It’s time to re-think what we’re thankful for.
Don’t get me wrong though.
Reflecting on what we’re truly thankful for, is so critically important, and so easily forgotten, in our busy day-to-day lives. There is little doubt in my mind that we would all be happier people if we would take the time to hit the “Pause button” on all of the craziness that surrounds us, and simply be in gratitude, at least for a day.
I urge you to consistently remember what it is that you’re thankful for, not just once a year on Thanksgiving, but every day of your lives.
But that’s not what this post is about.
I believe that many of you are already sincerely thankful for your health, your spouse, your kids, your home, your friends, your family, and your job. But I also believe that there’s something that many of you reading this should be very thankful for, and you might not be aware of what it is.
My hope is that you will be after reading this.
Before you fall asleep tonight, I hope that you add something new to the many things that you are the most thankful for.
It could save your life.
What I want you to be thankful for is pain.
I’m not talking about physical pain that is easily forgotten over time, like the pain of a broken bone or a torn knee ligament. I’m specifically talking about emotional pain.
Not just any kind of emotional pain, though.
I’m talking about the healthiest form of emotional pain that exists.
It’s the pain of never again.
The Pain of Never Again
What is this pain exactly?
The best way to explain it is to share a brief story. Let’s meet Steve.
A few days ago on our Facebook fan page, I shared a personal story about my first job out of college.
Keeping a long story very short, my boss at this particular job didn’t like the name Shola because he felt that it would be “too complicated” for his customers to pronounce (yes, seriously). So, on Day 1 of my first job ever out of college, this guy made the executive decision to call me “Steve” instead.
Yes, you read that correctly. You can’t make stuff like this up.
When I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with my “new name,” he told me that I had two choices: I would either be known as “Steve” (complete with a name tag that said “Steve” on it, that I was expected to wear), or I could find another job.
He was dead serious.
Obviously, I laughed in that fool’s face, tossed his ridiculous name tag (with my made-up name on it) in the trash, and forever walked out of the job with my head held high, right?
Like a punk-ass coward, I put that name tag on my chest and wore it in quiet shame for the entire time that I worked there.
If the story ended at this point, you’d have my complete permission to stop reading this blog forever because I wouldn’t be worthy of your time and respect.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t. In fact, this is where the story begins.
Three days into my new job, I struck up a conversation with a customer, and as she was leaving, she looked at my name tag and said “thanks for your help Steve, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
Without even thinking, I said, “actually, my name is Shola.”
With a look of slight confusion and sincere curiosity, she said, “that’s such a beautiful name! Why does your name tag say ‘Steve’ on it?”
I stood there in stunned silence. It was such a simple question, but it was also one that I was completely unable to answer.
Did my name tag say “Steve” on it because the fear of “turning off” my customers with my real name was scarier to me than losing my dignity?
Did my name tag say “Steve” because I left my testicles at home and I couldn’t man up and stand up to my boss who was so clearly in the wrong?
Did my name tag say “Steve’ on it because my self-respect wasn’t nearly as valuable to me as the $14.50/hour the company was paying me?
The questions that swirled in my mind only added to my confusion. I still remained silent as the woman waited patiently for an answer to a question that should have been incredibly easy to answer.
Finally, with tears welling up in my eyes, I gave her the only answer that made any sense.
“I don’t know.”
At that moment I felt it for the first time in my life.
Seconds later I gave the customer a hug and thanked her (she had no idea why I did either of those things), ripped the name tag off of my chest as I stomped through the store, burst into my boss’s office while he was on the phone on a personal call, threw the name tag at him, and yelled “I QUIT!” as loud as I could so that everyone within 100 yards could hear it.
Necessary? You bet your ass it was.
His response? “Pathetic–you just proved to everyone that you’ll never amount to anything, Steve. If you don’t wake the hell up, your life is going to be full of failure and pain. Count on it.”
He was half right.
I felt the unbearable pain of giving away my self-respect and dignity to someone outside of myself. It hurt like hell then, and 16 years later, it still does. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, I know that you know what I’m talking about.
To my former boss, I’m awake now.
You had Steve’s dignity for 3 days, but you’ll never have Shola’s.
Using Pain as Fuel
Have you ever had something happen to you that was so horrible, so awful, so unbearable that you were convinced from that moment forward that you would never experience that pain ever again?
If so, then you intimately know the Pain of Never Again. Be thankful, because this pain can be the fuel that propels you toward a life better than you have ever imagined.
One of my self-development idols, Jim Rohn, once shared a story about this pain that has become somewhat of a legend.
One day a Girl Scout knocked on his door to sell him a box of world-famous and deliciously irresistible Girl Scout cookies. After her brief presentation about the yummy goodness of the cookies, the little girl stated her price.
Unfortunately for Jim Rohn, he didn’t have $2. So, what did he do?
He lied to this little girl by saying that he already bought a bunch of Girl Scout cookies this year and that he didn’t need any more.
For some people that wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but it was crushing to him.
As he reflected on what he did, he realized that he chose to look an innocent Girl Scout directly in the eyes and lie to her face because he didn’t have $2 dollars to spare.
The pain of that pitiful act was absolutely unbearable for him.
