On the battlefield a fallen soldier will often lay there near death, expecting death, when a comrade will stop and offer comfort and aid. Encouraging and strengthening his fallen comrade simply through comfort, the yell will follow, "Medic! Medic!" as help is sought that will bring the wounded soldier the medical attention that is needed. There are times when death will come too quickly or help will come too late. When the help comes in the right time, the medical attention will quite often save the life of the fallen comrade and life goes on.
As observance is given to happenings in society today, I am left with the sense that too often we pass by the wounded soldiers lying on the battlefield of life. Life can be a struggle for many people for a variety of reasons. It's easy to wipe our hands of responsibility, laying blame through our judgment, thinking 'you made your bed, now lie in it!' This scapegoat thinking dismisses the fact that people make the best choices possible with the information that is available to them. It dismisses the fact that not everyone has had the best opportunities available to them or the fullest access to their own personal power in making choices.
A young man, wet behind the ears, full of vim and vigor, races into the world to discover, to live, and to enjoy. The taste of freedom from the family structure – particularly from more controlling family environments – may lead to disastrous experiences as the 'I'll try anything once' is lived out and embraced. This attitude and expression of freedom is not wrong on its own, however, the less freedom of expression experienced while growing up through the formative years often leads the young to explore and taste many new experiences as they now assert and discover themselves in the wild world context.
Another individual's experience may be quite different. With limited life experience and much social conditioning through family and upbringing there may be rigid values and beliefs that have been adopted that also leads to unhealthy life choices. Family dynamics have a powerful affect on the decision-making of impressionable young people. The loss of personal power in this context may see others in life taking advantage of them, and of them making decisions that they feel obliged to make. In every life scenario circumstances and past influences shape who we have become, as will our future experiences.
As life progresses one poor choice after another can easily accumulate through the learning process. Some learn more quickly than others and some become entangled in messy life situations that leave the victim bewildered and confused feeling powerless. Healthy people know that much more is possible and that healthier choices can lead someone out of the pit of despair. Healthy people may also forget to recognize just how important their social network is in supportive friends supporting their own life journey, positive life experiences, affirmations of who they are, etc. For someone whose life choices have isolated them from such positive influences, the battle for freedom becomes a serious battle against the dark forces in life. Anyone who has had a taste of emotional fallout in a family environment, work environment, health situation, or relationship failure, can recognize a small taste of what that experience might be like.
In our society today, we would all do well to show more compassion and understanding of the battle that individuals face in their lives. Even the people who seem to have it all together and the silver spoon in hand may have some enormous demons that they're fighting with secretly. The cry in my heart is brought on by the lack of compassion offered and the heap of judgment that leaves so many wounded on the battlefield waiting for death to overtake them. I encounter these people often and recognize the child within that is eager to please and wants to find a way out. I also see and hear the self-loathing and criticism that they have adopted after repeated mistakes are made and repeated abuse is heaped upon them by society.
Admitting my own discomfort, I am challenged to stay connected to such people. I do though, to the best of my ability. Can I impart a positive influence, affirming their worthiness, simply by offering compassion and understanding for the journey that led them to where they are? Am I offering myself as the comrade who is encouraging and supporting them to heal, calling out for the Medic myself as I hope the right help for them will come along? Or am I the Medic, applying first-aid and supporting them on the journey to healing and healthier choices. As a coach, I do see myself in a Medic role. As a man, I see myself as the comrade in the battle of life. I do not have all the answers. I do know that my presence does make a difference.
A comrade never leaves the fallen soldier until the medic arrives and the medic will not leave the wounded soldier there to die. In saying this, I draw our attention to the fact that our busy lives, our fears, or our own vulnerability often has us walking on by or rushing off far too soon. We prop up the wounded soul with our comfort and presence, lending a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on or cry on, and soon after run off to attend to our own lives, too afraid and uncomfortable to stay with this fallen individual. It is scary after all. Look how vulnerable the human being is, the emotional being, and the mental being. God forbid it could happen to me or you. The truth is, in my case, it already has happened.
I've made plenty of unhealthy life choices and managed to do well in spite of them. In turn, I've made other choices that seemed right, only to discover how badly they damaged me emotionally and mentally. I was married at the age of 19 to a woman 10 years my senior. Silly? Maybe, and I can also say that for a good many years that positive experiences and life circumstances made it a good lifesaver and life-saving relationships experience. I can also say that it ended in divorce 10 years later leading to the conclusion that it may have been an unhealthy choice. I certainly experienced a great deal of emotional pain through the ordeal.
I also had quit a fantastic career with a large corporation that had the potential for a comfortable living, ripe with all the fringe benefits, eventually resulting in a comfortable retirement package. This has been seen as courageous and stupid, depending upon the conversation and perspective. Which is it? Only time will tell. I recall the opinion I held as I lay in the hospital, near death, with a never-before experienced illness that had the potential of altering my life forever. At that moment, leaving that position and its' benefits seemed to have been a disastrous choice. The financial crisis it created added to that belief for a good long time. Many years later, these experiences show another perspective as an alternative that has resulted in a deeper awareness and relationship of self.
There have been many other choices made in my life that led to more pain and misery. They seemed the right choice at the time, given the perspective and unique way that I looked at the world. I know my family experiences have influenced some of these choices. I also know that my involvement with organized religion influenced my decisions during another period of my life. I'm very conscious of the fact that people rarely accept their responsibility for the influence they asserted in any of my decisions. That is mostly fair since ultimately the decision rests with me. All the same, we all have an impact on others lives through our presence, attitudes, beliefs, words, love, or hate. I'm simply saying that we can acknowledge that fact, have more compassion, and create safer relationships that support better choices and healing when bad choices are made.
We've all been guilty of giving out bad advice at one time or another. We can often catch ourselves telling someone, 'you should do …' when in reality it is only what we might do ourselves if we were in the same situation. I can admit that I've given out bad advice in the past, based upon my own experiences and assumptions that resulted in disaster for someone else. I've always been worried about that. This is where we need to stop though. It is not the advice that matters or that is needed. It is the company, the support, the conversation that offers questions that will lead someone to their own answers. This also leads to intimacy, something that many people crave, and yet are very afraid to embrace.
Intimacy is not a term reserved for sexual partners, spouses, or our best friend. Intimacy is what we all crave as a human being – to be known and to know, to love and be loved. We engage in relationships since we've been toddlers being curious of others and seeking this level of engagement. It's all of the negative experiences around judgement, ridicule, impatience, prejudice, abuse, control, manipulation, and more that have isolated us over time. We do open slowly when we meet people, and as the relationship and trust develops we open up. Even so, how many of us still have a dark secret that we have not shared with anyone? Fear of judgement prevails and keeps us separate and yet we are not separate at all.
The next time you consider ignoring someone who is in need of a helping hand in life; the next time you recognize judgement or an assumption creeping in as you dismiss someone; the next time you are about to say 'no' when someone asks for help, listen to this reminder as a voice calls out, "Medic! Medic!" Do not fix, just create an opportunity for something to happen that can change the energy that dominates this person's life. I'd also like to add that it is wise to let go of any attachment you have over results or expectations for how quick someone should get back on track. Getting out of the mess could easily equal the time spent getting into the mess. At the very least, your loving presence will improve the quality of that person's life.
Addendum, March 5th, 2008:
Get Up! Keep going!