I’m sitting in a room with about 50 people I don’t know. The people range in age from early 20s to late 60s. I think there were a few millionaires, and there were a few people who were bankrupt. Everyone was there because we had some unsolved issues that are taking us down paths we don’t want to walk any longer. But for some reason, we keep walking down those same paths again and again. Our guide on this weekend asks a question.
“Why do women who are abused go back to the men who abuse them?”
I sit there quietly waiting for someone who is wiser than me to speak up. After the group voices a few answers, the guide gives us his answer.
“Because it works for them.”
I sit there and stare at the carpet wondering how this could be true.
“This is exactly why every one of you do what you do. People think on a scale of right and wrong, but that’s not really why people do what they do. People do what they do because it works for them. So if you’re addicted to drugs, don’t tell me it doesn’t work for you. It does work for you. I want to know what about drugs works for you. If you’re hooked on porn, co-dependent, bitter, self-loathing, and self-defeating, tell me this. How does that work for you?”
There’s a question being answered behind the question, “How does that work for you?” The question being answered is,
“Why do people go back?”
Don’t you hate it when you promised yourself you wouldn’t do that again, and then you go back to doing the same thing again? We can swear things and people off like crazy, but most often, that is what we keep going back to.
I wondered how these things we hate actually work for us. Maybe you’re four and you don’t have these struggles of going back to the same old problem, but I’m doubting that you’re reading this if you’re four. The rest of us known as the human race have struggles. We keep going back.
If we’re really being honest, there’s some lie that we’ve accepted as a truth about ourselves. Our lies are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. It’s like when you’re watching The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and the movie is reminding us of exactly why the Harry Potter movie series needed Emma Watson when all of a sudden, the room goes silent and this line hits hard as Ali.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
It makes sense. The thing we say doesn’t work for us does work for us because it makes us feel strangely comfortable because it is what we deserve. So we go back to that same old wolf dressed as that same old sheep, and find ourselves decimated by that same old lie again.
I remember in college, there were these great girls who kept going back to these guys who cheated on them. I never understood why. And then one day, I get it. They go back to those same guys, because I go back to the same lies that tell me I’m not worth more.
We all have it. What is your lie that you keep owning as truth?
Here is the crazy part. We will stay miserable because it is familiar, and at least familiar is more comfortable than the fear of the unknown. We treat the unknown like a prison cell, and misery like it is our saving grace.
I think that’s what Paul is talking about when he says “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” The point isn’t to look like you live in a church, and have a “do not contaminate me” sticker on your shirt as you walk around this earth. The reason is that God loves us, and wants us to stop believing these lies about ourselves. He wants us to start treating ourselves and others with dignity and respect. He wants us to leave the room of misery, shame, and frustration. Open the door of unfamiliarity, and walk into freedom.
It isn’t that easy though, right? I mean, that’s what is always on the other side of that door. The door of possibility we don’t walk through. A voice says, “It will be worse than what you have”, “This is how you deserve to be treated,” or “You can fix her” “You can fix him.”
Is it really working? Often, it is not. But it works for us to stay where we are.
If we want to move forward with our lives, a decision has to be made. It isn’t about promising ourselves something, and swearing up and down what we won’t do any more.
It is about facing a lie, and making that lie face the truth.
We are loved. We are worthy of dignity and respect. We are strong. We are worth it.
Does it work? It does until the day we say we’ve had enough of that lie, and we’re going to step into the truth of who we are.