In my role within North Star as Online Community Coordinator, I act as a resource for the online discussion group moderators by providing training and support to the moderators, adding new members to the discussion groups and assisting with logistics. My ultimate goal is to reverence our member’s authentic identity as children of God by creating unity through compassion.
In relation to the latest current events, I want to reflect back on the Directors Message from September of 2012. I want us to take a step back and breath and maybe put on Giraffe ears for a moment. The concept of Giraffe and Jackal ears is an important one. Culturally, we have been trained to listen with “Jackal” ears, we hear complaints, criticisms and attacks everywhere. It’s easy in that case to respond with similar attacks or to feel defensive or to just feel miserable and misunderstood. Giraffe ears are a powerful emotional “Urim and Thumim” available to us so we can hear all the criticisms, blames and attacks of others translated into simply their feelings and unmet wants and needs. With Giraffe ears we hear their pain but we don’t take it personally. We can have empathy and feel connected to a person even one who sees us as an enemy when we hear only their feelings and needs. It’s as if they already spoke perfect Giraffe themselves. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “Criticism, complaints, judgements and attacks are all just tragic expressions of difficult feelings and unmet needs.”
I believe we have six universal wounds from which we develop these feelings and needs:
- Security Wound (intensity hurts)
- Connection Wound (connection hurts)
- Shadow Support Wound (support hurts)
- Independence Wound (autonomy hurts)
- Experience Wound (rejection hurts)
- Mission/Purpose Wound (ego negation hurts/who I am hurts)
Security Wound (L-M)
Our security wound is characterized by emotional intensity and typically has one of two reactions. We either dive into emotions or we become paralyzed by them. I remember well that morning in 2009 when Elder Hafen spoke at the Evergreen International 20th anniversary conference. He made the statement that people with SSA often experience and what he called an Emotional Paraplegia. I have come to realize that I feel emotions strongly, at times I yearn for them for so long, until I can’t feel them at all. I believe this is what he was referring to when he made that statement.
Here is a story to illustrate this…
“One day a traveling carpenter appeared at Old Joe’s door. He wanted work and looked decent enough so Joe invited him in. After giving him some soup and a piece of bread, Joe called him over to the window: “See that crick there?” The carpenter nodded. “It wasn’t there yesterday. That fool neighbor of mine took a plow, dug a ditch, flooded it, and made that crick in between our properties just to spite me.” The carpenter nodded. Joe said, “I got a job for you. I want you to build a fence, high as so I don’t even have to look at his property or his house. Can you do that?” The carpenter answered, “I think I can do a job that will make you happy.” They agreed that the next day, Joe would show him where the wood was, drive on into town like he had planned, and check up on his work in the evening.
The next morning Joe got off early. He had a long day in town. It was late when he crested the hill in his old wagon and saw what the carpenter had done. His eyes bulged with anger and he whipped the horses to hurry. Instead of a fence the carpenter had built a bridge across the creek. Just as Joe reined his horses to a stop and was climbing down to give that carpenter a piece of his mind, his neighbor crossed the bridge and stopped him dead in his tracks with a heartfelt hug. “Joe, you are a bigger man than I am. I never would’ve had the courage to build that bridge. I reckon that calf probably was yours after all. Can you forgive me?” Joe hugged him back, mumbled something about “nothing to forgive,” and caught a wink from the smiling carpenter. Joe asked the carpenter to stay around but he said he had other work to do.” (Simmons, Annette, The Story Factor, p. 170).
I guess it is no coincidence the Jesus was a carpenter as well and like this carpenter sees our wounds and I am sure would prefer we build bridges over walls.
Connection Wound (K-L)
Characterized by feeling like a victim, feeling oppressed, or feeling excluded, this often shows up as learned helplessness or I have to earn to belong. I have learned through my work in addiction recovery that my connection to others is only as strong as our connection to God. Over the past twenty years I have had the privilege of being invited into some of the most sacred space here on earth; that being the rooms of recovery. It wasn’t until four years ago when I walked into those rooms for my own addiction to pornography that I realized how vital and sacred those rooms really are. It was through my work with a sponsor and as a sponsor that I came to know God and through him have been blessed with some of the sweetest relationships, including my Savior, my family, and my friends. It was years earlier that I heard the saying, “when an alcoholic has a relationship to the bottle, everyone around him has a relationship to that bottle. When he finds (God), everyone begins to have a relationship to him and his New Found Friend (God).
