Honestly

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- Joseph R. Sanok

A lot has hit my life recently. 

My 10-month daughter went in for a surgery that could not be completed and now we’re waiting for a more invasive surgery, this was a month after my grandma died, then the next day one of my closest friends was diagnosed with cancer. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I can trust my friends more than God. 

Last week, my wife and I couldn’t take the building pressures and we prayed. This is certainly not the first time we’ve prayed… but I have never prayed like that before. I was mean to God. I yelled at God, got angry with Him, and was deeply honest in a manner that would have made most people uncomfortable. At that moment with all the crap building I felt that I could not trust Him in any way. I hated Him for not protecting us. 

Real pain is affecting someone in your life right now – it could even be you.  I didn’t realize how terrible it is when something like this hits you. Here is what I’m learning and leaning on as we walk through this process of honest psychological discovery. I hope that it can be a guide to understanding your own experience and the experience of those close to you.

Breaking

Honest psychological discovery usually starts with some event that tears whatever our current notion of what “should be” into something else. Maybe we view God in a certain light: If I do this, He will do this. Or maybe we expect our parents to be our solid rock, instead they get divorced. Or maybe a spouse leaves us. Maybe we go to college and see how big the world really is or our daughter’s surgery does not go as planned.

De-constructing

With our aspects of our worldview in shambles or at least challenged, we move toward testing everything. If my parents can get divorced, then what else can happen? If she can leave me after all we had, then what can I trust? This phase is important. So often, we want to move through it and find the “right answer”. 

We naturally do this in our young adulthood. It is part of leaving our parents and establishing ourselves as adults. We know everything when we are in our 20s. The world is very black and white. As we have many of those points of view challenged, we sometimes hope for that same certainty.  

Some people stay in this phase forever. They always want to rebel, de-construct, challenge, and stay in the uncertain. They have been hurt, so they fear moving on toward the next phase. For me, it was deconstructing the faith in which I was raised, only to later move closer to it in a genuine way that reflected me, not my upbringing.

Growing

Honest psychological discovery always needs to include a period of rebirth. One unhealthy pattern that can emerge is diving into some new worldview with the same certainty of the old one. Discovery is always that, a search toward the unknown. It is rarely finding it. 

In some ways you are challenging, de-constructing, and growing a different person. The early-life “you” was at a specific phase in brain development and world awareness. You will never recapture that certainty. Honest psychological discovery is about realizing that the nostalgic views from the past often will never be a part of you again. From that mourning, you can grow into a new you. 

Evaluation

Lastly, all honest psychological discoveries include on-going evaluation and challenging. This is different from the earlier stage of “De-constructing” in that the goal is growth and change, not removal of bad habits and unnecessary boundaries. 

As my family goes through this journey of surgeries, cancer, and the death of my grandmother, I can’t say that I am growing or evaluating, but rather breaking and deconstructing. The God that I believed in a month ago is not the one I believe in today. When people say, “We’re so blessed to be healthy” it makes me wonder, “Why am I not blessed?” What did I do wrong to have God refrain from blessing? Somehow, even though I don’t understand it right now, I don’t think that my old view of God is the real God. 

I wish that I could wrap this up in some optimistic and hopeful manner, which is what we all want. We hope and pray that when the end comes, it is that way…that Jesus redeems all. That is what we long for, for the world to be right and good and what we expect. But in these moments, it is not always that way.

In the end, I hope to see the new God that never existed for me in the past. Genuine psychological discovery is learning to sit with the pain of now and the hope for a better tomorrow.

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Joseph R. Sanok is a counselor in Traverse City, MI. You can sign up for his free parenting newsletter here