15 04, 2018

The Hard Things in Life

2018-04-12T10:19:17+00:00

An adobe fireplace is warming me on this chilly morning as I sit in my room, smelling burning mesquite wood, hearing the crackling embers, and staring sleepy-eyed at the brown adobe walls, the dark, carved wooden doors, and photos of Native Americans in ceremonial clothing.

Quietly swinging open the doors to my balcony, I wrap a colorful Native American blanket over my cold shoulders as the brisk air slams my formerly cozy face.

As I sit with my hot, steaming coffee, distant purple mountains are barely visible through the clouds, yet a brilliant peek of reddish orange slips through a gap and suddenly splashes rays across the vast landscape. A chorus of “Hallelujah” would be appropriate to punctuate the moment.

Squinting from the bright sun that now warms my face, I’m treated to a light show of oranges, reds, greens, blues, and purples. It’s no wonder New Mexico is home to thousands of artists.

I’m in Buffalo Thunder, a massive adobe resort built on Pojoaque tribal land just outside Santa Fe for our annual convention of outdoor (plein air) painters.

Vast Desert Land

As I stare out over the vast desert before me, I’m picturing the sea that once covered this land. Perhaps those distant blue mountain peaks were small islands standing out in the sea.

Drifting

I’m picturing a small green rowboat on the ocean, with one person sitting in it, drifting, no oars in the water. The waves rock the boat, and it could stay at sea for weeks, or capsize, or maybe it will be pushed to a beach at one of the islands or the mainland.

If that boat somehow managed to stay on the water for millions of years, today it would be sitting on the ocean floor, which is now a desert. The only movement would be the blowing tumbleweeds around it.

Stages of Life

I realized these images that came to mind represent momentary stages of our life, just as there have been stages for this land.

An ocean can be vast, yet we drift on top of it, wondering what direction to take, not understanding the opportunity surrounding us. Though the effort of rowing in a vast sea would seem endless and pointless, especially against the moving surf, it is motion and direction that matter.

Sun Beating Down on Us

There are also times we’re sitting in that same boat, but the ocean has become a desert. The sun is beating ruthlessly down on us, there is no shade, no water, yet we continue to sit in the boat out of fear of what might happen if we step out.

We know instinctively that if we sit there too long we will die of exposure, yet we sit, in hopes someone will come along and rescue us — when the mere act of stepping out of the boat could save us. Though we may not know the direction to go, our chances of survival may increase by our mere movement. There may be a river flowing just over the next hill.

Why Rowing Matters

A wise mentor once called me out for being a boat adrift on the ocean — no rudder, no movement, no direction, just hoping something would come along.

“A boat adrift may drift forever, or it may crash on the rocks. A boat in motion will at least take you to a different place with more momentum than a drift, and you may discover a new opportunity. You need to start rowing.”

Fear of Failure

I’ve found myself frozen with fear, like that person unwilling to step out of the boat. There were times so bad, so frightening, that it was easier to curl up into a fetal position and cry out in fear. In those times others would try to get me up, get me in motion, and try to make me face my fears. But I did not want to move.

What May Matter Most

Though it’s taken me decades of my life to discover, it is motion that matters most. Motion is the solution to the drift in a vast ocean, and it’s the way out of the desert.

The Power of Fear

I’ve also realized that fear is necessary to create motion. It’s a natural incentive, if you allow it to motivate you. The fear of dying adrift at sea or stuck in the sand has to be so great that movement happens.

Wise Parenting

When I’m talking to my kids about getting jobs so they can buy cars, I often hear, “But I don’t know what I want to do, Dad.” My reply: “You don’t have to decide the course of the rest of your life, you just need to do something, keep trying different things, and eventually you’ll discover something you’re passionate about.”

Overwhelming Decisions

I remember the pressure of being 12 and thinking I needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I had no idea, and it was daunting to think about, yet movement in one area accidentally led me to discover my passion for radio, where I got my first job. That has been a 49-year love affair.

