by Fionn Zarubica

darthvaderanddarthsidiousThere are a few ways we can process “negative” experiences.  We can process them AS negative experiences, we can refuse to process them or we can process them as lessons that give us the skills and insight to heal others.

What is the difference between the people who choose one path over another?

Reality TV has exposed a lot of sad stories for our viewing pleasure.  It has given us the rather awkward opportunity to be voyeurs into the lives of struggling humans.

Not long ago I was watching a reality TV series in which troubled teens are sent off to live in other peoples’ homes to experience tough love parenting and hopefully turn their lives around.  I fell into watching this series quite by accident as one afternoon, while recovering from a cold, I got caught in the YouTube loop – where one video leads to another, and another, and another…  I never would have chosen or stumbled over it otherwise.

I watched a few episodes in which the host families imposed strict rules and confrontation techniques on the visiting teens, sighting social or religious values, rights of dominion as heads of household and somewhat arbitrary moral highroads as justification; and then I watched an episode in which two gay men in New Jersey used communication, support and trust building as their tools to reach the teens.

Which of the two scenarios do you suppose had the most lasting and meaningful results?

The gay couple didn’t impose rules such as no smoking, no swearing and modest dress, like most of the other households; they didn’t get up in the teens’ faces and tell them they were bad and powerless.  They asked that they abide by the rules, contribute graciously and participate respectfully in the family’s daily life (there were several other children already adopted into that family).  In turn, they offered support, wise counsel and creative solutions to bridge communication issues.  There were no ugly scenes, no yelling matches – basically no negative confrontations whatsoever. 

In the course of the episode one of the parents revealed that he had been beaten and abandoned as a child, and yet he was the one who had the tools to constructively and meaningfully connect with the most troubled of the teens.  

I am not saying gay couples make better parents, not by a long shot; there are as many messed up gay parents as straight parents.  But in the case of these two men, I think they are excellent examples of people who have successfully turned their struggles into their treasures.  

Having faced social discrimination against their lifestyles, childhood abuse and emotional abandonment, they each made the conscious decision to process their “negative” experiences so as to transform themselves into healers.  They chose to dedicate their lives to quality parenting for the purpose of returning to society healthy adults; previously children who had been thrown away and may otherwise have wound up as the subjects of future reality TV shows. 

What is the difference between the people who choose one path over the other?

Love.

Loving ourselves enough to know that while what we may have experienced as children at the hands of others is not our faults, how we react to it now and what we choose to do going forward is.

Loving others enough to allow them their stumbles, slips and failures, without offense or judgment, or a need to expose them or carry the past into the present.

Loving the opportunity we have to use what we have learned to make a difference rather than squandering it or using it against others and ourselves.  

Understanding that we are really and truly loved, and that all of life’s experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, are designed to elevate us so that we can extend a hand and elevate others.

Knowing that all that is, is love, and…

Love is all that matters.