Declaration of Independence – July 4, 1776:

July4th-1

Memories of Dad

Independence Day was one of Dad’s favorite holidays and the source of some of my most cherished childhood memories. My dad loved fireworks, homemade ice cream, and watermelon. I have many wonderful memories of tasting the salt water as it leaked out as Dad cranked to make the ice cream. Like most kids, I would drive Dad crazy asking him over and over if the ice cream was done. There is nothing quite as good as homemade ice cream. Something I miss in today’s modern world.

In stark contrast to most of my memories of Dad, Dad would behave like an irresponsible adolescent when it came to fireworks. One of the funnest things I can remember was Dad and his friends from the CSP using various items to aim bottle rockets as they shot them off at the end of the street. They would even hold onto the bottle rockets and black cats before they threw them in the air just after lighting the fuse. Safety was not their first thought, yet fortunately I do not recall anyone getting hurt. Of course, this is something I would never let my children do today.

As much as I treasure these memories of Dad, I am humbled by the historic significance of Independence Day. Over two hundred years ago fifty-six men of diverse backgrounds worked through their differences to reach an agreement of the highest ideals proclaimed in the “Declaration of Independence”. These men risked everything for the belief that men of all walks of life had been given the right from the creator to govern themselves. After thirteen bloody hard fought years, twenty-three of the thirty-nine men that signed the “United States Constitution” were veterans that had fought and survived the Revolutionary War to guaranteed Americans these historic freedoms we all enjoy today.

I am astounded of the bold impassioned words first drafted by Thomas Jefferson with the aid of both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. In one sentence, these men were able to captured the core character that would shape democracy of both our country and the world:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is impossible to appreciate in today’s world how radical the concept that it was “self-evident, that all men are created equal”. The foresight and determination of these men to see that these words would survive all the debates and remain listed so prominently in this document is astonishing considering the obvious contradictions of the society of that time. Although the atrocious practice of slavery would remain in practice for nearly another century, the genesis of the abolition of slavery would be the belief in these very words written by Thomas Jefferson (himself a slave owner).

This radical concept would guide James Madison as he drafted the beginning of the constitution with the prominent words “We the People”. With these three words, Madison established the basis of democracy. It would be these three words that would inspire Abraham Lincoln to say in his iconic Gettysburg Address, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” It is this revolutionary idea that guides not only our country, these words are the basis of every democracy in the world today. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Genealogy research disclosed that I am blessed to be the direct descendant of at least nine dads that fought and served as privates in the front lines of the American Revolutionary War. It is due to their scarifies that today I enjoy the freedom of speech and freedom of religion which allows me to type this blog. Because of men like them, and the many patriotic men and women that have followed their example to fight to preserve this radical experiment, democracy lives on “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This day serves as a reminder to all of us that we should never forget the legacy that has been passed on to each and everyone that is blessed to live in this great country. My dad made it a point that I should always strive to do what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do, just as we are taught in the Bible. For if each of us (the people) continues to strive to actively do what is right, setting aside our differences to work together, the freedom of democracy “shall not perish from the Earth.

July4

God bless America!

 

 

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
Advertisements

The Danger of Holding onto Anger:

Twain

In my earlier blog (see post: Learning to Control My Anger), I describe how my Dad made a memorable point of how he expected me to “hold myself to a higher standard”. I can look back now and see how my dad taught a stubborn kid with a short fuse “to be slow to anger” as he knew anger leads “only to evil”. Dad did not know, yet God did, that following that cold day in December my ability to deal with anger would be be put to the test.

To be angry, even intensely angry, after a sudden traumatic loss of a loved one is normal and to be expected as it simply is a reaction to the pain of losing someone you loved. According to the most widely accepted model of how people deal with grief, the Kübler-Ross Grief model identifies anger as one of the five emotional stages that most people will experience during grief. Since anger is normal, the question becomes how do we deal with this anger. How to preclude ourselves from holding onto this anger and not allowing it to take root in our persona.

Good people suffer all the time when they do not know how to deal with the adverse powerful effects of negative emotions. This happens when these negative emotions are held onto and allowed to take root in their persona. As distressing as it is to see how anger not only results in the tragic death of a beloved person, it is even more devastating when multiple additional people are consumed and lost to the anger generated from this tragedy. Often the people marred are the people closest to the person that was tragically lost. By holding on to their anger, they too became additional victims of the same event, not survivors as God intended.

Joel Osteen[1], author and Senior Pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States, understood that we have an important choice in how we respond to the actions of others:

“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let…things upset you.”[2]

Due to his childhood, Dad understood what anger does to relationships. Dad had known how anger can twist and distort our judgement to the point where we retaliate only to the pain when we lose sight of our own morality. In Genesis 4:4-8, God warned us of the danger of anger in the story of Cain and Abel:

“Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’ Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”[3]

If I had focused on how the men murdered Dad, instead of all the great memories I had of Dad, I could have easily ended up like Cain. If I would have given into anger as Cain had, I too would have lost everything Dad had taught me, just as Cain had lost his morality when he killed his own brother. Instead, God guided me to make a choice not to focus on the men that had killed my dad. By God focusing me on the loving memories I had of Dad, God allowed me to let go of any malice as I had been taught not to hold onto my pain and anger. This is a gift I will always be thankful for.

turtle

This may be one of the reasons I find the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Buddhist monk “The Dalai Lama[4] so fascinating. Combined with his engaging personality, his inquisitive nature, and open minded approach to life, this leader of a tiny overrun country has incredibly become a best selling author with his captivating charm that is something of an enigma in our western culture. In the following quotes, The Dalai Lama explains the danger of emotions anger and hatred if they are embraced:

“I believe that generally speaking, anger and hatred are the type of emotions which, if you leave them unchecked or unattended, tend to aggravate and keep on increasing. If you simply get more and more used to letting them happen and just keep expressing them, this usually results in their growth, not their reduction. So, I feel that the more you adopt a cautious attitude and actively try to reduce the level of their force, the better it is.”