And it was getting in motion that accidentally led me to painting, which has been a 23-year love affair. I would never have predicted that either. Nor would I have guessed that my passions would lead me to create magazines, conferences, etc., in both of these areas.

What about you?

If you happen to be feeling a little adrift or stuck in a desert surrounded by concerns, or maybe purely afraid, just know that pain is part of the process — though it’s not comfortable or fun, and we sometimes wonder “Why did this happen to me?”

Why me?

Sometimes we’re facing things no one should ever have to face, things that are beyond devastating. Keep in mind that this pain, this fear, this uncertainty, will lead you to what’s next, and chances are it will be better than anything you could dream up on your own. The answer to “Why?” is that there are lessons to be learned and opportunities ahead.

One Struggle

When I started my company, I didn’t make enough money to take a paycheck for seven years. My wife and I struggled to make our house payments, we did not have much to live on, and it was not fun saying no to our family needs. It seemed like it would never end. It was the desert. There were times when I was curled up in a ball, not wanting to face work. At one time I owed the IRS $250,000 because I had made a mistake and accumulated years of interest on a small debt. I did not see a way out; there was no money to pay it.

Escaping My Fear

I was devastated, depressed, frightened, and thought it would never end. I spent several days hiding in bed, until one day I awoke, dragged myself in, and started to take action. My fear turned into ideas, which turned to motivation, which turned to working harder than I ever knew I was capable of. I did not file for bankruptcy; I paid off every cent owed, even though it took me 10 years. And I learned important lessons to keep that from happening again. After I would rather have curled up and cried than face it.

Helping Others Through It

If someone you know is facing something right now, they cannot see beyond their current woes. Though you want to lessen their pain and help them, you also need to help them know that this will pass, and they will look back on it as a bump in the road, even if at the moment it feels like a massive, endless roadblock. They don’t need a lecture, they don’t need your pressure, they just need to know that with pain comes healing and resolution. There truly is light coming around the dark earth.

The Giant Weight

Though pain and fear are worse than almost anything, and trying to move may feel like you’re carrying a giant weight on your shoulders that is dragging you to the ground, it’s motion that will pull you through. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” — James 1:2

Motion always wins.

The Apple Falls

In 1692 Isaac Newton developed his Laws of Motion, and they not only apply to science, they apply to life.

“An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it. An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it. An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. If it is at rest, it continues in a state of rest. If an object is moving, it continues to move without turning or changing its speed. Changes in motion must be imposed against the tendency of an object to retain its state of motion.”  — WIkipedia

One Small Step for Man

“To those who are struggling to discern their passion in life, my suggestion is to pick just one good that you’d like to bring into the world and take a step toward it — whether donating your time, your talents, or your financial resources. Choose one, any one, and get started in some small way … you’d never make that discovery without taking a first step. Any step. Because it’s easier to find a vision or identify a passion if you are actively engaged in searching for it.” — Joshua Becker

A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.

“In every regard, a body in motion stays in motion. For every change or discovery we desire to see in ourselves, it begins always with putting ourselves in motion toward it. And then building on the momentum we started.”

Motion will pull you out of a drifting sea or a burning desert.

Is there an area in which you feel stuck, discouraged, frightened? Are you facing something devastating, overwhelming, even life-threatening?

A Way Out of Darkness

Is there one tiny step you can take to create movement? That one step may be tremendously difficult, it may be the hardest thing you ever do, yet if you can take it, there will soon be a second, and a third, then a walk, then a run, and soon, you’ll be out of the darkness.

I certainly don’t ever want to make light of anything you or your family may be facing. I’ve not walked in your shoes. It’s my wish today that perhaps those reading this who are feeling overwhelmed and stuck will consider movement. And I hope you’ll share your story privately with me, and I’ll get in motion by keeping you in my prayers.

Eric Rhoads

The Hard Things in Life 2018-04-12T10:19:17+00:00
8 04, 2018

Beating “The System”

2018-04-04T14:38:05+00:00

Tweeting took on its original meaning as I awoke to the golden orange sunshine, which places a rim of intense light around the edges of my scrub oaks this morning. The weeds, bushes, and tall grasses are glowing like fire.

