Capture the Flag

PaintballSplatHave you ever played paintball? It’s this disgusting sport where you attempt to mow other people down in the name of recreation. It promotes values like picking on the weak, killing, and violence on many levels. It’s really cool.

One of the most popular games you play at paintball is “Capture the Flag”. It’s the same as normal capture the flag except with guns, which adds a certain edge to the whole experience. In paint ball capture the flag, the idea is to hide or die. Only morons with a desire for pain make those lightning attempts to outrun the opposition in full daylight. The goal is stealth – see but not be seen. Kill and not be killed. If you are shot you have to go to the jail and hope to be liberated. It is the ultimate humiliation. Some would allege that it is far better to hide and play it safe. Good things come to those who hide and sneak and take cheap shots.

We are good at hiding. Many of us hide behind excuses; our life is not our fault. Others jump from relationship to relationship, blaming our ex’s for everything bad that happened. It is far easier to rationalize our behaviours than have to hold them up to the mirror of reality. We can hide for a variety of reasons because it is an uncomfortable thing to face the truth. This is one of the reasons that so many people never really grow up, never really understand life.

Self awareness, real self-awareness, usually comes at a terrible price.

Taking a hard look at our issues is not something we are prone to do until things get messy. Most people merrily go about their lives blaming the government, their parents, and their ex-lovers for the problems in their life. Real personal change takes an enormous amount of painful work. Frankly, most of us will pretend to address our issues while only scratching the surface.

In the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin, is forced to confront his own dysfunction and begins to realize that the very foundations of his existence and the beliefs he holds most dear are in fact bigoted, narrow, sick and twisted. As the movie progresses you watch this shell of a man come to terms with his life, a life that has been destroyed by his own attitudes. As the final act unfolds Melvin is humbled and enlightened, and his reality begins to change. In the real world things do not change in 120 minutes, but they can change.

There are a million reasons to hide and only one reason to get up and run. It is impossible to capture the flag, or any flag for that matter, without exposing yourself to risk and potential pain. On D-Day the officers knew, as they were urging frightened men to get out of their hole and storm the machine gun nests, that to stay on the ground was to invite certain death. It felt safe there, but it wasn’t. Victory only came through a hailstorm of bullets.

The willingness to be brutally honest with yourself will change your life. Real growth comes through pain and humility and failure. You may have to confront your darkest secrets and worst nightmares but it will be worth it.

Many of us, myself included, have struggled with the fear that people will not love us if they saw our ugliness, our sick thoughts, our petty dreams. We are afraid that we are unloveable so we hide behind masks, hoping to fool the world and fool ourselves. The result is a life of frustration, depression, anxiety and pain.

In counseling we call this a “cognitive distortion”. We have convinced ourselves that no one would care for us if we came clean.

We are wrong.

We have believed the lies about our own ugliness for so long that it is hard to imagine being free. We begin to think that we are unlike other people, we are freaks incapable of change.

We are wrong.

I have been there. Many of us have. The pit of self-loathing and recrimination is a deep one with few hand holds. It is better to hide, or so we think.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fallHumpty Dumpty sat on the wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

But did you know that there’s more to the story?

Not only did all the King’s horses and all the King’s men try to help Humpty out, “soon the King himself heard of Humpty’s fate. News about him had reached all the way to the palace, and the King was deeply disturbed. So setting aside his royal finery, disguised as a common peasant, the King slipped unnoticed through the majestic palace gates and into the rough-and-tumble street life of his kingdom.

“The King meandered through the back streets and alleys in search of Humpty. After several days and nights the persistent monarch found him. Humpty’s shattered body was scattered over a ten-foot circle amidst the broken glass and flattened beer cans of the back alley.

“Though weak from his searching, the King was overjoyed at the sight of Humpty. He ran to his side and cried, ‘Humpty! It is I – your King! I have powers greater than those of my horses and men who failed to put you together again. Be at peace. I am here to help!’

“‘Leave me alone,’ Humpty’s mouth retorted. ‘I’ve gotten used to this new way of life. I kind of like it now.’

“‘But – ’ was all the King could get out before Humpty continued.

“‘I tell you, I’m fine. I like it here. That trash can over there… the way the sun sparkles on the broken glass. This must be the garden spot of the world!’

“The King tried again. ‘I assure you my kingdom has much more to offer than this back alley – there are green mountains, rolling surfs, exciting cities….’

“But Humpty would hear none of it. And the saddened King returned to the palace.

“A week later one of Humpty’s eyes rolled skyward only to see once again the concerned face of the King standing over his fractured pieces.

“‘I’ve come to help,’ firmly stated the King.

“‘Look, leave me alone, will you?’ said Humpty. ‘I’ve just seen my psychiatrist, and he assures me that I’m doing a fine job of coping with my environment as it is. You’re a cop-out. A man has to deal with life as it comes. I’m a realist.’

“‘But wouldn’t you rather walk?’ asked the King.

“‘Look,’ Humpty’s mouth replied, ‘once I get up and start walking I’ll have to stay up and keep walking. At this point in my life I’m not ready to make a commitment like that. So, if you’ll excuse me – you’re blocking my sun.’

“Reluctantly the King turned once again and walked through the streets of his kingdom back to the palace.

“It was over a year before the King ventured to return to Humpty’s side.

“But, sure enough, one bright morning one of Humpty’s ears perked up at the sure, steady strides of the King. This time he was ready. Humpty’s eye turned toward the tall figure just as his mouth managed the words, ‘My King!’

“Immediately the King fell to his knees on the glass-covered pavement. His strong, knowing hands gently began to piece together Humpty’s fragments. After some time, his work completed, the King rose to full height, pulling up with him the figure of a strong young man.

“The two walked hand in hand throughout the kingdom. Together they stood atop lush green mountains. They ran together along deserted beaches. They laughed and joked together as they strolled down the streets of the gleaming cities of the King’s domain. This went on forever. And to the depth, breadth, and height of their friendship there was no end.

“Once while walking together down the sidewalk in one of the King’s cities, Humpty overheard a remark that made his heart leap with both the joy of his new life and the bitter memory of the back alley. Someone said, ‘Say, who are those two men?’

“Another replied, ‘Why the one on the left is old Humpty Dumpty. I don’t know the one on the right – but they sure look like brothers’”.

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