“We cannot overcome anger and hatred simply by suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate the antidotes to hatred: patience and tolerance…When we are engaged in the practice of patience and tolerance, in reality, what is happening is you are engaged in a combat with hatred and anger.”[5]

“Anger is the real destroyer of our good human qualities; an enemy with a weapon cannot destroy these qualities, but anger can. Anger is our real enemy.”

“If we live our lives continually motivated by anger and hatred, even our physical health deteriorates.”

“Happiness cannot come from hatred or anger. Nobody can say, ‘Today I am happy because this morning I was angry.’ On the contrary, people feel uneasy and sad and say, ‘Today I am not very happy, because I lost my temper this morning.’ ”[6]

The views on the dangers of anger held by The Dalai Lama seem to harmonize with the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. Similar to how The Dalai Lama teaches patience and tolerance, Jesus stressed this theme in what is considered his most impactful sermon. In His Sermon on the Mount, three of the eight points Jesus emphasized to his disciples in the Beatitudes were the antithesis to anger, hatred, and bitterness. In the Beatitudes, Jesus pronounced:

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” [7]

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”[8]

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”[9]

Jesus would underscore these pronouncements by warning his disciples not to respond to murder with anger. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus first reminded disciples of the teachings in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 where we are taught “…You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment”. In the very next verse, Mathew 5:22, Jesus warns us that “…if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment![10], asserting that to be angry is viewed as harshly by God as murder. Jesus continued by clarifying with his disciples in Matthew 5:38-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”[11]

Again, the Apostle Paul would echo these teachings in Romans 12:14-21:

“If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him…Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible…Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”[12]

Just as Dad had taught me that I should hold myself to a higher standard, the Apostle Paul was teaching that if you are a Christian, you are expected to make every effort to hold yourself to a higher standard so we could “conquer evil by doing good”. As Christians, we are taught that we must never seek personal retribution, no matter what has been done to us. Similarly, Jesus made it clear we are to “love our enemies” so we must never wish personal harm to someone that has harmed us. This is how we as Christians are expected to hold ourselves to a higher standard. This is how Jesus taught us to stop the dehumanizing cycle of seeking vengeance as justice.

MLK

To understand why Jesus was teaching us to hold ourselves to this higher standard, I believe we have to look no further than what happened in the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. This feud is reputed to have started over the alleged theft of a hog from the Kentucky family of Randall McCoy by the cousin of West Virginia’s Devil Anse Hatfield. This single act would lead to at least twelve murders over the next twelve years.

As the bad feelings were building between the families of Randall McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield, the first personal vengeance was taken when three sons of Randall McCoy killed the brother of Devil Anse Hatfield. Devil Anse Hatfield and his family retaliated by raiding into Kentucky, arresting the Randall’s three sons, and executed all three sons in West Virginia without a trial. Each side continued to take matters in their own hand, avenging one wrong after another until it escalated to the barbaric murders of two daughters of Randall McCoy as the Hatfields assaulted and burned down Randall’s home in Kentucky.

Jesus knew that when we take the law into our own hands we give evil control of our life. If we take personal revenge, we are now no better than the person that originally wronged us. Jesus knew the only way to avoid this endless cycle of evil, the evil exhibited in the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, we had to learn to leave retribution to God. By trusting in God, we can trust that God will enforce justice here on earth though our laws, hold them accountable after their time on earth is over, or both.

It is critical to understand that Jesus is urging us to take this course for our own well-being, not for the benefit of those who have done us wrong. Jesus does not want us to succumb to the same evil that has harmed us, as this is how evil gains control of our life. Jesus did not want us to suffer the same fate as the Hatfields and McCoys. Instead, Jesus is guiding us to a path that will allow us both to live a positive life during our remaining time here on earth and so that we will not face the same condemnation people that committed evil against us when it is our time to go before God.

Like Dad, Mom too understood this important choice we have to make to avoid the hatred that anger can lead to in our life. Instead of falling into the trap of anger, Mom instead focused on the Christian faith she shared with Dad. A few months after Dad was murdered, Mom provided the following profound statement explaining why she did not hate the men that had so ruthlessly murdered her husband in cold blood:

“I don’t have any hatred for the men, I don’t think I could live with this type of thing. It is hard enough to accept death to begin with, and, to accept murder is very difficult. But to accept hatred as part of your life – just won’t make life worthwhile. And you just can’t do that. I want them apprehended very badly…for them not to pay for what they have done is wrong…”[13]

Mom was able to understand how to separate letting go of the anger so she could recover in a healthy way without hatred from what needed to take place in the legal system. Mom served as a phenomenal example to each of us kids on how Jesus expected us to let go of our anger so we could avoid the hatred, resentment, and bitterness that embracing anger leads to in your life. Mom was an inspiration on how to become a survivor, which lead to first her involvement in Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and then my involvement in C.O.P.S. through her example. She wanted the murders to be held accountable in the legal system and understood that she did not need to hold on to the destructive anger and hatred for that to happen.