The morning doves are conversing with cooing in stereo and a choir of chirping fills the air, creating a symphony of nature’s music.

Bluebonnets in full bloom, rich indigo and cobalt blue, create thick carpets of blue which can be seen for miles. The scent is heavenly. I draw air deeply into my chest for the perfumed blast to my brain.

The distant mountain is glowing with a rich purple-blue as the light is filtered by morning fog. Spring in Texas is its very best season.

Celebrating Mom

As I sit on the back porch thinking though my coming week, it starts today in celebration on mom’s 92nd, and I’m wishing she were in Austin to see the bluebonnets so we could celebrate with her. Local tradition is to take your kids out for a photo in the field of bluebonnets — I’d love to have a birthday photo of mom in the flowers. As my grandmother used to say, “Today is a red-letter day.” Mom is responsible for my passion for art and I owe so much to her. She reads every one of these, so mom, me and the 100,000 readers of this blog wish you a happy birthday.

My Biggest Week of the Year

Pondering my coming week at the PleinAir Convention in Santa Fe, where 1,100 of us will gather to celebrate outdoor painting and learning together, I feel so grateful that it’s grown into such a rich experience, especially when it almost did not happen.

Facing Bankruptcy

When I came up with the idea of the plein air convention, all my advisors and friends told me if I failed I’d be bankrupt. One advisor told me it had been tried in a different form (not plein air-specific) and after three attempts had lost over a million and a half dollars. “The concept has been tried. It won’t work. You’ll lose everything,” I was told. “Why risk your entire career on one event?”

Giving Up

I was determined to find a way to make this dream happen. When I did my homework I figured out why others had failed. I had to approach everything differently to make it work. “But those things won’t work,” I was told. Frankly, I believed my cherished advisors for a while and I gave up. I decided not to do it.

Finding Their Tribe

Yet in my heart I knew the people who are part of the plein air movement needed a place they could call home, a place to find their tribe, a place to break bread with others and feel a part of something bigger. They needed a place to refine their skills, to paint beside one another in a massive historic painting experience where all of us paint in one location. I felt that having a place we gather annually as a community would do wonders for the people attending and grow the movement, which according to art historian Jean Stern is the largest movement in the history of art.

The Movement Flickering Out

Not only did I believe it had to be done, and that without it the growing plein air movement might flicker out, I believed it would change lives, would inspire people, would give people a new outlook, and give them a “family” they could look forward to seeing every year. I had to find a way. Even though the practical side of me decided to stop, my heart said go. So I changed my mind.

When I picked up the phone and told my accountant I was going to put my entire business and my life savings on the line, she urged me not to do it. “You’ve had ideas fail before, Eric. What makes you think this time will be different. I beg you not to do it.”

“Don’t Do It, Eric. Please!”

That day I took a deep breath, spent some time in prayer, then I announced my plans to my team. Once again they urged me to reconsider, probably thinking they would all lose their jobs when I failed.

Seven Years Ago This Week

I picked up the phone and called some artist friends, many mentioned the failure of the other event, but told me they would give me their support. So, after a few months of work and finding a hotel we could afford (which wasn’t easy), we launched the first event seven years ago this week. And though it was not a giant financial win, I felt I was ok keeping it going if I could just pay the bills.

“You’re Being Irresponsible”

The reality is that I could have failed. I knew that. I did not like the idea of starting over in my mid-fifties knowing I had three kids to put through college and had to find a way to pay for life in my elder years. Some told me it was irresponsible.

But when something gets in your gut and you believe in it, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering what would have happened if you had just tried.

Preventing Disaster

Human beings want to prevent others from going through the difficult things they face, which is why they issue warnings about the foolish mistakes we’re about to make. Though there is no substitute for wisdom and experience acquired through effort, we all need to listen but follow our own inner direction. Here’s one story where this worked out.

