Tomorrow, July 4, the United States of America celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was drafted “to explain to foreign nations why the colonies had chosen to separate themselves from Great Britain.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson explained that a body of people have a right to change governments if that government becomes oppressive (unfair and controlling). He further explained that governments fail when they no longer have the consent of the governed.”*
The longer I live, the more I have come to believe that we each need our own declaration of independence. I teach my clients to draft one as part of their mentoring toward healing after tragic loss.
We are blessed when we look at the things in our lives that have become oppressive, and that are occurring without our consent, and make needed changes.
My declaration of independence continually changes. I drafted my first copy as I was grieving my first husband’s death. I came to a point where I realized there was much that was oppressive in my life. Guilt, regrets, fears, and worries consumed my thoughts. I felt completely out of control of my own destiny as, without my consent, events occurred that changed my life drastically.
I thank Kirk Duncan, a transformational trainer and mentor, who taught me a phrase that will forever affect me for good.
“For life to change, I have to change.”
I wanted change. So I started looking closely at my life.
I realized that I was a ‘pleaser’, and had lived much of my life being who I thought others wanted me to be. I made my decisions based on what would make others happy, often disregarding what I truly wanted. I worried, would they think less of me now if I let the depth of my grief show? Would they think I was terrible if eventually I started being happy again?
I first had to declare independence from that flawed thinking.
I began to consciously worry less about what other people thought of me. Yes, I wanted people to like me, and yes, it hurt when someone disagreed with me and criticized me. But I couldn’t let that determine what I did any longer. Letting go of my dependence on other’s approval also helped lessen my feeling of inadequacy. When I wasn’t measuring myself by others’ accomplishments, it became easier to recognize my small but important successes.
I also stopped listening to those who liked me as a victim, and who doubted my ability to grow. I had welcomed their pity for awhile, but when I wanted to make changes and they cautioned me not to, I knew I needed to honor that inward voice urging me on.
I declared independence from my regrets and guilt about things done and not done in the past. I learned that the past is what it is, and my best policy was to learn the lessons it had to teach – and then to leave it in the past – and live fully in the present.
I let go of my fears of leaving the safe cocoon of grief. I would never say grief is oppressive – I believe that every step in the grieving process is natural and healthy – but when I stopped progressing through that process, my reaction to the pain became oppressive. It took courage to admit that I was ready to take the next step, and to re-engage in life again. I did it a little at a time, yes, but I needed to keep moving toward that goal.
I admit that in all of this declaring independence, I also realized my utter dependence in two ways.
I realized that I couldn’t ‘do life’ alone. I needed other people in my life, and others needed me, and I couldn’t stay sequestered away if I wanted to progress.
I also acknowledged my complete and total dependence on God. He was the source of my strength, my courage, and my inspiration. I asked Him what He would have me learn from the experiences I’d had, and what would be my next best step. He was the only one I could ask who I was, really, and what my potential was. I asked how would He have me live, and how could I best serve Him and His children?
It has been as I’ve asked these questions (and received and followed the answers given) that my independence has grown the most. I’ve come to know that I find my greatest growth and happiness when I’m in His service serving others. I have come to love learning and even, once in awhile, I enjoy taking risks and feeling the thrill of success when one works out.
Events will still occur without our consent. But we can independently choose how to react to those events, and continually move toward wholeness and healing.
Conscious independence can bring freedom. Draft your own Declaration of Independence, and enjoy the freedom that can be yours.
*Wikipedia, The Declaration of Independence