In his book, The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, the great evangelist Billy Graham warned us of the dangers of condoning the destructive emotion of anger in our lives:

“Every destructive emotion bears its own harvest, but anger’s fruit is the most bitter of all. Uncontrolled anger is a devastating sin, and no one is exempt from its havoc. It shatters friendships and destroys marriages; it causes abuse in families and discord in business; it breeds violence in the community and war between nations. Its recoil, like that of a high-powered rifle, often hurts the one who wields it as well as its target. Anger makes us lash out at others, destroying relationships…”  

“…we must stop making excuses for our anger or bad temper-blaming it on our parents, for example, or claiming we have every right to be angry because of something that happened to us in the past. We also must face honestly the toll anger and bitterness takes on our lives. They are our enemies. The Bible says, ‘An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered on commits many sins’ (Proverbs 29:22)…Never underestimate anger’s destructive power.” [14]

Later in my life I would have the opportunity to serve on the National Board of C.O.P.S. where I would discover the harsh reality of how anger can destroy a person. Good people suffer all the time when they did not know how to deal with the adverse powerful effects of negative emotions when they allow these negative emotions to take root in their persona. It was distressing to see how anger and bitterness not only resulted in the tragic death of the person in the Line-of-Duty, but could devastate multiple lives when the anger was allowed to develop into bitterness and resentment. By holding on to their anger, they too became additional victims of the same event, not survivors as God intended.

redheadbird

The people closest to the officer that had been killed, naturally experience anger following the death of a loved one. This can be even more dangerous when the anger seems so justified due to the circumstances of their loved ones death, as it would have been in the case of Dad’s murder. Justification does not lesson the trap anger represents, instead it intensifies the danger. The more justified a person feels they are to be angry, the easier it becomes to rationalize remaining angry and giving in to these negative emotions. This is the trap, the longer a person remains angry the easier it is for them to lose themselves to hatred, resentment, and bitterness. It is in this way the evil of anger can sadly consume multiple lives, when these negative emotions are allowed to take over the persona of anyone that has tragically lost a loved one.

God bless!

 

[1] Joel Osteen is a televangelist, author, and the Senior Pastor of Lakewood Church, in Houston, Texas.

[2] Heslop, Jessica. 2014. ‘Step By Step: How To Free Yourself From Negative Emotions – Purpose Fairy’. Purpose Fairy. http://www.purposefairy.com/70068/step-by-step-how-to-free-yourself-from-negative-emotions/.

[3] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[4] The 14th Dalai Lama describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1959, with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, the Dalai Lama was forced to escape into exile to Dharamsala, northern India.

[5] Falahee, Jamie. 2012. ‘How To Deal With Anger (According To The Dalai Lama)’. Heallovebe. http://heallovebe.com/2012/05/22/how-to-deal-with-anger-according-to-the-dalai-lama/.

[6] Bond, Annie. 2015. Care2.Com. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-dalai-lama-s-wisdom-about-anger.html.

[7] Matthew 5:5, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[8] Matthew 5:7, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[9] Matthew 5:9, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[10] New Living Translation (NLT).

[11] New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[12] The Living Bible (TLB).

[13] “Tom Carpenter A Proud Patrolman”. 1974. Patrol 829 Volume 1, Number 1 (q): Page 3.

[14] The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by Billy Graham, Published by W Publishing Group (2005). Pg 180.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Introduction to Police Week and Forgiveness:

forgiveness

Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) did not exist when my dad was murdered in the Line-of-Duty, so it would not be until after I relocated to South Carolina that I would be introduced to the special work done by this extraordinary organization. At this time, I had little interest in C.O.P.S., or what Mom was doing with this charity, as I was too focused on starting my own career in federal law enforcement. Not long after my wife and I had relocated, FBI Special Agent James Horn and my mom approached me about coming to the next Police Week. They hoped I would speak at a “Forgiveness” workshop in which  Mom was helping Special Agent Horn with at the next conference held by C.O.P.S. during the days that surround the National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

This workshop was designed to help survivors understand the need for “Forgiveness” in the grieving process as it allows the survivors to overcome the anger that all too often leads to bitterness, resentment, and at times hatred. Special Agent Horn explained that it would be casual and all I would need to do is tell my story about how I dealt with my dad being killed in the Line-of-Duty, focusing on how I felt about the men that had killed my dad. Incidentally, Special Agent Horn had been assigned to the Denver FBI office at the time Dad was killed thus had assisted in the investigation of his murder. Special Agent Horn was also good friends with the police psychologist that had contacted me about first talking to a surviving family (see: Responding to the Call). Again, it is astounding to me how God weaves events in our lives together so they can lead to a purpose you never would have foreseen.

This was way out of my comfort zone and I really did not want to do it. The only time I had talked about how I had dealt with the death of my dad, there were only four other people in a small office. Moreover, at the time I did not fully grasp the premise of “forgiveness” in this context, nor did I understand how my story had anything to do with “forgiveness”. Special Agent Horn and Mom convinced me that my story worked with what Special Agent Horn was doing with this workshop and that this would again be a great way to give back to everyone that had helped our family over the years. As before, extremely reluctantly I agreed to do it.

A short time before Police Week, Mom let me know that she would not be able to attend the C.O.P.S. conference that year. As a result, she would not be there to assist with the “Forgiveness” workshop I had agreed to speak at. This made me more nervous and anxious than ever. Nevertheless, Mom convinced me that everything would be fine, all I had to do was contact Special Agent Horn when I arrived and he would take care of everything. With apprehension, I nervously agreed to keep my commitment and drove to Washington DC to speak at this “Forgiveness” workshop as planned.