Falling in Love with Radio

As a young boy, I used to lie under my covers at night and listen to my favorite radio deejays on my transistor radio. Bob Dell on WOWO, Chris O’Brien on WLYV, John Records Landecker on WLS, Larry Lujack on “Super CFL,” and Big Don O’Brien on CKLW all entertained me, played my favorite songs, and became friends to me, even though we had never met. I loved how radio made me feel. I wanted to be like them.

Breaking the Ice

In 1968, I joined a local Up With People group called “Sing Out Fort Wayne.” The group would meet weekly and rehearse shows and do community projects. In this group I met an older kid, the sound guy, named Charlie Willer. One of our community projects, where we were breaking up ice on the St. Mary’s river to prevent flooding, I was chopping ice next to Charlie. Before we were done I remember him saying, “Well, I’ve got to go to work,” and me saying, “You can’t go yet, we’re not done.” His response was, “I’m on the radio, it’s not like I can be late.”

I was immediately mesmerized.

I was meeting someone who worked on the radio? I wanna go! So, I put down my pick and asked if I could come along and watch. We piled into his black 1938 Ford (I didn’t have my driver’s license) and went to the radio station on the campus of Indiana Tech, in the basement of Syler Hall, and watched him spin records and talk on the radio.

I knew at that moment what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

“Sorry, You’re Too Young”

Soon I was introduced to the program director, whom I asked if I too could be on the radio. Keep in mind this was college and they had trouble finding college students to get up for the unpopular early morning shifts or late nights on weekends. When he found out I was 14 he discouraged me and told me that I needed to be at least 16, because a 3rd-class FCC operator licence was required, and I’d have to wait. I was heartbroken and that two years was going to seem like an eternity.

“Hello, FCC?”

The following afternoon I was on the phone to the Federal Communications Commission field office in Chicago to find out the criteria to get my licence.

“Um, yes sir, I’d like to get my 3rd-class licence. Can you tell me how to do it?”

“Well, you simply need to read the manual, study, and take the test. We have tests every first Saturday in Chicago.”

Now, at that moment I had a choice. I could ask if I had to be 16 like I had heard or I could just show up and take the test. If I asked and he said I had to be 16 and found out I was not, he would not send the study booklets, so I did not say a word, I just gave him my mailing address.

Soon I was studying the manual and my friend Charlie was testing me, and days later I was in Chicago taking the test. I remember being very nervous, walking into this giant granite building and this massive oak-paneled room from the 1930s filled with rows of wooden desks and wooden chairs. There must have been 150 people in there taking the test. I was one of them.

On the form it asked for date of birth. Should I lie, I wondered? No, I can’t. Not only is it wrong, if they found out I may never get my license, so I put my true age on the form, took the test, turned it in, and paced the floors to see if I had passed.

To this day I don’t know if the age restriction was 16 or not, or if they simply did not catch it, but all that mattered was I had what I needed to go on the radio, and a week later I was on the air every Saturday and Sunday morning playing Jimi Hendrix and album cuts from 1969.

Practice Practice Practice

Within about a year I was working Sunday mornings at a local Top 40 station, WLYV, getting paid a dollar an hour to come in and run the Sunday morning church programming. The highlight was that I got to “open” the microphone once an hour and say, “This is WLYV Fort Wayne.” I would rehearse it all hour. And while tapes were running I got to be in the production studio practicing being a deejay.

One day I hoped to be on the air on a real station, not just a college station with no listeners. I spent as much time as possible talking to the local deejays, the icons I had grown up listening to; and though encouraging, they would tell me, “Eric, you have to pay your dues. This can’t happen overnight.”

Pay Your Dues

If I wanted to be on the radio, making a living as a radio deejay, I’d have to fight to get a good job, and I’d have to work at small crummy stations in small towns for 10 or 15 years before I could be on a station like this. Though they did not mean to discourage me, everyone kept saying, “You have to pay your dues.”

But I did not want to pay my dues. I had big dreams. I knew I could do it, I knew I was going to be a big radio star one day, but I could not imagine paying my dues for decades before I got to a big station.

