My name is Michael, and I'm just like a lot of other people - maybe even you. I have a family, good friends, varied interests, and some great careers over the years. But I had a big problem. Starting with my earliest memories - and into my mid-twenties - I struggled daily with feeling rejected, unworthy, and inadequate. To compensate for these feelings, I developed a number of very unhealthy addictions, bad habits that ruled my life for many years and caused me to repeat all kinds of self-destructive behavior - over and over. To top it off, I wasn't a very nice person. I had a sharp tongue and was prone to use it often.
The first addiction was to perfection, and it started as a child. My parents met while both were serving in the Navy. My father struggled against his own feelings of unworthiness because of a very chaotic upbringing, one that left him angry, bitter and hard, and he projected that on everyone close to him. As a result of his experience, his love for me was conditional, based upon doing things perfectly – something no child is able to do. But I tried.
It was clear I was a big disappointment to him, and that I would never measure up or amount to anything in his eyes. It didn’t take long to start thinking that it was a waste of time for me to try anything worthwhile. Why should I bother? It would never be good enough. I would never be good enough.
My parents divorced when I was five, and I felt rejected even more by my own father when their marriage ended. I only saw him a handful of times over the next five years. Frankly, I was relieved.
My mom, brother, and I moved from Ft. Worth to Houston. Her parents sold their toy store and moved down from Detroit to be near us. For the next five years, my life was amazing!
The space program was gearing up to put a man on the moon. The world's first domed sports stadium, the Astrodome, was built and we went to some games. Optimism was high as the oil business boomed. There was excitement in the air in Houston and we were part of it!
My grandfather was an entrepreneur, and would take my brother and I with him to do business, including lunch at his Lion's Club meetings. We felt like big shots! He was an optimist; he taught us about having big dreams, and that we could achieve anything. And boy, did he love people! He made friends everywhere he went, by encouraging everyone he met with a kind word.
My grandmother worked in the book department at Foley's department store, and instilled a love of books that continues to this day. She was the practical one in the family. She taught us to think, and she taught us about life.
My mom was determined to make a life for her little family. She worked hard as a legal secretary in downtown Houston, and with her GI Bill, she had bought her first house. She had bought a used Ford Falcon, and at age 33, she was learning to drive! To top it off, she was seeing a gentle man named Al who bore a striking resemblance to the actor Lorne Green. My mom began to trust me with more responsibility and independence, and that gave me a sense that maybe I was ok after all. It was a great time, and I was really happy. Life was a blast!
Then, at age ten, the unthinkable happened. My mother passed away suddenly, right in front of my eyes, from a severe asthma attack. It was 2 a.m. on a warm, muggy Sunday morning in September. I ran down the lonely, dark street to get help from neighbors, but it was too late. She was gone. My world had been turned upside down in an instant.
My grandmother took me with her to help make the funeral arrangements. It was hard and very surreal, but that was one of her life lessons and something I will always be grateful for. Even so, it was a very traumatic time, and I was torn apart inside between two powerful emotions. On the one hand, intense grief. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not to me. Not now. Not how it did. On the other hand, while I knew it wasn’t my mom's fault, I felt like I had been rejected by her. If she loved me, why did she leave?
I felt like God had abandoned me, too. After all, if He loved me why would He let this happen to me? Maybe it was because I had disappointed Him too, and didn't measure up in his eyes. It got worse when, a week later, my little brother and I were living with my dad again. Within a few weeks his words and his actions let me know that, once again, I didn’t measure up to his expectations.He was a big, imposing figure prone to swift, thundering outbursts of anger. It didn't take long to go from that happy-go-lucky kid to tip-toeing around, looking over my shoulder, waiting for the next explosion.
My dad was a classic functioning alcoholic, regularly overachieving in his career and athletics, but drunk every night and weekend - and taking it out on his family and others. There wasn’t anything I could do that resulted in praise or encouragement, but plenty that resulted in his swift wrath and condemnation. He didn't have much time for us between his work, sports, womanizing, and drinking. All of those things were more important to him. Even when I tried duplicating his example by overachieving in some areas, I was still inadequate in his eyes. Through all of this, I remained mad at God. Not that I had any kind of real connection to Him, but I figured he was up there and knew what was going on.