As soon as I arrived at the hotel that was hosting the C.O.P.S. Conference for Police Week I realized how much I had underestimated what I had allowed myself to be talked into. The size and the scope of the event was way beyond anything I had ever experienced. The event consumed the entire hotel, and the hotel was designed for conventions in our Nation’s Capital. There were officers from all parts of the country escorting the survivors along with the families themselves. The sense of emotion was unmistakable, much like a funeral the air was full of stress, despair, pain, loss, fear, and anger. I felt overwhelmed and full of trepidation.

As I arrived at the conference room reserved for the workshop, I felt as though I had been mislead. The room seated at least 40-50 people and there was a film crew setting up their equipment. Special Agent Horn had decided to take this opportunity and have the crew film my story along with the story of FBI Special Agent Judson Ray[1]. Special Agent Ray had recently told his story on the top rated CBS television news show “60 Minutes”. Special Agent Horn hoped to use the video as part of his “Forgiveness” workshops in the future. At this moment I realized I was totally unprepared, out of my league, and wondered what I had allowed myself to be talked into doing.

After Special Agent Horn made his presentation on the need for “forgiveness”, he asked me to speak first. I was dressed casually, had no notes, and had a hard time seeing anyone through the bright lights of the camera crew. As I nervously began telling my story, God seemed to help settle me and allow me to recall details I had long forgotten as I told my story better than I thought possible. I was surprised as I slowly began to sense how so many of the survivors seemed to relate to much of what I had to say. I was even more surprised when Special Agent Horn said it was a powerful story and he would later ask me to come back the next year to help him again.

FBI Special Agent Ray went next. He was a senior agent, a member of the FBI’s Behavior Science Unit made famous by retired FBI Special Agent John Douglas’ book “Mind Hunter”, a Vietnam veteran, former police officer and homicide detective. Wearing a perfect suit, and working with prepared notes, Special Agent Ray was exceptionally well prepared. To my amazement, the first thing Special Agent Ray said was that he felt I had stolen his speech. As he then told his amazing story flawlessly. It was obvious he was an accomplished speaker and had done this numerous times. As he spoke, I felt confirmation that I had no business speaking on the same stage with him.

In 1981, Special Agent Ray had been ambushed at his apartment by three hired contract assassins and shot several times in his back, leaving him for dead with a collapsed lung. As he recovered from his wounds the investigation determined Special Agent’s Ray wife had hired the men that had tried to kill him after Ray had informed her he wanted a divorce and custody of his daughters. Instead of collecting on her husband’s life insurance, his wife was convicted as were the men she had hired to kill him.

As he recovered from his wounds. Special Agent Ray realized that to survive both emotionally and physically, he must find the capacity to forgive his wife and the men she hired to kill him. Special Agent Ray had not been a particularly religious man. Yet, God had disclosed to him that the path to becoming a survivor required forgiveness. Speaking at a Critical Incident Conference at the FBI Academy, Special Agent Ray asserted that the most important thing he could think of to help any survivor was:

“Bring that person to forgiveness. Yes, we may be able to function, but we cannot be whole until we forgive.”[2]

Over the years I worked with Special Agent Horn a few more times during Police Week. As a result, I spent a great deal of time engaged in introspection as I tried to gain a deeper understanding of the context of “forgiveness” as it related to my story. It was important to me to know how I could do a better job conveying this important message to others, and I thought that started with having a better understanding of “forgiveness” in the context of the workshop.

kushner

My story was simple, at least it was simple to me. I never spent any time thinking about the men that killed my dad. In my mind, they simply were not worth my time or thought. In a single moment in time these men had taken Dad from me forever and I was not going to allow them to take anything more from me. If I spent even one moment thinking about them, in my mind, it would allow what they had done to overshadow what my Dad had done. Time and memories were all I had left and I was not going to waste it focusing on what they had done in that single moment. Instead, I wanted to concentrate all my time remembering and honoring Dad. I only had Dad for nine plus years and I wanted to remember as much of what he had taught me during that time as I possibly could.

In this simple way I was able to avoid the trap of anger that naturally comes with focusing on the pain that had been inflicted on me and my family when these cruel men killed my dad. Yet it was more than just that. By holding on to the lessons I had been taught by my dad I was able to control my anger to the point I was simply able to let it go. Remembering how my dad had taught me not to hate and to hold myself to a higher standard, I was able to avoid lowering myself to the level of hate the these men had exercised when they ruthlessly executed my dad. When God focused my thoughts on the dad I had, I was blessed as the wonderful memories I had of Dad would protect me from the dangerous path of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hate.

During my journey to comprehend forgiveness, I came to understand that all of us have been wronged at some point and if we hold onto the pain we felt from that moment we will eventually develop anger, bitterness, and resentment. All of which lead to hatred. The more justified we feel we are, the more difficult it becomes to see what the angry, bitterness, resentment, and hate are doing to us. Regrettably, the greater the hold these negative emotions have on us, the less we see the effect it has on the people we love the most. The more entrenched the anger, resentment, hatred, and bitterness becomes in our lives; the more these negative emotions will diminish our ability to give and accept love. This is why Jesus stressed our need to forgive after he emphasized the most important commandment is to love God and then love our neighbor as we need to forgive to do this wholeheartedly.

mlk-2

I believe this is the significance of Jesus warning his disciples of the dangers of responding to murder with anger (Matthew 5:21-22). There was a important reason that in Mathew 5:25 Jesus advises us to “…settle our differences quickly…[3]. I believe Christ was warning us to forgive quickly so we could avoid the anger we experience when someone murders a loved one from taking root in our lives. I believe this is why Christ led the Apostle Paul to advise the Ephesians to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you[4]. To help us avoid this anger from taking root, I believe Christ lead the Apostle Paul to advise the Philippians in Philippians 4:8[5] that they should focus their minds on the good things God has done in their lives.