Seeking a Solution

Meanwhile I just kept practicing and making tapes, working at both jobs — one paid at a dollar an hour and one paid nothing — and I told myself I was going to beat the system and not pay my dues. There had to be a way, and by the time I got my driver’s license I was going to find a way.

Early Discouragement

Though I applied for jobs in small-town stations surrounding Fort Wayne, they asked about my experience, told me I was not good enough, plus I needed to get experience in smaller stations and pay my dues. The stations in town would not even talk to me.

Determined, I made tapes for six hours every Sunday morning, asked the local deejays for critiques on my tapes, made changes, made more tapes. One deejay, Bill Anthony, took a liking to me, helped me a lot, and we stayed in touch when he moved away to a new job in Kalamazoo. I must have mailed him a tape once a week, and one day he called and said, “Are you willing to drive two hours each way for an air shift on Saturday and Sunday mornings from six to 10?”

My Big Break

I was in! This was my big break. So, I quit my church tape job, drove up to Kalamazoo on Friday nights, and drove home on Sundays after my shift. I did this for about a year, and I even drove home on some Saturdays so I could go on a date with my girlfriend “Corky,” then I’d drive back.

That experience was so helpful and now I had tapes of me being on the air. But how was I going to get on better time slots, get on bigger stations? I kept hearing, “You have to pay your dues. Stick with this weekend shift for a few years so you can get good enough. Don’t even bother sending your tape around to other stations, no one will hire you with no experience.” I refused to believe them.

A Different Outlook

Though I wasn’t making much money and my gas for the commute ate up most of it, I saved my money and subscribed to a radio industry newsletter for deejays called The Gavin Report. I read it every week from cover to cover and decided I needed to get to know one of the writers, Gary Taylor. I would call him every week and ask him how I could get better jobs. Though I probably pestered him, he would tell me, “Just keep practicing and sending out your tape.” He was the only one other than Bill who did not tell me I had to pay my dues.

Then, one day, I saw an ad that read, “New radio station in Miami-Fort Lauderdale going on the air soon. Send tape and resume. So I sent my stuff (there was no FedEx at the time) and called Gary and said, “This sounds like the perfect job for me.” He encouraged me, and though I don’t know this for sure, may have made a phone call on my behalf, because a couple days after my packaged arrived I got a call in the middle of a party I was having with my friends at my parents’ house.

An Important Call

“Is this Eric Rhoads? This is Ronnie Grant, and I’m the program director of a new station we’re putting on the air in Miami. Our consultant, Buzz Bennett, likes the way you say “Y” because our new station is called Y-100. I’m offering you the 10pm-2am shift, on one condition. You have to be here in 48 hours when we go on the air.”

The next morning I loaded up my VW Bug and drove by myself to Fort Lauderdale and checked in to join the air staff of this new station. The rest, as they say, is history. My parents were probably mortified, but they were only encouraging. This was the big break that made my career in radio.

Paying Your Dues

My entire life I’ve been told I needed to pay my dues. It was true in radio when I was on the air. I was told this when I wanted to break into being a program director. I was told it was impossible for me to own radio stations when I was just 25. Almost everything I’ve done has had most people telling me I had to pay my dues, that what I wanted to do was impossible, or I was too young or too inexperienced. I’ve been told product ideas I had would never work and that no one would buy them. I’ve been told magazines I wanted to start could not succeed. I’ve been told events I’ve created won’t be embraced. Why? Because you have to pay your dues first.

Painting Your Dues

As a painter, I’ve also been told you have to pay your dues, you have to get your 10,000 hours of experience. I was at a dinner party at Fred Ross’ home (founder of ArtRenewal.org) when a famous painter told me I should give up painting because there is not enough time to get good starting as late as I did. No one over 16 has a chance to be a great painter, he told me.

New Ways of Learning

I have to admit, painting was harder, and that brush time is important. Yet, by being persistent and finding the right mentors, I think I was able to overcome some of the dues. And when I heard of new research about “chunk learning” as a way of overcoming the required 10,000 hours, I produced a video with Brian Mark Taylor to help others gain an advantage so they don’t have to pay as many dues.

