How I Finally Forgave Myself and Learned How To Spit

Lake Maurer campground was not a hidden pearl in the green countryside of Missouri.

 

The boy dorm was known for a fragrant ghost that roamed its bunkbed-filled rooms. Forced to survive the hot and humid Missouri summers on “Monkey Island,” the boys swore it was he who exhaled the stench of dirty underwear and musty socks throughout the cinderblock corridors.

 

Camps in the 1980s often had dress codes that reflected a stricter time. Lake Maurer camp’s lawn was covered with huddles of laughing girls--all wearing regulation shorts and skirts that hid every inch of their curves and thighs. No mixed swimming allowed—even in the hot midday sun. Young boys would peep through holes in the pool’s tall privacy fence to catch a glance of young, one-piece bathing suit clad beauty.

 A picture of a group of campers at Lake Maurer Campground in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

 A picture of a group of campers at Lake Maurer Campground in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

Despite all the rules, I loved my yearly week at Lake Maurer Campground. I met my husband, Nick, at this camp when I was 14 years old. The first time I noticed his smile, he was following me across the wobbly white wooden bridge over Lake Maurer.

 

The bridge's painted skin was peeling off bit by bit and swayed back and forth, defying all safety codes. Underneath the bridge was a gurgling cesspool that belonged in some great Lord of the Rings adventure novel. It was a motionless lake—nothing flowed into it and not a drop escaped. As with all things stagnant, it stunk. Covered with a film of dead leaves and trash, Lake Maurer’s few fish inhabitants were desperate for something fresh. They would battle one another in the quest to devour the spit wads our mouths hurled into the water below.

 

Ever since those early years, I despise stagnant bodies of water. Lifeless. Putrid. Repulsive. Worthless.

 

I never realized that I had built a Lake Maurer in my soul.

 

After years of enclosure, there was a stagnant pool of hidden thoughts, wrongdoings and desires. I didn’t speak a word of them to anyone, and I did not allow anyone to speak of them to me. I believed that a strong person could embark on a new course in life while burying the unspoken darkness and secrets of the past inside.

 

This cesspool consumed my heart’s free space and devoured my mind’s ability to create something new and fresh. The one gift I have always possessed—the ability to sleep easily and peacefully—was taken away. Stagnation never simply disappears.

 

It grabs a sleeping bag and pillow, climbs a ladder to one of your private room's top bunk beds and declares itself a permanent resident. Inviting his friends for one continuous sleepover, they devour your once pristine and beautiful living space--bed by bed; room by room.

 

I believed I was strong enough to battle this alone. I would win the battle, move into a better rhythm of life choices, spit a few times a month into the water to keep the fish happy; simply move on. There was no reason to tarnish my reputation or to hurt someone else by revealing parts of my dark side. 

 

Keeping my inner Lake Maurer alive ultimately meant I had built walls between me and others. Fortified deep inside that fortress resided a feeling of rejection. After all, if I told someone the stories floating in my lake, I would gain their rejection while simultaneously losing their respect. Therefore, at my core, I deemed my true, flawed self as unacceptable—unworthy of being forgiven and loved despite my weaknesses.

 

You and I were never meant to live with a constant inner foundation of rejection. Created for the opposite, we long to be loved and accepted for who we are. This is what each human spends an entire life searching for.

 

When secrets stay trapped inside our inner reservoir, we defy our most desperate of needs. We have made the choice that our actions and thoughts have made us what we fear the most—truly unknown and undesirable.

 

One day, I invited a friend to my home. I sat, covered by my favorite turquoise blanket in a comfy living room chair. I looked over at her, and I felt the inner voice of God whisper to me, “It is ok. You can tell her.”

 

Of course, I had already told God all of the mistakes, but I needed to feel the love of a fellow soul--one with flesh and bones to wrap around me as I bitterly cried. I told her everything, and it was the day fresh water rushed into my soul. It wasn’t a trickle; it was a cleansing waterfall.

