Hello friends, I'm happy to be here with you today. Before I begin, i have to introduce today's podcast by prefacing that I'm not a veteran, active military, nor have I ever been a part of any of the branches of military service. As a result, my language will likely not be appropriate. I have visited and done personal work with hundreds of active military, and veterans, and as a result I've noticed that there is an entire dictionary of words, phrases, and language that is very specific to military service, so please, forgive me as I attempt to present these two stories in my best and most respectful civilian language.
I also want to emphasize the respect and admiration that I feel as I speak about both of these individuals. One whom I came to know quite well, and with his permission, recorded a podcast about, and another whom I did not know, and who through our anonymous texting service, courageously shared his opinion and some of his criticism about that situation and other societal issues that were very disturbing to him.
Ok... i have one more warning to share. One of the questions that is asked refers to God. I will address that question in this podcast and share what are some of my ideas about that. I realize that this may be a sensitive and personal area for you, but just know that I'm not here to proselytize anyone, I'll just be sharing some thoughts about our relationship and interaction with a supreme being, or what many of you call God, or a Heavenly Parent.
So the story begins years ago when a brave soldier who was active at the time entered my office. He was part of a special forces unit who was very actively involved in many covert and life-threatening operations. Operations that would spring up quickly, and demand immediate action. As his team sprung to action, they would quickly and covertly attempt to disrupt terrorist activity. They would do this by blasting into homes and quickly eliminating any threat or situation that was developing there. This brave soldier had been through many incredibly intense situations, and many that had the potential to be incredibly traumatic. He was well trained, and had developed a deep brotherhood with the other soldiers in his team. That night as he lead his team into one of these terrorist hideouts, he was confronted with a terrorist that, the moment that he turned the corner, was in process of throwing a live grenade at him. This soldier instinctively reacted to that situation by flinching, and turning his body to protect himself from this projectile that was being thrown at him. Now this team was well trained, and the next person in line, just kept going, eliminated the threat, and kept on going until the situation was completely under control. The soldier who crouched and flinched, felt a tremendous amount of shame, embarrassment, and cowardice in that event. It impacted him deeply. He couldn't shake it. That traumatic experience, his interpretation of it, and the memories of that event plagued and haunted him. As he described this to me, I could see his jaw muscles and back muscles tense as he relived that day. He was sweating, and clearly down. He felt there was no excuse for him. He let himself down, his brothers down, and as a result placed everyone in danger. This idea grew inside of him, until it defined him. He was still involved in the military, and had found a way to be positively engaged with other service members, and was actively recruiting, but he was troubled. By the way, the grenade that was thrown did not explode, and none of his fellow rangers were hurt.
In time this brave soldier looked inside, did the work, rewrote the story, found compassion, forgiveness, and went back to building a life full of adventure, fun, meaning, and critical relationships.
As I shared this experience years ago over a podcast, another individual who had also been involved in the military wrote this question to me, to which I provided a response and will share with you here today.
"Your Ranger friend (from a previous podcast) probably has never experienced defeat, never experienced when a plan objective mission went the wrong way and they had to abort. It sounds like he has never experienced let downs by others, a drunk driver hitting one of your family members which altered his goals, never experienced a fire where he lost valuable resources, or a broken leg so that he couldn't complete his mission or compete in a marathon. I could go on with more. We all have to realize there is a higher power that controls all of our destinies. In other words, in my case I felt that GOD was telling me "I do not want you to go this way, or to be this type of person, or to have this type of experience ", which has left me wondering at times. I feel like I'm constantly bombarded with people pushing their gay and lesbian lifestyles upon me. I don't enjoy the agendas they present, yet I am forced to work and do business with them, and even show them extra consideration. My values are not anything like that and I see it being forced out and effectively sabotage my family and friends. When do we surrender, or fight and resist?"
I am proud of both of these individuals. I believe that when we begin to talk about things, that our ability to handle them increases. I find that when we don't talk about things, those things often control us, and can contribute to our anger, discontent, bitterness, and often time a disconnection. I'm grateful that he was brave enough to address several taboo topics, and that he had a platform to do so.
Here was response to him.
I said, "Thank you for sharing your questions, your thoughts, your fears, and concerns. My goal in creating an anonymous platform like this, was to provide a safe venue where people could ask freely, and receive an honest, and thought through answer, without shaming or disrespect, which is something that I believe is missing in the public discourse and even in our own personal discourse, mine included. The question that was posed, has caused me serious reflection, and today I will attempt to respond to it, in the most helpful way that I can. Once again, these are my thoughts, and i give them to you to consider... I don't purport to be a source of truth, but I do feel that my experience has blessed and provided me with a unique perspective, that I seek to share for your personal study and interpersonal benefit...Once again, Thank you for sharing it, and thank you for listening.