Overcoming Barriers

I know experience is important and never want to say it’s not. I’d not want some upstart brain surgeon working on me without experience. And though we all need experience, there are ways to speed up some of the learning process and overcome some of the barriers.

All of this starts in your own head, in your belief.

When I had a dream of developing a new way of doing radio on the Internet, I kept getting “no,” and yet after flying back and forth from West Palm Beach to San Francisco every week for 10 weeks, the “no” turned into a “yes” and my idea was funded for millions of dollars.

An Impossible Dream

Since I knew nothing about technology I hired a search firm and interviewed 20 tech people. When I told them what I wanted to do, every single one of them told me it was impossible technically and it could not be done.

Only one engineer, Rich Sadowsky, said, “What you want to do is not physically possible. It’s against the laws of physics. But I’ll find a way.” The result was that we perfected new technology, got some patents, and paved the way for standards being used online today. It took us less than a year. The only difference between Rich and the other 19 people I interviewed was his attitude.

“I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison

Life has introduced me to a lot of amazing people, from fellow artists, fellow business people, writers, filmmakers, musicians, celebrities, radio and tv personalities, and film actors, and I’ve realized that the ones at the top of their game all have one thing in common.

  • When they hear of barriers they ignore them.
  • When they are told they have to pay their dues, they seek ways to get around paying them.
  • When others try to discourage them, they keep going.
  • While others stop trying after two or three attempts, they keep going even after 30 or 40 attempts, or more.
  • Though they too get discouraged, once they get something in their head they don’t give up, even when it seems giving up is the only option.

These are not people with some special advantage or gift. Most of them started with no advantages. They worked hard, they used their brains, they persisted, and though they experienced hurt, pain, adversity, they did not let that stop them.

Road Blockers

I’m a firm believer that people who discourage us along the way don’t do it to hurt us, they are simply trying to keep us from getting hurt. Perhaps they tried and failed and went through pain. They don’t want you to struggle.

Following Your Own Muse

We should always listen. We can learn a lot, save ourselves a lot of headaches, and often people are right. But it does not mean we should always do what others say. I’ve had many experiences where others have tried what I wanted to do, but sometimes one or two little different approaches will make your approach work where others have failed.

“Never settle for being a character in someone else’s story when you are meant to be the author of your own.” — Unknown

If your dream is big enough, if you know in your heart that you can and will make something happen, even if it’s impossible, you will find a way.

“If something is important enough, you should try, even if the probable outcome is failure.” — Elon Musk

Perspective is a wonderful gift, and it’s true that the experiences of others can be beneficial. Take it in, but know that you might succeed where others failed.

The longer I’m alive, the more clearly I see how much our attitude and our belief systems impact the quality of our lives and our ability to live our dreams, including impossible dreams.

What about you?
Where are others throwing roadblocks in your life?
What do you believe that others are trying to tell you won’t work, can’t be done, isn’t right for you?

I spend my life around a lot of artists and most were told by their parents that the artist’s life would be filled with struggle, pain, and no income. Most did it anyway. Most had pain, struggle, and no income — until it changed. Most did not stop when the roadblocks were placed in their way. One can never stop. Some endure years of ridicule, keep painting, and one day hit gold. Gold hunter Mel FIsher persisted for decades with no success until he found $450 million in lost gold.

“Never settle for less than you deserve, because once you start to settle you always will.” — Unknown

Perhaps today you might want to stop and ponder your dreams.

Don’t tell yourself they can’t happen, and listen respectfully when others tell you of their impossibility.

Life is about following your dreams, finding your own unique way of contributing to the world and changing it.

Don’t tell yourself there is no time left.

Don’t “try,” because trying is an excuse that lets you off the hook if you fail. Just do. Don’t let yourself off the hook.

“When you accept the fact that your true identity includes being an overcomer, you will never settle for less than a miracle.” — Craig Groeschel

Most of us have paid dues through the road of hard knocks. But don’t assume that just because someone else had to pay their dues means that you have to.

Be an overcomer.

Try more times.