Toby (name changed), a friend of mine in recovery, shared with me that he often sees folks in recovery fail because they work recovery much like they do the church. They try and do it perfectly. Brenè Brown one of the foremost experts on shame spoke at a conference for addiction specialists and she said that perfectionism is not healthy striving but an expression of an addiction. Because when we fail to achieve perfection we will try to do it MORE perfect next time.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen wisely counseled: “If you have problems in your life, don’t assume there is something wrong with you. Struggling with those problems is at the very core of life’s purpose. As we draw close to God, He will show us our weaknesses and through them make us wiser, stronger.”
In all these things “we seek progress, not perfection” (Big Book of AA): prayer, scripture study, trusting His plan, forgiving Him, surrendering our will to God, opening ourselves up to Him, being vulnerable, serving and nurturing others.
In the words of Brad Wilcox, “we learn our way not earn our way into heaven.”
Elder Holland said, in referring to this wound, (April 2009)…”Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” (The Continuous Conversion)
Counsel/Wisdom/Judgment Wound (K-M)
Characterized by sensing shadow support the CWJ wound shows up when we begin to see, hear, speak no evil or on the other extreme we get the message I’m bad or that others are bad.
Several years ago when I was working in the hospital doing music therapy, I had the opportunity to work with a world famous celebrity. This person was someone who I admired greatly. This person was gravely ill and had been for over ten years. I found out that his agent was his durable power of attorney and had been keeping him in this horrific state for years because if the man died his agent would no longer be collecting on his royalty money- shadowy support indeed. Sometimes we hear folks complain that our moderators are looking the other way. Sometimes we get a person who wants to tell us how a person or group is bad and that we need to take care of it. We hear this as coming from this CWJ wound. We want folks to know that if it looks like we are ignoring you, we are not, we are also taking into account the other persons wounds and needs and ask that you trust us in this effort.
When we are in this CWJ wound we can draw on the powers of heaven to know that He will “consecrate [our] afflictions for [our] gain” (2 Nephi 2:2) as we exercise faith in Him. We can draw strength to know that He has been there too. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: . . . Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me . . . and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:16–17).
Independence Wound (M-W)
Characterized by a sense of being made crazy, this wound often shows up when one believes thinking too much is dangerous or that acting too quickly is dangerous.
My uncle shared this story with me back when I was just a kid and he recorded it in his Journal. I am not sure where he got it from, but if I could I would attribute it to the actual source. He spoke of a king who went hunting with his men out in the desert and brought his trusted falcon with him. After becoming separated from his men and traveling for many days he had almost lost hope, until he found a trickle of water oozing from a cliff. As it drip, drip, dripped into his cup, he knew this was the life-saving water he needed for him and his falcon. When he put the cup to his lips, the falcon knocked the cup to the ground. The king was upset and after the falcon repeated this strange behavior, the king swore that he would remove the falcon’s head. After the third time, the king being a man of his word drew his sword and beheaded his friend.
The story reads:
“Once again, his eyes followed those precious drops of water as they trickled down the rock. “I’ll climb up there.” It only took a minute, and he was at the source of the miniature spring. He turned ghastly pale. He nearly fainted at what he saw in that hollow rock whence came that drip, drip, drip.
Taking up a great part of the stagnant pool was coiled a poisonous snake that had been dead for weeks. The water while it sparkled over the rocks was cankered with the virus of the serpent. That handful of water meant “dead men’s bones”.
Hesitantly the king retraced his steps and now gazed on, the lifeless form of his feathered hero, but too late. His temper had ruled him. “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men” couldn’t put that falcon’s head back again, couldn’t restore life to his sacred friend, and couldn’t restore the flow of blood that soaked the sand. The bird had been flying over those hills for two days. His viewpoint was better than the king’s whose experience had been confined to the domain covered by his feet only.”