In Luke 6:37, Jesus added “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.[6] Jesus wanted us to be able to forgive, so we could be forgiven; because he wanted us to be able to love, to be able to be loved. Although Jesus advised us to “settle our differences quickly” in Mathew 5:25, I believe Jesus understood that not all of us would be able to do this. I believe Jesus emphasized forgiving quickly as he was trying to protect us from allowing anger, hatred, and bitterness, from taking hold within us.

In his book, The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World, the great evangelist Billy Graham proclaims the transforming power to be found when we forgive:

“…be quick to seek not only God’s forgiveness, but also the forgiveness of those you hurt. If you have been harboring anger or bitterness or jealousy in your heart toward someone – a parent, an ex-spouse, a boss – hand it over to Christ, and ask Him to help you let it go. In addition, discover the transforming power of forgiving others…” [7]

My personal journey has taught me that strong negative emotions can eventually cause us to emotionally shut down and withdraw from everyone that loves us. This can lead us to withdraw into a place so dark that we are in danger of never finding our way out. These emotions are so strong that they can slowly take over our life and prevent us from expressing and receiving love, because love is the polar opposite emotion to anger, bitterness, and hatred. It is through this “transforming power of forgiving others” that we free ourselves to heal and move forward with our lives. By forgiving others we are freeing ourselves from the past allowing us to be a survivor. In contrast, when we hold onto the past and do not forgive we remain ensnared in the psychological trauma of victimization.

God bless!

 

[1] FBI Special Agent Judson Ray was nearly killed when he was shot at his home by two men hired by his wife to kill him.

[2] Bromley, John S. 1991. ‘Suicide – The Survivor’. LEO-Trainer. http://www.leotrainer.com/suicidesurvivor.pdf.

[3] New Living Translation (NLT).

[4] Ephesians 4:31-32, New International Version (NIV).

[5] Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” English Standard Version (ESV)

[6] New International Version (NIV).

[7] The Journey: Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by Billy Graham, Published by W Publishing Group (2005). Pg 181.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Why We Need Good Samaritans

agassi

In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

roosevelt

Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

thepatriot

This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

Understanding Myself

lighthouse-2-top

The American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, claimed “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I had certainly reached a point that I was lost, yet it would take years for me to come to understand how I had come to be lost. Although I did not know it at the time, I now can see that by leaving me no other option God was guiding me back to the path He had meant for me to take all along. It was at this point I began the process of “understanding myself” as I slowly came to realize the tenacity I had been born with would allow me to obtain my full potential or lead to my own demise. The choice was mine, I could make my own path or I could accept the guidance and unconditional love Christ had promised.

As a teenage boy without a father, Mom felt that it was important that I spend as much time with her brother as possible. My uncle and dad had been like brothers, and our families had spent a great deal of time together. My uncle’s oldest son was only a year younger than I was and our bond would develop over time to be more like brothers than cousins. My uncle was the perfect role model for me, perfect for anyone, and to this day I realize how fortunate I was to have my uncle make himself available to me, to be my Good Samaritan! Just as God would always be there for me, I have come to recognize that I could always rely on my uncle to be there for me.

A short time before dad was murdered, my uncle received a promotion and relocated his family to Southeastern Alaska. By my freshman year, I had spent a portion of several summers in Alaska with my uncle and his family. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than to be on a boat fishing for salmon with my uncle in Alaska. For me Alaska was a huge wondrous playground. While fishing I could watch bald eagles, humpback whales, and pods of orca (killer whales). On land as I hiked along paths and trails, I could watch salmon spawning in the streams, watch ice calving (breaking and falling) from a glacier, pick wild berries, and even get to see a bear from time to time. Amazingly, my cousin and I once even backpacked to an island at low tide so my uncle could pick us up with his boat at high tide the next day. Alaska was simply one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. I loved Alaska, loved to fish, and most of all loved spending time with my uncle and his family!

I do not remember it, yet Mom has reminded me that after I had stopped going to school during my freshman year (see blog posts: Avoiding the Darkness and the The Road Less Traveled) my uncle flew down from Alaska just to see if he could help me work things out so I could get back in school. I can only assume I have repressed this memory too as it simply has proven to be too painful for me to fully acknowledge this failure to my uncle.

After talking to me, my uncle thought if he drove me to school I would be fine. As my uncle was driving me to school it became quite clear to him that I was not ready to return to school so he changed course. Instead of driving me to school, my uncle drove around with me for several hours in one of the nearby scenic national parks. Although I have no recollection of what was said, as I look back on this today I have no doubt God was involved as this would prove to be another strand in the unbreakable bond of the faith God has instilled between my uncle and me. Just as God had proven to me that He was always there that day I threw the rock, I have come to know I can always count on my uncle to be there for me in good times, tough times, and all the times in between.

Just as the profit Isaiah said in Isaiah 41:10:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”[1]

As my mom gently pressed me to return to school, I realized the only way to convince her I could handle things myself was for me to start taking my first steps, retracing my way back down the road I had traveled. This gentle pressure forced me to overcome my fear of another misstep that would again lead into this same darkness I had narrowly avoided. Thus, I carefully started retracing my first few steps back down the road I had traveled. Interestingly, my reaction was similar to an example provided in the study “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking” conducted by Dr. Addis and Dr. Mahalik:

“…if the same man is unable to solve the problem on his own, he may choose to see a counselor and characterize his choice as one of taking control or not letting the problem beat him. In doing so, he simultaneously supports the norm of emotional control while seeking help and constructing masculinity as a competition with one’s emotional self.”[2]

lighthouse-2-middle

In my case, I agreed to work with my school academic counselor that graciously offered to helped me determine the correspondence courses I was required to complete to move forward to my sophomore year in high school. It was in this way “I” would take the first steps to prove to my mom that I was “taking control” and “not letting the problem beat” me. Ironically, it would be the same stubborn resolve that led me down the wrong road in the first place that would push me to take the first few steps back in the right direction. It would be these first few steps that would help me avoid dropping out of school. All thanks to the loving push from my mom, as she provided her loving patient support.

