When I was four years old, my younger brother was born. My parents focused on my brother and spent less time with me. It was only 40 years later that I discovered how this had affected me.
Reconstructing the situation from hindsight, I realized that I had unconsciously interpreted the new situation as an injury to me. I wasn’t number one anymore. Strangely enough, I became fixated on expressions by my parents that I was still important to them. I did many things to elicit their love by being extra helpful, extra obedient, and extra friendly. However, whatever I did, nothing could convince me that I had my old position back. I started to develop a sense of unworthiness, of low self-esteem. As a result, in my teenage years I started to withdraw into myself. I felt very sad and unhappy which also didn’t increase my ability to be attractive to the opposite sex. This in itself increased my lack of self-worth. It was a vicious circle. I had no idea how to get out of it.
The course I took was distancing myself from my parents; making my own decisions in spite of what they said. I finished study at a music conservatorium although my father said that it would not be a good way to earn a living. I married a girl my parents said did not fit ‘our’ culture. I became a member of a church my parents said was a sect. After my music degree I started studying theology, which was well beyond anything my parents thought was sensible. Only years later did I understand that what happened in my early years and the meaning I gave to it, had nothing to do with my parents, but only with myself. That is where the change started to happen. I realized that I had to take full responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. I realized that I had to stop being a victim, and stop blaming others for my situation. Although it took much more time to overcome the feelings of not being good enough, here is it where it all started.
Prayer for healing
The next habit I developed was praying for inner healing. My experience had always been that praying to God made a difference. However, how would it be when I started praying for my own healing? I cannot point to specific moments, but what I experienced was increased insights into my deepest self. I also noticed that His healing hands were so gentle. God never hurt me or blamed me. These prayers led to an unfathomable closeness to God. His healing in my life brought me to places I would never have been otherwise. He gave me insight into my black spots, and He gave me the assurance that I was safe with Him.
Read as much as you can
The next thing I started to do was read. One of the first, very impressive insights came from the motivational speaker Brian Tracy. He convinced me that basically anything is possible if you really pursue it. Gradually, I discovered that reading creates insight, and gives a broader perspective, and that my own perspective was often very narrow. Reading opened my eyes to a myriad of options for development. These days, I read one book per week. I am so thankful for all the personal insights, the psychological insights, and the deeper understanding of history. Most of all, I enjoy books or movies that bring me a totally new perspective or even challenge my convictions. Also, reading has increased my resilience. I started to understand how young children develop strategies to protect themselves, like I did. I also started to understand that anything is possible if you take full responsibility. I also started to see that God is a God of change and renewal. One of my favourite Bible passages is Isaiah 43:18-19.
Pursue your goals
One of my dreams was to pursue a PhD. After finishing an MA in Theology, I went to a Dutch university to pursue a PhD in Theology. It was in the early 90s. The response I got was that my MA in theology could not be accepted. I had to start all over again at a Dutch university. This was an incredible blow and made me angry towards the church because the church made me pay a lot of money for education, which was of no use at all for further development. Again, this was the pitfall of not taking full responsibility, but considering myself a victim of circumstances. However, in the meantime the healing process was doing its work just as taking full responsibility was for my own feeling, actions, and thoughts. Because of the principles of 100% responsibility, healing prayer, and bibliotherapy, I had discovered that anything is possible if you want it. So alongside my work as a pastor I was able to do a masters in psychology.
Blessing in disguise
One of the greatest blows in my life was the termination of my work as a Ministerial Associations Director. Although I had set so many things up, and I had planned so many things to still be developed, it all came to an abrupt end. It took me two years to get over it. I got over it by putting new things in its place. Two things that I had always wanted, and became possible now: first to pursue a PhD, and secondly, to set up my own company. I found that what I considered to be a tremendous fall, appeared to be a blessing in disguise. Growth does also hurt sometimes.
I have learned a couple of principles that can be helpful to overcome any difficult situations:
- Take 100% responsibility for your emotions, thoughts, and actions.
- Pray for inner healing and accept that growth hurts sometimes.
- Read as many books as you can and develop yourself.
- Pursue your goals and use all talents the Lord has given you.
- A disadvantage can be a blessing in disguise. Thank the Lord for disadvantages.
- Never, ever give up; always believe that you will succeed.
- Move ahead step by step, because you can only finish a thousand mile journey by moving forward one step at a time.
- Stop being afraid, because what doesn’t kill you, will help you grow.
- Be an extremely thankful person for everything that happens to you—the good and the bad.
Jurriën den Hollander is a contributer to ST Network, the European English version of Signs of the Times. A version of this article was first published on their website and is reprinted here with permission.