The heart of purpose

by | April 16, 2018

I didn’t understand this as a child as my father’s thick, leather belt thrashed my soft backside and crushed my tender heart. I couldn’t conceive of it as I shrank from the rage in his eyes and hands.

Had you told me this in high school as I observed jerks mocking and bullying the young, the weak, and the outcasts I would have said you’re crazy.

As a student of history — particularly man’s inhumanity to man — I would have scoffed at the idea. I mean, how could anyone believe such a seemingly absurd thing in the face of Hitler’s Holocaust, Stalin’s Gulag, Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution?

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: There’s no such thing as human aggression.

Let me put it more precisely: Anything that appears to be human aggression is just a smokescreen. It’s not the real truth.

Every time we act with aggression toward others, it never comes from a desire to dominate. Rather, it comes from feeling weak, helpless, afraid.

Chip away hardened layers of angry aggression in the human psyche and you’ll always find that aggression is actually defensiveness. Dig deeper and you’ll see that underneath defensiveness is deep, unresolved pain. Dig deeper still and underneath the pain you’ll see the deepest truth of all: acute vulnerability.

What we view as a “big” ego is actually a fragile ego. The people who are most hostile and contemptuous toward others don’t feel stronger or better than anyone else — subconsciously they feel weaker and lower. Their aggression is a misguided, destructive attempt to hide their vulnerability.

As the beloved Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön says in her book, The Wisdom of No Escape,

“We all have a soft spot and negativity and resentment and all those things occur because we’re trying to cover over our soft spot…it’s because you are tender and deeply touched that you do all this shielding. It’s because you’re soft and have some kind of warm heart, an open quality, to begin with that you even start the shielding.”

My father never hurt me. It was never personal. Meaning, his aggression towards me had absolutely nothing to do with me. He was simply acting out his own repressed, unresolved pain. Whatever pain I experienced as a child pales in comparison to what he experienced as a child. He could tell you stories that would bring you to tears.

I’m not justifying harmful behavior, mind you. It just helps to understand it.

But as I said, I didn’t understand this as a child. So I subconsciously did what all of us do: I built layers of defensiveness around my heart.

I shut off my emotional sensitivity and retreated into the sterility of intellectualism. I escaped into depression. I harbored deep resentment, thinking it would protect me somehow. Believing the world was my enemy and everyone was out to get me, I became defensive and reactive. I withheld my love from anyone I didn’t trust. I became ambitious, wanting to “be somebody” and “change the world” — not because I cared about the world, but because I was desperately trying to be enough.

And in my suspicious, guarded, anxiously striving state, I had very little to give the world. I hid my light under the bushel of emotional defensiveness. I couldn’t see others in their pain, nor help them, because I was so fixated on my own pain.

I felt “safe” behind the bars of the emotional prison I built for myself. And while hiding in this prison, my talents remained dormant, my contribution limited, my service to others constrained and selfish.

Over many years, under the tutelage of many mentors, and through much intense and terrifying inner work, I started breaking down my emotional defense mechanisms and seeing the truth behind them.

The more I healed my emotional wounds, the safer I felt within myself. And the safer I felt, the less consumed I was with my pain. And the less consumed I was with my pain, the more I could see the pain in others. And the more I saw that, the more I wanted to help others.

Then and only then did I begin living my Authentic Purpose.

So it is with all of us: We hide our light to the extent that we don’t feel emotionally safe. And we are empowered to shine our light to the extent that we feel safe.

Living our purpose really comes down to giving our love to others. Conversely, not living our purpose comes down to withholding our love from others.

(For tools to find emotional safety and live your purpose, click here to download my free toolkit now.)

We withhold our love not because we want to hurt others, but because we’re afraid to love. We’re afraid to love because we don’t feel safe to love. We don’t feel safe to love because the countless times we have been wounded.

As we heal our emotional wounds and find safety within ourselves, we start living our purpose with an open heart, holding nothing back. We become a bottomless well of giving, neither expecting nor needing anything in return.

We stop focusing on our pain and start seeing the pain in others. And we naturally, instinctively act out of human compassion to alleviate their pain.

Our Authentic Purpose is simply our unique expression of love toward others.

And here’s the fun part: We don’t get what we want — we get what we give. Therefore, the more we give the more we receive. The more we open our hearts and share our light, the more our hearts are filled with love and the more our lives are filled with goodness, richness, and abundance.

When it comes to finding and living our purpose, NOTHING makes a greater difference than healing our deep emotional wounds and creating emotional safety within ourselves. Because the safer we feel, the more we give, serve, and love.

And finding emotional safety comes down to understanding that no one has ever done anything to hurt us. It was never personal. Anyone who has ever hurt us was simply acting out their own pain.

At its core, choosing into purpose means not passing on the pain that was passed onto us through generations. The heart of purpose is transforming human pain and aggression into love and service.

The ultimate end of purpose? Peace on earth as each of us finds peace in our own hearts.

(For tools to heal your deepest emotional wounds and live your purpose, click here to download my free toolkit now.)

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