As I meticulously worked to remain in school, my uncle had received another promotion, so that following summer he was to report to his new post in Washington, DC. As a result, arrangements were made to send me up to Alaska to spend one last summer with my uncle under the pretext that he needed someone to ride along with him as he drove his truck with his camper to Colorado to store it before proceeding on to his new post. As Alaska was a world away from whatever had happened at my school, I was more than willing to go and spend a last few weeks with my uncle in Alaska and then keep him company as he drove his camper down to Colorado.

Arriving in Alaska did not magically resolve all the issues I was facing. I still could not see the road I was meant to take. As I moved back down the road I was never meant to take, I was moving slow and deliberately, taking small careful steps to avoid another misstep. Honestly, I did not even know what I was looking for, as I still did not understand where I had made the mistakes as I was still trying to do things on my own. Nonetheless, it was a relief to be in a place that was a world away from my school and my peers. Although I know my uncle and aunt knew I had had trouble with school, I do not recall anyone saying a word about it. As it had been during my other summer trips, I was treated as if I was another son, just another member of the family, with chores just like my cousin, and the same unconditional love as if I was one of their own.

Alaska was far from home and would provide me the time and space essential for me to continue to work my way back to the road I was meant to be on. It was the loving support I received from my uncle and his family that would be key to God guiding me back to a road that did not lead into the darkness. The key for me was removing me from the situation as it allowed me to see life without the cloud of the embarrassment I felt from not being able to stand up to my fears. As I realized I was being treated just as I had been before, just like any other member of the family, my vision began to clear. I started to gain a new fresh perspective, I began to realized my life had not been ruined, I was still loved as much after my perceived failure as I had been before.

With the gift of time, I can now look back and see what God was doing in my life. I was still working my way through the fog that clouds our judgment when we have taken the wrong road, the road that leads to the evil trap that lies in the darkness. The fog is there to block out the light, to prevent us from seeing we are not alone, that all is not lost, that there is still hope. Hope is the light that cuts through the fog, that helps us realize we are not alone, that there are always other options. I now understand that Jesus was the source of my hope as He remained at my side patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. Although I had never lost my faith, I had turned away from Christ which would make my journey back to the road I was meant to take all the more difficult. As I tenaciously refused to ask for any help, choosing instead to make it on my own, I still had not fully understood the message of Christ.

As it asserts in the Gospel of John 15:4-8:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit…”[3]

Thankfully, God had afforded me the opportunity, time, and the support to learn a critical lesson in life. I had been forced to face the embarrassment of my failure to face my fear in an extremely public manner that include all of my friends and family. Yet, God had instilled in me the intuition to stop before I stepped into the evil trap that was hidden in the darkness down the road I was traveling. Even though I was not focused on Him at the time, God remained with me and helped me rediscover the endless inner strength my positive memories of dad God had preserved for me. With a push from my mom, God had helped me harness the intense desire never to let anything beat me, including the fierce resolve never to come that close to quitting anything again in my life. Through my uncle, God revealed and clarified the essence of unconditional love God had given me as represented by the loving support I would always have from family.

God bless!

lighthouse-2-bottomjpg

[1] New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Addis, Michael E., and James R. Mahalik. 2003. “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking.”. American Psychologist 58 (1): 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.5.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Road Less Traveled

roadlesstraveled-2

Like so many, for as long as I can recall I have been captivated by the iconic poem, “The Road Not Taken”[1] by Robert Frost. I find it mesmerizing how this artfully crafted poem can both seem to be a simple metaphor on the choices we each must make in our life and at the same time it offers a complexity of permutations of potential interpretations. In this poem, Frost deftly draws us into the emotions of the choice the traveler has taken, drawing us to interject ourselves into the narrative and wondering how this choice applies to our own lives. Frost never clarifies which road is the one “less travelled by” as it is his intention to press the point of indecision, leaving us to speculate on which road was taken. Frost deftly exposes that there is no way to know what lies on either road without making a choice, and once made, that choice will make “all the difference”.

As I write my story, I see a deeper personal meaning of the title of this poem as it relates to this time of my life, a time when I was faced with a critical choice of what road I should follow. At my point of indecision, I only saw the road that lead into darkness and did not sense there was any light on the other side. I was desperate to see another choice, another road that did not lead into this darkness devoid of light. Without seeing another road, I erroneously feared I had I already made my election and had no alternative other than to follow the path in to the darkness. I somehow knew this was a critical moment and my next step would have a tremendous impact on how my life would take shape for years to come. I knew this choice would make “all the difference”.

I was looking for a definitive choice where there was none that I could see. Like many people who experience tragedy, after our life has been shaken to the core by catastrophe all we want are guarantees in our life before we move forward. As Frost was contending the choices we make in life do not come with guarantees. This is what Frost implies when he asserts that as you “looked down” each road as far as you could, each road is “just as fair”, as they both had been “worn…really about the same”. At the time I was not focused on the only guarantee that I would ever find in life, the promise offered by Jesus. Even though I still believed in Jesus and what He had promised, I was too immature, too short-sighted, to see how Jesus could help me with the issues I was dealing with at that time.

