. The issues here are: Will you let God change you the way He wishes? Are you willing to following Him and trust Him in the most completely vulnerable way?

6) As the above become resolved in a healthy, God-pleasing way, the pain of searching then starts leading to the recognition that God does have a calling/purpose. To follow that is, need I say, healthy. Finding this purpose is the healing for the loneliness, emptiness and despair which happens in Steps 1-5. The frustrating thing is that this calling is not something one can plan, control or manipulate. It's found...quite accidentally...after a series of "coincidental" but at-the-time insignificant events. But the little "A-ha!" experiences will click.

7) The basic lesson in all this is to let go. Unfortunately, this is not a one-time lesson. It is on-going. God repeats the cycle endlessly throughout our life so that we learn to let go of all areas of our lives. 

Ultimately the goal of this is to prepare us for death, the ultimate letting go. But death is also the initial realization of the greatest oneness and fullest relationship with God possible. So, all these "letting go"'s are really God working with us to help us discover real, healthy relationships. It's his way of killing two birds with one stone. It's nice to know God CAN be efficient. Imagine if He wasn't! How Painful!!!

8) The resolution of this comes completely to some, incompletely to others, and totally repudiated and avoided by others. The time frame can be relatively short  or long, depending on the individual, the circumstances, etc.

9) The pain is always in proportion to the need for change. The sooner and more directly one deals with it, the more painful it is initially...but the sooner and more complete the healing. That's why denial--in whatever form--is not your best friend in this. It's not anyone else's issue...but your own. Overall, I think that the resolution can take anywhere from 2-5 years for beginning and developing a truly lasting basis for the new mode of living.

10) Grief is a tough, tough thing. But grief points one to where the growth is.

Here's another quote from a very interesting book entitled, Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst.

"Probably the greatest reason why we tend to rebel against our developing individual identity is because we feel it to have come between and to becoming increasingly between our self and the mother with whom we once shared a world-embracing oneness. We must count among our necessary losses the giving up of this world-embracing oneness. We will never give up wanting to retrieve it." (NL, p. 39).

One other thing about grief. With all due respect and apologies to Kuebler-Ross, grief has more than just five stages. It's the unknown stages that can be most difficult for those in grief.

"Loss gives rise to anxiety when the loss is either impending or thought to be temporary. Anxiety contains a kernel of hope. But when loss appears to be permanent, anxiety--protest--gives way to depression--despair--and we may not only feel lonely and sad but responsible ("I drove her away") and helpless ("I can do nothing to bring her back") and unlovable ("There is something about me that makes me unworthy of love") and hopeless ("Therefore I'll feel this way forever!").
Studies show that early childhood losses make us sensitive to losses we encounter later on. An so, in mid-life, our response to a death in the family, a divorce, the loss of a job, may be a severe depression--the response of that helpless and hopeless, and angry child." (Viorst, p. 32).

One final quote: 

"We begin life with loss....But until we can learn to tolerate our physical and psychological separateness, our need for our mother's presence is absolute. It's hard to become a separate self, to separate both literally and emotionally, to be able to outwardly stand alone and to inwardly feel ourselves to be distinct. 
There are losses we'll have to sustain, though they may be balances by our gains, as we move away from the body and being of our mothers...what prevents us from doing that is the high cost of leaving, the high cost of the loss, the cost of separation. In some cases this cost of leaving one's mother is too high....too often, people refuse to leave because they can endure anything but abandonment from their mother." (Viorst, pp. 22-23)

This is what all of us must do. After all, we all are orphans to the world so that we might become children of God. I guess there's no birth--physical, emotional or spiritual--without pain, huh? 

Thank God that no matter how this orphan-ization occurs in our life, that He has come and purposed to give us life--abundantly. Become "orphaned" and start living in the fullness of this abundant life in the love of Him we call "Father."

Thomas F. Fischer

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:38 PM