It's not what I have[.] It's what I have to give. A blog about resources--gaining, giving, and sharing.

25 November 2011

A Glimpse into Who I Am

11:31 PM Posted by steve flores No comments

In an assignment for graduate work, I was asked how life experiences contributed to my professional interests of being a social worker. What follows is part of this assignment, a glimpse into who I am. I wanted to share it...raw, gritty,

One of the most significant life experiences that affected my life was sexual abuse, interchangeably negative and positive. That experience has created an intense desire to help people heal and find resolution from deep hurt. Throughout the ten years of silence, I was forced to look inward, to face adversity, to overcome a shattered sense of self-worth, and, negatively, to pretend to be someone I was not, whole. Repressing feelings of hurt and betrayal, I learned how to be inauthentic. I learned how to numb my feelings as a defensive mechanism and as a result discovered how difficult it was to compartmentalize hurt to a single individual. While grieving the loss of adolescence, I gained a desire to be inside the head of my abuser—what made him do what he did to me? I learned to grieve for him, not just be angry at him. Early in life, I knew I wanted to help all people—abused and abuser. I now understand both are victims.

Much of my secondary education is blocked out, possibly a result of blocking out the memories of sexual abuse. Secondary education memories are sporadic and incomplete, yet college played an integral role of healing from pain. Hidden pain and secrets were confronted with new experiences and friendships who modeled sharing intimate details of life’s most difficult struggles. Friends and acquaintances shared them so freely, without regard for how I might view them in light of their confessions. For the first time, I discovered I might be broken. Psychology courses, and lectures, invaded the hidden places in my life causing me to evaluate whether my behavioral responses were a result of healing or hurt. College is special to me, because I confessed my abuse to a Psychology professor for the first time; I asked for help and she listened. Fashioned after my college experiences, I want to provide what that professor provided for me, what friends modeled for me, an outlet to release hurt and a desire to be authentic, albeit imperfect.

Sexual abuse affected my worth and value, negatively, until I turned sixteen years old. Most times, I used work as the source of affirmation, to prove I was worth something. I have never been an average worker. After college graduation, my employment at First Assembly of God in NorthLittle Rock, AR really helped me develop. I have never been pushed more to explore true potential and purpose, probably because I never thought I had any. I was given space to fail, something I never felt I had either. I associated failure with the feelings of abuse and learned to forsake risk for the comfort of familiar. The space to fail opened up a whole new aspect of life that I am still learning. First Assembly has helped define what exactly was lost during adolescence: the integrity of a leader. I have come to understand this: Integrity takes years to build, yet in a moment can be reduced to rubble and create havoc for those who have chosen to follow. This lesson is close to my heart as a pastor.

Before sexual abuse modified my perspective, a deep sense of religious upbringing permeated my outlook on life and people. Jesus, of the Bible, has given me context to see the worth and value in all people. Every person has value, abused or the abuser, the easy-to-work-with or the not-so-easy-to-work-with, the victim or the victor, the like-minded or the different-minded, and so on (Matthew 5: 3-12; 44-48, English Standard Version). My life’s purpose is not as complicated as I make it out to be; it is about investing in other people (Matthew 5:13-14, English Standard Version). Helping others will cost me something, because everything I have is a resource to be given away—time, money, words, energy, material possession, the ability to listen, and so on (Luke 18:22; Matthew 6:19-34; Matthew 8:19-22, English Standard Version).  Saying “I care” is not as important as showing “I care” (Matthew 25:35-36, English Standard Version). Success should not, always, be quantified by outcome, office size, the house I live in, the car I drive or a paycheck, but in obedience and doing what is right (Matthew 6:1-3, English Standard Version).

Each of these life experiences influence, compel, me to help others. Throughout college, I have tried to narrow down the specific direction my life should journey. I have prided myself in being adaptable and being adjustable; a function of being a middle-child, past sexual abuse, various work environments, and an eclectic array of people I have encountered throughout my lifetime. The last five years have opened my eyes to a whole new world of addictive behaviors, namely Internet pornography. I have encountered people who feel trapped and see a great need ahead of me, yet I do not feel narrowly focused to specifically help them. Maybe graduate studies will help refine focus or maybe this is just who I am—general in my approach, open in my heart, with arms open wide enough to embrace hurt, pain, and dysfunction.