For me, the title, “The Road Not Taken” was the key. I was on a road I was never meant to take so I needed to find my way back to “The Road Not Taken”, the road I was meant to take, the road I had missed. I had been on an impossible journey down a road that led only to darkness, a road devoid of light, a path that I now believed led only to depression. This was a road I had foolishly chosen when I decided to turn away from God and take my own path so God would have more time to watch out for my mom, sister, and brother. It had been my choice, as no one had literally expected that I could replace Dad, no one except for me.

Yet, even though I was not focused on Him, Jesus was still focused on me as struggled to make this most most critical decision I would ever make. As a result, somehow Jesus would reach out to me and I realized I still had a choice, I could still change course (see Blog Post: Avoiding the Darkness). It was at this moment I finally recognized for the first time that although I could not reverse time and change the mistakes I had made, that did not mean the mistakes I had made that had taken me off course were irreversible. I was finally able to understand why Jesus had stopped me just short of stepping into the darkness. It was at this moment I at last understood I did not have to continue down this impossible road I was never meant to take. I realized even though I had made a mistake, Jesus was disclosing to me that I could still choose to reverse course so I could find “The Road Not Taken”.

MtTrail-1

Today I am reminded of the “Parable of the Prodigal Son”  Jesus told the apostles in Luke 15:11-32:

“A man had two sons. When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time his money was gone a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the swine looked good to him. And no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

“His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son—’

“But his father said to the slaves, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working; when he returned home, he heard dance music coming from the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on.

“‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the calf we were fattening and has prepared a great feast to celebrate his coming home again unharmed.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.’

“‘Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’”

As I look back over my own life, I can see Jesus teaching us that even when we make mistakes, God will be there patiently waiting for us to return to the path he meant for us. We all make mistakes, yet the most significant mistake any of us can make is to believe our mistakes will prevent us from returning to the path God intended for us. It is a mistake I almost made when I was a hard-headed and impetuous young teenager who believed he did not need help from anyone, even God, as I tried to deal with the painful traumatic loss of my Dad on his own. This was something Jesus not only never intended for me to do, it is something he never intended any of us to do, as Jesus is patiently waiting to help us find our path as a survivor.

God bless!

 

[1] Frost, Robert. Mountain Interval.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Anger Can Cost you Everything:

Anger

The events of todays world demonstrate the astounding tragedy that takes place when people make the choice to hold onto their anger. Even when anger is originally justified, often more so, a person that holds onto anger will ultimately lead to resentment, bitterness, and then hatred. As it asserts in a well known Buddhists maxim, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” This is why I am thankful for the lesson Dad patiently taught me (see post: Learning to Control My Anger) and how God would guid me after his murder (see post: The Danger of Holding onto Anger).

Although the Hindu religion is the third largest faith in the world and has common origins with Buddhism, I know little of the teachings of this faith. Yet, it was not a surprise to see that similar to my Christian faith, the Hindu religion asserts the need to control the emotion of anger. In an article in the Hinduism Today Magazine by Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, anger is referred to as the “Deadliest Emotion”. According to this article:

“Learning to control anger is such an important part of harnessing the instinctive nature that the 2,200-year-old, South Indian scripture on ethics, the Tirukural, devotes an entire chapter to the subject. It is, in fact, the chapter that precedes “Avoidance of Injuring Others “…The Tirukural warns that anger gives rise to teeming troubles. It kills the face’s smile and the heart’s joy. Left uncontrolled, it will annihilate you. It burns even friends and family who try to intervene, and easily leads to injuring others.”

“For those…striving to control anger, there is an important first step. That is to acknowledge that anger is a serious problem that easily leads to violence and is a quality that should be totally absent from those dedicated to making progress in their spiritual life” [1]

As anger is a natural reaction to the tragic loss of a loved one, it is vital for survivors to learn healthy methods to deal with the anger we are likely to feel. Thankfully, we all have the ability to choose how we react to anger and how to deal with it. Understanding and awareness of the danger this strong negative natural emotion of anger represents, particularly the longer we hold on to it, amplifies the need to make choices timely to deal with this emotion before it takes root in our persona. For this reason, in his book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, Rabbi Kushner suggests:

“What do we do with our anger when we have been hurt? The goal, if we can achieve it, would be to be angry at the situation, rather than at ourselves, or at those who might have prevented it or are close to us trying to help us, or at God who let it happen. Getting angry at ourselves makes us depressed. Being angry at other people scares them away and makes it harder for them to help us. Being angry at God erects a barrier between us and all the sustaining, comforting resources of religion that are there to help us at such times. But being angry at the situation, recognizing it as something rotten, unfair, and totally undeserved, shouting about it, denouncing it, crying over it, permits us to discharge the anger which is part of being hurt, without making it harder for us to be helped.”[2]

While I agree with this assessment by Rabbi Kushner and see the merit in his suggestion that a goal “if we can achieve it” would be to redirect all our anger to the situation as it “permits us to discharge the anger which is a part of being hurt, without making it harder for us to be helped.” Though I respect his perspective, this approach still requires a person to discharge their anger in an healthy way. My concern is that by focusing all their anger on a the situation, all this negative emotion could build up making it more difficult to discharge in a controlled healthy manner, and thus, still represents the trap Jesus was instructing us to avoid.

In his book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, author Mitch Albom cautions us of the danger represents to anyone that suppresses their anger and allows it to build up inside them:

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”[3]

Anger is like a poison, a poison Dad had worked hard to protect me from. By holding me to a higher standard, Dad was protecting me by not allowing me to let the poison of anger to take root in me. Dad understood a person could be taught not to respond with anger. This is what my parents, The Dalai Lama, Joel Osteen, Mitch Albom, Rabbi Kushner, the people at C.O.P.S. and Jesus were all trying to help us understand.