As I got older, things between my father and I continued to deteriorate. The more he pushed, the more I pushed back. It was a vicious cycle. I dealt with the pain of rejection by striking OUT at things, and IN at myself. I cheated in school, stole things, vandalized cars, and at age 16, I started drinking. I grew my hair out. I grew a beard. As soon as I finished basketball my senior year in high school, I started doing drugs, a daily addiction for the next seven years. Of course, doing these things only made me feel worse about myself. So I had another beer and lit another joint.
I joined the Navy right out of high school, hooked up with the wrong crowd, and quickly intensified my destructive behavior with more drugs and more alcohol. It was a daily contest to see who could get more wasted. Since I would never be anything, what did it matter if I ended up crashing and burning? I didn’t care about God and I didn’t think He cared about me. When I enlisted, they asked what my religious affiliation was so they could handle my remains properly if I died on active duty. I told them I didn't have any, that I wasn't sure God existed, and if He did, I didn't care. They could do whatever they wanted with me. It didn't matter.
Things began to change when I met my wife. She had grown up in the church, and had a personal relationship with Jesus. She didn’t push it on me; in fact I was more of a negative influence on her for several years, and I pulled her into my self-destructive lifestyle. But God had a plan for me, He was at work, and He was patient, even though I didn't know any of this at the time. We went to church once in a while, but I didn’t feel like I would ever measure up enough for God to accept me. Actually, I was right, but in a different way than I thought! I’ll share more about that in a moment.
After dealing with some medical challenges, my wife got pregnant four years after we married. I would go to the doctor with her for every appointment. I began to read a little magazine in the waiting room, entitled Guideposts. It was full of stories of people just like me, failures in their own eyes, unworthy of love, hurting, facing life's challenges - and how God worked in their lives.
As I read story after story, during two pregnancies over a 24-month period, I began to realize that despite all of the bad things I had done, and my strong feelings of utter and complete unworthiness, God loved me anyway. And I couldn’t do anything to make Him stop loving me!
That He loved me so much did not change the fact that I would never be able to measure up to His standards. But instead of the overwhelming sense of hopelessness I had felt earlier in life about never measuring up to my earthly father’s standards, I now had hope.
Because my Heavenly Father had made a way for me to measure up. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sins, once and for all. My part was simple; I only had to admit, believe and confess what He had done for me.
Admit that I was a sinner, and could never measure up to His standards on my own.
Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay for my sins, and that He rose from the dead completing the transaction. Confess with my mouth Jesus was my Lord and Savior and accept His free gift of eternal life. Once I accepted Him, He would accept me! Forever and ever.
I made that decision at age 27. Since that time my life has completely changed. I know that I matter. I have learned that God has a plan for my life, and a plan for what He wants to accomplish through me. In fact, as I look back I see that He was working His plan all along! I was the only one that didn't know it.
You read that right: He wants to use me! He has replaced the fear of rejection and the belief that what I do won’t measure up, with a sense of confidence and boldness because He is with me and He measures up. This assurance has given me the freedom to meet new people, try new things, take some risks, and not worry about “what if?” What if I made a mistake? What if I say the wrong thing? What if an idea didn’t work out like I planned? What if something I tried was a total disaster? What if I couldn’t live up to the expectations others had of me?
As I began to read the Bible, I realized that even the great men and women whose stories it tells made the same mistakes I’ve made. All of the mistakes. God still loved them, and God still used them. In fact, He did great things through them! Would He do any less through me? No.
The Lord has transformed me from someone who could not stand in front of people and talk without a complete meltdown borne out of fear, into a leader, trainer, speaker, writer and successful sales professional.
He has led me to conceive, design, and create new things, and then have the confidence to put them “out in the world” where other people would see them, use them, and benefit from them.
On top of that, I have been drug and alcohol-free since 1982!
Friend, I have found the answer and I’m glad I can share it with you! His name is Jesus – call on Him right now and find His perfect love and acceptance! Pray something like this, but put it in your own words.
“Dear Jesus, right now I ask you to be my Lord and Savior. I admit that I am a sinner, I am turning away from sin, and I ask You for forgiveness of my sins. I believe You are the Son of God, that You died on the cross, and You arose from the dead. I want to walk in freedom with You, and I want You to walk with me for the rest of my life and throughout eternity. Thank You, Jesus, for saving my soul. Amen.”
Christina is an
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