That moment was the spark where he vowed that from that point forward, even though he was broke, he would figure out a way to always have no less than a few hundred dollars in his pocket at all times. Equally as awesome, he also used the pain of that moment to launch his speaking career and forever cement himself as of one of the greatest motivational speakers in this country’s history.
Before the Girl Scout incident, he never would have thought that either was possible.
But it was possible.
He had the Pain of Never Again to thank for it.
What’s Your Breaking Point?
I want you to be honest with yourself right now. No one will know if you’re telling the truth but you.
Do you know your breaking point?
Are you intimately aware of the boundary that exists in your mind that can never be crossed, ever?
If not, let me be the first to tell you that you need to know what it is.
Let’s do a brief experiment. Take a look at the 4 common scenarios below and tell me if any of them would evoke enough unbearable emotional pain for you to say “Never Again.”
1) Your bully boss has made a habit of demeaning you constantly, cursing at you, screaming at you, and treating you in a sub-human fashion on a daily basis for close to a year. Yesterday, in her worst act to date, she viciously humiliated you in front of your entire team by ripping up a report that you spent the past 2 months working on while snidely remarking that “her dog could have written a better report than you.” Reporting her to Human Resources won’t do any good because she’s best friends with the HR Director, so you know that nothing will ever happen to her. There’s no doubt that you really need your job and that you’re currently living paycheck-to-paycheck with barely any money in savings, but the thought of spending another second with this evil woman is causing you to go slowly insane.
2) Your boyfriend has always been known for losing his temper, but last night he took his anger to another level when he forcefully shoved you against the bedroom wall in a rage and severely sprained your wrist. It took him until the next day to even acknowledge what happened, but in the morning he apologized profusely, and he even sent flowers to your office in hopes of making amends.
3) It is five days before Christmas and your 4-year old daughter is losing her mind with excitement. She is certain that this is going to be the year where Santa Claus is going to give her the bike that she has always wanted. She happily tells you all about how she’ll finally be able to go bike riding with her friends and how she’ll no longer be the only girl in their neighborhood without a bike. Her heart is bursting with pure joy, but privately, your heart is breaking. There is nothing on this earth that you want to do more than give her that bike–but unfortunately for you, there is no Santa Claus willing to hook you up, and you are nowhere close to having the $100 that is needed to buy it. On Christmas morning, the moment that you have been dreading is now your reality. Your daughter joyfully bounces into the living room ready for the happiest day of her young life only to see no sign of her beloved bike. The joy slowly drains from her face as she sobs uncontrollably in your arms and wonders aloud why Santa doesn’t love her as much as he loves her friends.
4) You’ve always had a slight weight problem, and you know that in the back of your mind that you need to do something about it, but it’s not a huge priority for you–until recently. In the past month, you’ve noticed some troubling changes. Jeans that you were able to fit into comfortably last year are now completely unwearable, you are starting to get winded just by climbing up one flight of stairs, you’re beginning to notice significant joint paint from carrying around the extra weight, and your spouse has gently told you that he is not sexually attracted to you anymore (is there a “gentle” way to tell your spouse that?). Worst of all, your doctor told you at your most recent physical exam that if you don’t make some serious lifestyle changes, you might not be alive to celebrate your birthday 10 years from now.
Are any of those enough to make you say “Never Again”?
Only you can answer that.
One thing that I know is that the universe will give you tests. And if you don’t pass your test, then you’ll have the joy of taking it again. Except the next time, it will be much harder.
Don’t wait for your boss to fire you, your boyfriend to hospitalize you, your daughter to constantly miss out on her desires, or for you to have triple bypass surgery in order for you to feel the Pain of Never Again.
Although, I shared with you the first time that I’ve experienced the Pain of Never Again, please don’t think that it was the only time.
I have walked in on the woman who I thought I was going to marry having sex with another man (on my birthday too, of all days).
I had a former boss punch me because I failed to follow her directions exactly as she wanted.
I had my water & electricity shut off in my apartment for a week and had to wash myself in the sink at work when no one was looking, because I couldn’t afford to pay my power bill.
I had a friend (or someone who I thought was a friend) call me the N-word because a girl that he had a crush on ending up having a crush on me.
I had a boss call me Steve because he didn’t like the West African name that my parents gave me.
I would be lying to you if I said that the pain of these events did not emotionally break me, because they did. And as broken as I was at the time, I somehow managed the strength to weakly mutter two words.
From that pain came a new strength. From my weakness came a new resolve. Most importantly, from the broken heap that was my life, I sprouted wings that I never knew I had.
And I flew.
You can too.
As I close my eyes tonight and quietly reflect on the numerous blessings that I am fortunate enough to enjoy in my life, I will say a sincere “thank you” for the pain that helped me to soar higher than I ever thought possible.
If you are reading this and you know in your heart that there is a situation in your life where you should say “Never Again,” please know that you’re reading this for a reason.
Be real with yourself.
Make today the first day of your new life by unconditionally loving yourself, respecting yourself always, and most importantly–by feeling the pain of your unacceptable situation and sincerely saying the words “Never Again.”
You deserve the best life possible, and you deserve it now.
You are special, and the Pain of Never Again is a reminder that you need to remember how special you are, always.
And for that pain, you should be very thankful.
Even if it hurts.