Anger-2

It is important to remember that we each have a choice in how we react to negative emotions. It does not matter if your loss is due to cancer, a drunk driver, or a cold blooded murderer. Regardless of the reason for our pain and anger, it is your choice how you deal with it. It this decision that will often determine if we are able to take the path of a survivor or fall into the trap anger represents. An example of what can happen when we fall into the trap of anger is found in the story of Stephen Paceri.

Stephen Paceri was fifty-five years old when he lost control of his anger and made the unfortunate choices to kill both himself and an innocent forty-four year old cardiovascular surgeon named Michael Davidson at one of the nation’s finest medical institutions, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston on January 20, 2015. Pasceri was an accountant, was active in his church, and was licensed to carry a firearm. Although his friends and neighbors described him as a “nice man”, Pasceri had become angry and frustrated at the American health care system after his 79-year-old father died in 2011 and apparently snapped after his 78-year-old mother died in November 2014. Dr. Davidson had been her doctor and, reportedly, there had been some complication.[4]

I do not know the details as to why Pasceri was so angry and frustrated. Nevertheless, I believe the following quote from the extraordinarily popular “Hunger Games” trilogy written by Suzanne Collins illustrates how imprudent and deluded Pasceri’s actions were:

“Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life.

To murder innocent people?” says Peeta.

“It costs everything you are.”[5]

In the “Hunger Games” trilogy, Peeta is forced by an oppressive tyrant to murder innocent people for his own survival, and the survival of the girl he is in love with, and then suffers gruesome nightmares as he tries to deal with how he has now lost the gentle peaceful innocence he once had. As I read Peeta’s words, “it cost everything you are”, I believe this is why the Apostle Paul admonished us to “never pay back evil for evil[6]. This is how we are betrayed when we give in and allow the negative emotions of anger and resentment to grow into embitterment and hate, we lose our innocence and become what had caused us so much pain in the first place. Stephen Paceri had lost who he was and then became what he had hated.

strobel-bitterness

I too have had experienced my own frustrations with our medical system when dealing with my personal health issues, the health issues of my wife, and the health care of my mother who was been diagnosed to have Parkinson’s Disease. I understand firsthand how maddening it can be as you work to overcome the seemingly uncaring bureaucratic health care systems. Yet, I have to remember I am not perfect, remember my Christian faith as I try to let go of my frustrations, let go of my anger, and place my faith in God. If only Stephen Pasceri had been able to maintain control of his anger, both himself and a 44-year-old cardiovascular surgeon known for “saving lives and improving the quality of life for every patient he cared for”[7] would still be alive. Not only do we each have a choice in how we react to negative emotions, we are always responsible for the choices we make and the repercussions of our choices.

Conversely, Nelson Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for 27 years for his involvement in planning a guerilla war to overthrow the raciest apartheid government in South Africa. Despite years of harsh treatment, Mandela did not fall into the trap of anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment. Instead, he would embrace peace and reconciliation that would save his country from a bloody civil war. Against all odds, Mandela would leave prison and peacefully lead his country to end apartheid by embracing reconciliation. In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom“, Nelson Mandela states:

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite….Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”[8]

Though my story pales in comparison to what happened to Nelson Mandela, God has demonstrated that even someone like me can have an impact on the people we touch. As God prepared me for the life altering experience of the loss of my dad, God focused me on the lessons taught to me by a loving dad instead of the pain of how he was lost. As a result, it was Dad telling me to hold myself to a higher standard that shape my character, not the evil act of the men that killed him. Holding myself to a this higher standard has helped me make better decisions, and most important, it has helped me avoid situations that could have led me down the wrong path. It was this advice that allowed me to stay out of trouble and put me in position that I could qualify for a Federal law enforcement career after I finished college.

During my career in law enforcement, the ability to keep my emotions in check have come into play on numerous occasions. I often have thought of Dad when I have faced situations that were similar to the type that Dad would have faced during his career. As I think back about the times I have been screamed at, spit at, called names, or given the cold glare of angry contempt; I cannot help but to feel closer to dad somehow. It is amazing the impact a single event can have on your life when God is involved.

Only God could know the importance of Dad teaching me the lessons in regard to controlling my anger and emotions at such a young age. No doubt there have been numerous challenges that I have had to overcome along the way as there will continue to be more challenges that I will need to overcome. Nonetheless, the most important things that happened in my life would have never been possible if Dad had not made this message loud and clear to a competitive hard headed youngster that fateful day when I slammed my bat on home plate in protest.

God bless!

 

[1] Academy, Himalayan. “Anger Management – Magazine Web Edition > July/August/September 2004 – Publications – Hinduism Today Magazine”. Hinduismtoday.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 July 2016.

[2] Kushner, Harold S. 2001. When Bad Things Happen To Good People. New York: Schocken Books.

[3] Albom, Mitch. 2003. The Five People You Meet In Heaven. New York: Hyperion.

[4] Diamond, Dan. 2015. ‘Forbes Welcome’. Forbes.Com. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2015/01/21/when-patients-kill-doctors-the-horrifying-murder-of-michael-davidson/.

[5] Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay.

[6] Romans 12:17, New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[7] Diamond, Dan. 2015. ‘Forbes Welcome’. Forbes.Com. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2015/01/21/when-patients-kill-doctors-the-horrifying-murder-of-michael-davidson/.

[8] Mandela, Nelson. 1994. Long Walk To Freedom. Boston: Little, Brown. Pg 622.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.