Since my talk at the North Star Summer Fireside, I was told that this story can be found in the following source: Especially for Mormons: A Distinguished Anthology of Thought, Poetry and Prose Especially Suited for the LDS Reader”, (by Stan Miller, Sharon Miller, Sherm Fugal)
I believe Elder Holland highlighted this wound in his recent talk about Peter. Peter who after walking on water started to think too much about what was going on around him then sank, and then later threw himself into the water when he recognized the risen Lord.
Experience Wound (W-L)
Characterized by rejection, this wound shows up when I can’t trust others to be there for me or I need others to be there for me. Four years ago when I was meeting with my Bishop regarding my membership status, he told me that he had a confession to make and that, “I find your kind despicable”. He then went on to detail how his family had been destroyed by someone like me. When he spoke he spoke from some deep seated wounds. Six months after I was disfellowshipped and had been enduring some of the roughest treatment from him, he pulled me into his office and began to sob. He said, “I apologize for my behavior. It has been despicable.” He then thanked me for putting up with him and asked me to forgive him. He shared that a young man had come to him confessing of similar problems and had he treated him like he treated me, that young man would have left the church. He said, “I think God put you in my path to save me from my resentments and to save this young man too.”
This experience taught me that even in our wounds we can sustain our Bishops. I saw that his being mean to me wasn’t what God wanted and as bad as it hurt, I realized that Christ was there. Maybe not in the form of my Bishop, but the Spirit was never closer in my life than during that time.
Mission Wound (K-W)
This wound is characterized by the negation of the ego and shows up in the belief that I am nothing by myself (Identity) or I am not enough as I am. Often the world says the answer to this wound is Pride. C. S. Lewis once wrote…“As long as we are looking down, we cannot look up”
I am reminded of a bright airline counter person who, when bullied by a man demanding, “Do you have any idea who I am?” gets on the loudspeaker and announces “We have a passenger who doesn’t know who he is. Could anyone who might help identify this passenger please come to the counter?” (Simmons, Annette (2009-03-17). “The Story Factor”, p. 40).
We too have sometimes forgotten who we really are, men and women who are offspring of God.
In talking about Identity, I want to illustrate how adopting an earthly or temporal identity is wounding.
My current bishop was born in Hong Kong. He was born as a British subject. He is now an American Citizen. Because he looks and speaks Chinese, some would say he is Chinese. Yet, he has only set foot in China a handful of times. What is his authentic identity?
Daniel K. Judd in his book The Fortunate Fall: Understanding the Blessings and Burdens of Adversity (Kindle Locations 2221-2228) said:
“From the fall of Adam and Eve to the present, individuals and even entire cultures have made a variety of attempts to compensate for or to cover their inadequacies. Our obsessions with such things as physical appearance, acceptance, accomplishment, power, prominence, and prosperity (I would add Identity) are often attempts to deal with feelings of inadequacy and shame. The concern with covering ourselves in these ways is that in time, each proves inadequate to provide the protection and peace we hope for. At some point each of us must come to understand that there is no relationship in which we can rejoice, success we can celebrate, or possession we can appreciate that can take the place of a relationship with God and an understanding of the redemption made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Other solutions are much like fig leaves—they might provide a temporary solution to an immediate problem, but in the end they do not provide the protection we need or the salvation we seek.” He continues, ”Shame is one of the adversary’s most destructive tools and is unique among the related emotions of guilt and embarrassment. Guilt is feeling bad about something we have done or not done; embarrassment has to do with our feelings about how others see us. Shame, however, is feeling bad about who we are; it relates to how we see ourselves. “The deepest shame is not shame in the eyes of others but weakness in one’s own eyes.”
Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy taught:
“God the Father is merciful and has infinite love for you despite your faults. Only the voice of Satan will cause you to feel of no value.”
