What happens when fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness are left to grow unattended in a child? For me, these emotional states of being began to shape and form an inward and outward hatred and vengeance both towards others and myself. What does this look like? Let me start off by describing the people I began to admire: bikers, mobsters and gang members. From my perspective these where the types of people that people thought twice about messing with and that’s what I wanted. But, even more – I wanted to be the one who doled it out, instead of the one who always took it. At the root of this was the desire to be in control. If, you’ve ever been picked on then you’ve felt that powerlessness and loss of control.

So, at a young age I learned that lying was more than just a way of getting out of trouble, but also a way of being in control. As twisted as it sounds, I enjoyed lying because in my young mind it was a source of power: I controlled what people knew about me. But, lying was too narrow of an outlet for the deep reservoir of growing hatred and vengeance within my heart. So when I was in fifth grade (10 years old), stealing entered the picture. Again, stealing was another way for me to feel like I was in control, but it also provided a way for some payback. More often than not, the people I stole from hadn’t done me any wrong, but in my mind someone needed to pay and everyone was fair game. By the time I started HIGHschool, I was quite the lying kleptomaniac who had the criminal record to show for it. But, lying and stealing just wasn’t enough of an outlet. That’s when drugs entered the scene. Compound all of this with a growing inferiority complex and this hatred and vengeance also began to turn inward.

Why is all this important? Every single person is born with a voice. We all have this inherent need to be heard. But, when this voice is smothered or even stolen from us seeds of fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness begin to take root and as is evident in my life and countless others has the potential to breed hatred and vengeance within the heart. I can’t stress enough the importance of mentoring. But, what is even more important is allowing children (and all people for that matter) to have a voice. Sure we still need to help nurture and shape them, but we must also allow them to feel secure enough to express themselves: to lay claim their own voice. I understand that this is the harder road. It’s always easier to superimpose our passions and desires onto others, rather than taking the time to nurture and shape them into who they are becoming according to their personality, interests, talents and passions. But, this harder road is also the better road.

Very early on after I came to faith in Jesus, what has always resounded so loudly within my heart and mind has been the reminder that “love takes work.” Now this journey of love has definitely been a difficult one because if done right: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT). Now that’s a pretty tall order in which I have fallen short many a time. But, what comforts me is the reality that I’m not alone in this. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit, who lives within me, to empower me to love as He does. I mean if I believe in a Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) then I can say with complete confidence that divine love literally lives within me. So maybe it’s not so much about trying to generate a selfless love on my own, but about leaning into the selfless love that already resides within me through the Holy Spirit. The more I’ve leaned into God’s perfect love the more I’ve been able to find and reclaim my voice because it’s in Him that I’ve discovered who I am and why I was created.