Men Building Bridges #16
‘ Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’
Many years ago, someone I knew, introduced me to the concept of ‘Riddin’ Up’. She is a unique character, an elderly family matriarch, deeply respected & loved, very much treasured and cared for by several generations surrounding her. Whenever too much stuff had accumulated through normal every day life, every so often, it was high time, in her words, to ‘Rid Up’. In other words, it was time to ‘Get Up and Get Rid’ of all the stuff getting in the way: ‘Riddin’ Up’.
Riddin’ Up is akin to what we know as Spring Cleaning, but goes way further, and deeper. After many, many years of seeing this process worked out more regularly & vigorously than just Spring Cleaning, I realized the root and wisdom of her method. In what a few had even thought of, as possibly, a form of madness, Riddin’ Up was a thorough, deep cleaning and getting rid of not only clutter, but in the process, getting rid of the drive to accumulate and hoard all of the clutter in the first place. All of the accumulated things were then donated to the local Good Will, Salvation Army, Disabled Veterans of America, local homeless shelters for men & women, The Good Samaritans, and others.
It struck me, after I repeated this many times, that I was missing the point. Why was I doing this over and over and over, year in, and year out, sometimes several times a year? Why did I feel the need to accumulate so much stuff? I’d never possibly use it all. Sometimes, the stuff was never even opened or used, with the tags still attached from the stores, the stuff still in boxes and bags. It was then, that, in my realization, another thing struck me: I was accumulating not only things, but was accumulating other stuff: hurts, resentments, grudges, slights, grievances, offenses both received & given, emotional wounds that I secretly and selfishly nursed. I nursed them just enough to keep the pain, and the memory of the pain, fresh.
I had accumulated enough emotional stuff to bury a small mountain. I cared for and fed it, sometimes in selfish silence, sometimes in self-righteous anger, awaiting moments that never arrived to avenge myself. I nursed my many hurts, withdrawing from everything and everyone. Sometimes, new pain was added to the pile because it was just too huge to do anything else with. It all became confused with the accumulation of things in the twisted assemblage that I thought was ‘purpose’ and equated it with ‘things’.
Finally, in the process started in my life, many years ago, all of the things were removed. The small liberation I had felt each time I would ‘Rid Up’ and donate to charity was an inkling of what I was supposed to be doing all along. It became part of a larger liberation in mind. Sadly, that realization was still too dim for me to see. After a great deal of hard work, facing myself, what I had done, what had been done to me, what I had seen & experienced, what I had become, everything pointed to the single, inescapable fact: I was wrapped up in myself. I was so wrapped up in myself, I couldn’t see anyone or anything else. I realized it wasn’t about myself and my collected, hoarded things & hurts. Living as a man isn’t defined by what I accumulate, it’s defined by what I share & give.
We all hurt and feel pain, every one of us. We also feel joy and happiness and kindness. It’s what we do with it that counts. I began to see. Virtually everyone around me hurt. It was in reaching out in compassion and empathy, easing others’ hurt and pain, that my own massive hoard of hurt was dissolved. Riddin’ Up – that family matriarch was much wiser than I had realized. In letting go, not only of things, but giving them away in the first place was what she was trying to teach us. In doing so, she never knew what her example had accomplished. It flipped the switch on my spirit, which I had tried to hide. I wasn’t liberated from just the physical things I had sought solace in. I was liberated from the emotional things I had collected, both good and bad. I began to look past the accumulated cheap shots, cynical bitterness, hurts, slights, and offenses of each day, letting them go, reaching through, beyond, and around them to those lashing out in pain. Our empathy, our compassion, our love for others, for each other, is the acid test and evidence of our love.
In letting go, I discovered, I didn’t need many things, physical things OR emotional things. I didn’t have to look to things or others any longer. All I had to do was look, I suddenly saw everyone else, not myself, and I was free. The universe works on this in me, every single day. What have you accumulated? Things, Hurts, Slights, Cheap Shots Given and Received, Grievances, Malice, Bitterness, Strife, tallies of what you’d like to get even for? What are your private accumulations proxies for? What do you need to clean out this Spring? Isn’t it time to Rid Up? Forgive someone, bless someone with what has been so freely shared with you, not only materially, but more importantly, emotionally & spiritually. It’s all the same in truth and spirit. Think About It: it’s what we do.