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Posts Tagged ‘survivor’s guilt’

“Survivor’s Guilt” is a term used to describe a mental & emotional state, that arises when a person perceives themselves to have done something wrong, by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.  And while this term is most often associated with life and death situations, I would argue that this same phenomenon can occur in people who simply choose to get off the path of destruction.  That could be overcoming addictions, or leaving an abusive situation, or deciding to surrender your life to God, or any other thing that causes a radical change in the trajectory of our lives.  As I think back on my own experiences, I can see that the decision to depart from certain destructive patterns has often had the unintended consequence of alienation from people I genuinely cared about.  All I really wanted was to escape the carnage, but that often entailed distancing myself from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, negotiate that same turn.  In those life-altering moments, you have to seize the opportunity, push every hesitation aside, and drive yourself across the threshold of a new life.  But after the fact, it’s easy to feel guilty about those you left behind.  I expressed some of those feelings in a piece I wrote some years ago, which I called, “Homeless” (see below).  It was bore out of the revelation that my decision to pursue God had put me on a different path from some people that I truly loved, which eventually caused us to live in very different worlds.  Sometimes the chasm between those worlds has been too wide to reach across, and you can begin to feel selfish; as though you are the kind of person who is unwilling to run back into a burning building.  But ultimately, it’s a real struggle to convince someone to evacuate their home, when they can’t smell the smoke, or sense the flames.  And trying to save a drowning person, when you yourself can barely swim, generally ends with two funerals.  I have found that the only person who can really change a heart, mind, or life is God; and that all rescue attempts must be orchestrated by Him.  We just need to prayerfully stand at the ready, and play whatever role He assigns to us.

 

Homeless

As the shadows begin to crawl across the walls of my little room

The memories emerge from the corners of my mind

Not so long ago, we roamed these streets together

And I guess we thought that’s how it would always be

But here I am living a couple of floors above the pavement

And you’re still out there somewhere

*

I admit that this place isn’t much of a home

But it has running water

And is shelter from the weather

And it has a door that locks

And most of all

It has room for you

*

I never meant to leave you behind

I just assumed you’d want to come with me

But what I saw as a pathway to freedom

You viewed as a cage door

I can’t pretend to understand that

But I miss you just the same

*

I remember the time I stepped on that broken glass

And you wrapped my bloody foot in your only shirt

And the times we huddled together in the cold

And the way you’d hum the tune to “Silent Night”

Because of you, I never felt alone

And yet, that’s how I left you

*

I’m sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to stay

But when you can’t lift your head, you’re apt to drown in a puddle

It wasn’t so much the eating from the dumpsters

Because everyone does that at one time or another

But I couldn’t handle the never ending nights

And the hopelessness of it all

*

Tonight, I’ll once again leave a light burning

And I’ll unfurl the bed sheets from my window

I’ve tied them together so that they’ll reach the alley below

And I’ve anchored them to the radiator to support your weight

As I lay awake, every peep from the alley will stir my hope

And when I sleep, I’ll dream of you

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