Self-hatred, the variety of shame the adversary uses as one of his most effective tools, has no place in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his insightful book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis provides important insight into the workings of Satan and his servants. Lewis’s book contains the fictional correspondence between a senior devil, Screwtape, and his nephew and apprentice devil, Wormwood. In the following letter, Screwtape is attempting to teach Wormwood that if he can get the man he is tempting to hate himself, he will be successful in destroying him:
“[God] wants to turn the man’s attention away from self to Him [God], and to the man’s neighbors. All the abjection and self-hatred . . . may even do us [the devils] good if they keep the man concerned with himself, and above all, if self-contempt can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves, and thus for gloom, cynicism, and cruelty.”
Shame and self-contempt are problems people have faced since the time of Adam and Eve.
When I think of the concept of God in Embryo, I recognize that an embryo is fully dependent on the womb within it is developing. I wonder when we take on any other identity other than our eternal identity of child of God, are we practicing spiritual abortion in order to find acceptance even if it is acceptance of ourselves?
Shame-lifters is a word I first read about in a book by Alyce Barry entitled Practically Shameless. (She also has a recording called “Home for the Holidays” where she gives examples of how to use these shame-lifters in potentially vulnerable times.) When people are reacting in their wounds we can recognize that people have their reasons for reacting from their wounds and we can only change our reactions to the people around us. We can choose to allow our own wounds to define us, or they can teach us and bless those for whom we love and lead. Most of these wounds are coping strategies to shame. When we recognize these wounds in ourselves or others we can offer a healing balm called Shame-lifters.
- We can put on Giraffe Ears. Choosing to hear the “Please” or “Thank you” behind the “hard to hear” or Jackal messages.
- We can give the benefit of the doubt by considering these thoughts I bet there is a good reason for this thought, feeling, action or desire. Might this be my way of loving somebody/myself? Might this be their way of loving me?
When I say this to myself, I allow the comfort of the Spirit to come and provide healing to my soul and bind up my wounds. I feel compassion for others and seek for the Spirit to do likewise for them.
- We can consider what is the Risk? What’s at risk for me to believe that I am ok just as I am and to take good care of myself? When I ask myself this question gives me renewed motivation to love and believe in myself. I take responsibility for getting my needs met. Is there a risk for me in this situation? Whether I choose to take the risk or not, I can still love myself and honor that part of me that is protecting me and/or giving me the chance to exercise faith in God, myself and others.
When I ask myself the following questions in relation to others it likewise gives me hope and compassion for them. What’s at risk for me to believe others are ok just as they are and what is at risk for me to allow them the space to take care of themselves?
- We can implement a practice of Gratitude
According to Brenè Brown and her research in regards to the people she calls wholehearted she has found that they were truly joyful. She noticed that they spoke of joy and gratitude always in the same sentence. She and I believe that gratitude is the gateway to Joy. We, too, can choose to experience joy as we implement a gratitude practice. More than just an attitude of Gratitude, we must exercise our gratitude through prayer, journaling, charity, sharing, etc. In relation to prayer, Elder Bednar spoke of only praying in Gratitude. I took his suggestion and only prayed in gratitude for a month. I learned that my prayers were the most faith filled because I learned how to ask for things that I earnestly needed through gratitude. (ex. “Heavenly Father, thank you for the sobriety you will give me the next 24 hours as I exercise faith and put into practice the steps of recovery”)
I can be grateful for my wounds and the lessons they teach me. I have found that implementing the practice of gratitude is the most powerful shame-lifter in my life. I encourage you to apply this shame-lifter to your daily life and put it to the test. There is a blessing in these wounds if we just look for it. May we always seek unity through compassion by using the emotional “Urim and Thummim” of Giraffe Ears.
May we listen like the Carpenter for the feelings and needs of others and honor the blessing of our wounds in the process. May we put into practice the daily practice of shame-lifting, for ourselves and others. I want to close with a quote by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross found in Brenè Brown’s Video presentation entitled “The Hustle For Worthiness:”
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
May our wounds be made light through the Atonement of Christ!