When you fail, try even more.

Engage your mind and find ways to overcome what others have not figured out.

Start by believing that you have what it takes, your own unique ideas and perspective, which no one else on earth has. Use it to your advantage.

Eric Rhoads


PS: I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in Santa Fe at the plein air convention! I’ll be doing an art marketing boot camp with all new material three mornings in a row. Also, if you live in Santa Fe, we might have a ticket or two available if you show up and someone has cancelled. And the art show and expo hall are open to the public. I’ll be recording the new podcasts live at the show, too, and releasing my new book. See you there.

Beating “The System” 2018-04-04T14:38:05+00:00
1 04, 2018

Healing Deep Old Wounds

2018-03-29T10:13:19+00:00

Since today is April 1, it crossed my mind to invent an elaborate scheme, a story to fool you. Yet because it’s also Easter, that seemed a bit irreverent. It’s pretty rare that the two holidays fall together.

Today is a day of fools and jokes, but it’s also a day of resurrection and renewal. So I’ll start with some Easter groaners and end with resurrection:

How do you know the Easter Bunny is really smart?
Because he’s an egghead.

Where does the Easter Bunny get his eggs?
From eggplants.

What happened to the Easter Bunny when he misbehaved at school?
He was egg-spelled!

Did you hear about the lady whose house was infested with Easter eggs?
She had to call an eggs-terminator!

What day does an Easter egg hate the most?
Fry-days.

How do bunnies stay healthy?
Egg-sercise.

What do you call a mischievous egg?
A practical yolker.

OK, enough Easter jokes.

Pranks on April First

As a kid I used to love April Fools’ Day. We used to get up early in the morning to trick the rest of the family — things like putting food dye inside the water faucets or plastic buckets of confetti over the doors. I have fond memories. I also loved Easter. I had a bright red sportcoat, and under it I’d wear my James Bond hidden holster (toy gun, of course). We would go to church with family, then gather at one of our grandparents’ homes with cousins. It was a blast.

To this day, even though the kids are 16, we’ll still hide Easter eggs and they’ll have a blast hunting for them. They still love these traditions.

Challenging Holidays

Easter for many of us is a time when we’re together with friends and family, and, like Christmas or other family gatherings, there can sometimes be difficult moments or unresolved pain. Sometimes people hurt us so badly that we find time does not heal all wounds after all. Instead we cling to our stories, and never cut anyone a break for doing stupid things, being human, or making bad choices. So those hurts get carried from holiday to holiday, amplified, rarely healed, and sometimes we cheat ourselves out of those family moments because we don’t want to face those we believe hurt us. It’s called avoidance, and most of us have done it from time to time. I know I have.

A Lesson Finally Sank In

Sometimes it takes me decades to learn important lessons. Maybe I heard them and refused to listen, maybe I didn’t want to hear them or wasn’t ready, but this one finally sank in. Forgiveness isn’t about others. It’s about us.

When I Got Bullied

When I was in the 6th grade, I was severely bullied by a rotten kid I grew up around. I’m not sure why I was his target, but he did everything possible to annoy me and get me in trouble, and, because he often sat behind me, I got lots of things thrown at me. It got old, but I was not strong enough or did not have the courage to fight back. So I took it, got laughed at a lot, was often embarrassed, and could not wait till I got away from him. But he was behind me in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. It was four years of difficulty. I worried so much about it that I got ulcers. He would make such horrible threats, and, still having a young, immature brain, I believed him. Some days I pretended to be sick just to avoid school.

The Weight of Hate

I hate to admit it because I’m not a hate-filled guy, but I carried hatred for this kid well into my adult years. It ate away at me from time to time even as an adult. Seems silly now, yet we all tend to carry old stuff.

I had heard sermons about forgiveness, but this kid had hurt me so badly, had angered me and frightened me so much, that I could not let go of that anger, and it kept building inside.

Wisdom of Friends

Then one day it came up in a discussion with a friend, and he said two things that really hit home. First he said, “This kid bullied you for four years, and you are still giving him power over you for something that is only a fraction of your life. Don’t give him any more power. Let go.”

