A simple sign to transform your life
One line in a short film I watched this week thwacked my consciousness and plunged me deep into thought.
A teenager is hitchhiking on a quest to meet his birth mother for the first time.
After a long and frustrating walk, he is finally offered a ride. But he reconsiders when he sees the shady character in the car sporting frightening tattoos all over his face and hands.
The driver insists. The young man relents with great trepidation. His fear escalates when he sees the word HATE inscribed across the top of the driver’s fingers, and the swastika etched into his cheek.
Strangely, the driver turns out to be kind and caring. He drops the young man off at his mother’s house.
The young man is devastated when his mother pretends not to be herself.
In a confused rage, he runs down the highway, where the driver picks him up again.
After a long and silent drive, the young man studies the driver’s tattoos and asks, “Why have you got all that on you?”
And the driver drops the line that makes me ponder all week:
“I thought people hated me. So I put things on myself people hated.”
I wondered: In what ways do we let the perceptions and judgments of other people dictate our identity? How often are our actions determined by what we want other people to think of us? And why do we do this?
I thought of the beautiful article by Melody Ross that went viral, “We Must See Past What It Seems…” After detailing a heart-wrenching personal story, she says she wishes she could have worn a sign around her neck during that time that said, “My life is falling apart” so that others could have been more compassionate.
Then, she writes,
“WHAT IF we could all wear a sign that said what WE REALLY MEANT? What if we could go straight past the small talk……or the masks……and we could actually go straight to the heart of the matter……what if our friends and family wore signs like this?
“…we would treat each other differently.”
The truth is, we all do wear signs like that every day. It just takes discernment and caring to read them.
Our signs, like that driver’s tattoos, are displayed on the walls we put up to prevent people from hurting us. They manifest in how we treat and react to other people, in how we belittle and abuse ourselves.
Is road rage really the sign of a thoughtless jerk, or the sign of a hurting soul? Are harsh words a sign of rudeness, or a sign of insecurity? Is drug abuse the sign of shallow hedonism, or the sign of deep pain?
We believe people don’t like us because we don’t like them. We don’t like them because we don’t like ourselves. We don’t like ourselves because we don’t know who we are.
When we don’t know who we are, our identity — and therefore our actions — are determined by how other people label us.
When we truly know who we are, we learn to love the divinity within us. When we love our divinity, we stop judging ourselves. When we stop judging ourselves, we stop judging others. We are free to let our light shine, and our light empowers others to do the same.
If I could get people to wear signs, it wouldn’t be a sign displayed outward for other people to see. It would be a sign turned inward for them to read every moment of every day:
“I am a beloved Child of God. I am good. I am worthy. I am magnificent. I am loved beyond comprehension by my Creator.”
We don’t need other people to read our signs of pain so much as we need to read our own sign of divine identity. Because when we do, our own pain dissipates and we are able to discern the signs displayed by others. We’re able to focus less on our wounds than on love.
That suffering driver would be completely transformed if his pain-saturated belief could be replaced by this one:
“I know God loves me. So I do what God loves.”
And so would you and I.