Here's my answer:
I would like to split this question into three parts, it's a little easier for me to break this one up, and address it this way. The first part has to do with a previous story that I told regarding a soldier. You then shared some specific struggles and tragedies that I assume, you have experienced in your life... struggles that clearly have caused you to reflect greatly about your life, your perspective, and even your life purpose... This I think is good. Our struggles and personal trauma more often than not transform us. The key during these moments, is to ensure that they shift our perspective toward more compassion, courage, understanding, and perhaps even love... I feel as though you may still be evolving tin this area... I could be wrong of course, and please consider my words as friendly and respectful words to you... It's possible that the events in your life have hardened you, instead of softened you... instead of understanding and compassion, you have drawn some major assumptions about this individual whom you don't know, and highlighted your own suffering... my friend listen to me... you're no martyr, and that perspective will not serve you nor will it bring you happiness, instead it will sow resentment, anger, comparison, jealousy, and contempt... I tell you this, because I know this place well... the place of making myself a victim, and I hope that you will walk out of that valley, into a much clearer vista of this life, it's purpose, and more importantly your role in it.
It's clear you have suffered much, and I feel for you, as any friend would, but what you appeared to have done is you have diminished or minimized his suffering and struggle, and have maximized yours, and this is what I'm saying will only cause you to close your heart to others, because you aren't able to see past your own suffering and hurt. So my suggestion is this... don't compare your suffering with others... don't make assumptions about others, period!... instead listen, seek to understand, and use your own experiences as ways to connect deeper with those individuals, not as a way to set you apart.
Part two has to do with your statement about God. You stated that my friend the army ranger needed to understand that there is a higher power who "controls all of our destinies," and you went on to say that your experiences were about God attempting to teach you in some way, or leading you in different ways.." I'll share my thoughts with you on this one as well, and our words matter here, so i'll try to be as cautious and clear as possible. I don't believe that God "controls all of our destinies" but i do believe that God is "concerned and invested in our destinies"... in other words, I believe in God's providence and involvement, but I also believe in our choosing, and the interplay between people and their choices... that massive chaos of choices mingling and colliding are what make up life, and God is very interested in helping us navigate that tempestous sea, by providing us tools, and people, and truth, and values, and principles that allow us to sail on, becoming wiser, more loving, more giving. It seems slightly off to me that God is involved in the creation of every event, but I do believe that God is very interested in the purpose and meaning that we give to every event... It's our framing of life that is absolutely critical, not the circumstances or events themselves... Thomas Monson would say "Decisions determine destiny." So I'm happy that you have sucked out the meaning from the events of your life, I just hope that that meaning has inspired you with more love, understanding, more compassion, and more peace... if not, it's possible that the message has hardened you instead... this is just my respectful opinion.
My final thought is about your frustration and how burdened you feel regarding the multiple agendas that are being thrown out at you... I feel you... there is no shortage of agendas in todays news, movies, shows, etc, ranging from alcohol, smoking, drug use, sexuality, pornography, immigration, politics, in addition to what you have described as the gay and lesbian agendas, which you state you do not agree with, and feel forced to accept and give exceptions to... My friend there is much that must be fought for and defended. You feel that this is one of those topics... the liberality of sexual and gender exploration... what we now refer to as the LGBTQ community. I admit that my views and feelings have changed over the years regarding these individuals... This change has come as I have had the privilege of interacting deeply with those in the LGBTQ community, hearing their stories, the trauma they suffer, the fear and anxiety that they go through as they deal with thoughts and feelings of confusion, rejection, feeling disconnected, unloved, unlovable, misunderstood, abandoned by God, alone... in other words, I think they feel much like you feel... for that reason, I hope that your heart can soften toward these dear friends at least respect their struggle instead of viewing their efforts to love and be loved as an affront to your own life, your own freedom, and your own beliefs... let me suggest that there is plenty of room for you to love God, and grant kindness and mercy to this community... in fact, it's possible that loving God must ultimately manifest in love for His children regardless of gender and sexual orientation... my gentle suggestion to you, is to go and make peace with these people, even if you don't fully understand or agree with their struggle or ideology. Let humility guide in this process, and my hope is that as you do, that your heart will soften, and as a result, you'll end up living a more peaceful but committed life.
My friend, I'm happy that you shared your thoughts, your feelings, your burdens with us... I hope that this has been of some service to you... please keep sending your questions and contributing to our growing community. Thank you."
Well, I hope this has been of interest to you. Thank you for being here, and for engaging in this service. I hope it's meaningful for you. Have a great week.