 

 

She accepted me. She loved me even more, because I gave her a rare glance of the true me—often strong and sometimes broken. I confessed, and through my words, I was finally able to do something God had done long before—forgive myself.

 

Some say forgiving others is one of the greatest challenges of life. But forgiving ourselves is the true pinnacle of difficulty. I believe confession is one of the crucial outposts along the climb.

 

Sure. You can continue to live all of your years with secrets. You can also build your own private home on Monkey Island. Take your personal row boat out on a spit wad-filled lake, where the stinky ghosts of the past will demolish your peace. While rowing alone, sing out the lyrics of your negative self-talk. Who would ever want to share this life with you?

 

Step out of that boat. Stand on one side of that shaky bridge, and take steps to leave that stagnant pool behind. Tear down the crumbling banks of the lake, it is time for fresh water to flow.

 

Step 1: Create a habit of confession in your life.

 

Confession is an old word that we often associate with priests seated in dark, wooden booths. Although that is one way to confess, it is not the only way. You can pray directly to God. Then take a step further—tell someone. It will be one of the scariest and most healing things you will ever do.

 

Tell a trusted family member, a spiritual leader, a counselor or, as psychologist Brene Brown says, a "MTBF."

 

Step 2: Identify your life’s MTBF.

 

MTBF {“Move the Body Friend”—If there was a dead body that you needed to secretly move and hide, whom would you call? This is the one you love and trust.}

 

MTBFs are not easily found. We are considered fortunate if we find one in a lifetime.

 

How can you test and see if someone is a MTBF? A counselor once warned me to not trust everyone. We need to find those who are worthy of sharing our story. 

 

We can do some simple “trust tests.” Start by sharing something with them that is important to you but holds minimal threat if shared. Wait a few weeks and listen. Did they tell that secret to someone else? Did they change the way they interact or care for you?  If not, tell them something of greater importance and once again observe.

 

Some of us have yet to find our MTBF. Never believe the lie that you are somehow unworthy of one. Sometimes our MTBF can be a parent, a sibling, a childhood friend that lives thousands of miles away, or has yet to walk into our lives. Do everything possible to maintain or rekindle that relationship. Any investment will be worth it.

 

If you don’t have a MTBF, it is not an excuse to remain silent. We cannot wait for the perfect friend in order to develop an openness and vulnerability with people. Find a counselor, a pastor or spiritual leader. The power of physically speaking out your shame and struggles will be the first step to setting you free. These trained professionals will help you realize that you are not alone.

 

I cannot deny that there is always a palpable risk when we expose our true selves to people. Sometimes we share with someone who does not deserve our story, and there are painful repercussions. Our confession and vulnerability are always more valuable to us than the pain of what people do to us with it.

 

Step 3: Confess everything: the big, the small, the hidden past, the feared future.

 

Many of us do not have big hidden secrets, but even our small mistakes, if buried, slowly gather and create a lake of unworthiness inside. It is a daily fight to keep the fresh water flowing; stagnation happens so quickly.

 

If I feel like I am jealous of someone, then I share it. When I review my actions and see that I spoke poorly of someone, judged unfairly or even am losing hope for my future, I speak it out to my MTBF. My words lose their power to condemn and rob my peace once they are no longer silent.

 

Step 4: Be courageous.

 

The bravest among us let themselves be completely seen. There is nothing that makes you unworthy of love. Nothing. You’ve tried your best, and no one's best is ever perfect. Are you finally ready to forgive yourself?

 

Forgive yourself and be free. Your freedom will also liberate others. Every one of us is created to be an agent of love and acceptance. To those we love and share our lives with, we are "soul cleaners;" ready to listen. We can never do that if we are paralyzed by our own cesspool.

 

What is holding you back?

 

We are waiting on the other side for you. Take a step on to that creaky bridge, leave Monkey Island behind, spit one last time into the lake, and jump in the fresh pool of water.

 

Just be sure you have a conservative swimsuit on. The magnificence of a freed soul is undeniably beautiful and is sure to draw a few forbidden stares.

 

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