Look for the Motivation

Then he said, “When you look back on this as an adult, why do you think he did this?”

I thought about it and it came to me that maybe he was hurting, maybe he was being bullied, maybe his parents were abusive, maybe he was jealous of my happy family — or maybe he was just a rotten kid, but that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him.

Self-Destruction

My friend told me I needed to stop being angry because anger eats away at you, actually changes your physiology, and by not forgiving that kid, I was hurting myself. I wasn’t forgiving him because I didn’t want to let go of my anger. I rarely thought of him, but I steamed every time that I did. And on Sundays, each time the preacher would ask “Is there someone you have not forgiven for something they did to you?” that kid’s name would come to mind.

When I forgave him, I felt a new peace, and healing of an old wound.

Caring Too Deeply?

I know a lot of us hold on to anger because we think we had bad parents who should have done things differently. Yet I guarantee you that most of those “bad” parents cared very deeply. The problem is they cared so deeply, they may have pushed too hard to protect you from the bad things they knew about that you had not discovered. Chances are they wanted better for you.

Good Intentions?

Most parents have good intentions, but maybe they had no role models, no examples of how to do it right. Maybe they didn’t have the benefit of education or understanding. Whatever it was, unless they were actively abusive, they probably meant well. Even those who do horrific things may have been passing it on because of horrific role models. Though it’s not an excuse, it helps us understand why.

Parenting is hard, and even if we try to give our kids an ideal life, chances are there will be something that bugs them. Someone got more attention, someone got a better Christmas gift. We have to understand that most parents do the best they know how.

And even if you had relatives or others who did terrible things to you, you can forgive them — and still write them out of your life. Remember, forgiveness is about YOUR inner peace.

Sometimes I’m Burning Mad

I don’t get mad very often, but sometimes someone really wrongs me and it really hurts me and makes me mad — hurt usually becomes anger. Things like finding people were sharing your darkest secrets behind your back, people gossiping, people lying, people ranting on social media about you when they’ve never even met you. I get so angry that I want to stay mad, but that’s only giving them power and hurting me.

Who comes to mind at this moment that you don’t want to forgive?

Who hurt you in some way that makes you just want to scream?

There is new life in letting go, in forgiveness.

If you were in a 12-step program like AA, they would tell you to call or meet and ask for forgiveness. I agree that can be the best step, and very cathartic. Yet you just need to close your eyes and forgive. Truly let go.

Though it can be helpful to try and understand why, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Some things cannot be explained. You just need to stop letting your past hold power over you and trigger anger in your heart. And you don’t have to visit or call the person who hurt you, especially if it doesn’t feel safe. You are doing this for yourself.

Personal Resurrection

Today is celebrated because Christians believe that three days after his death, as predicted, Christ rose from the grave, proving that he had died for their sins.

Whether that appeals to you or not, there is personal resurrection, a change in your heart, when you let go of hurt and anger and forgive those you believe hurt you.

I Had No Idea

By the way, the person you are angry at might not even know. A few weeks ago an artist friend called me and told me I had said something that hurt him and made him feel bullied. I had no idea. Yet he had hung on to it for a year or more without saying anything because he did not want to make a big deal about it. Though I don’t know if he has forgiven me, I did ask for his forgiveness, and I think we healed our wounds. I cannot control anyone else and what they think, I can only create forgiveness in my own heart.

Anyone in Mind?

If anyone comes to mind who has angered you, who has wronged you knowingly or not, who has not always been the person you wanted them to be, you’ll never fully heal that wound until you forgive.

What if we all use today to heal, to ask forgiveness, to resurrect our families and our relationships, to reach out and, if nothing more, just let them know they are loved. Maybe then we can be silly fools together again like old times.

There is no need to bring up old stuff. Just go into a quiet space, close your eyes and think about where forgiveness is needed, and grant it. You’ll be doing something big for yourself, so that healing can occur.

 

Eric Rhoads

Healing Deep Old Wounds 2018-03-29T10:13:19+00:00