Chapter One — Meet Other People’s Craziness
He doesn’t want me?
A hot tear escaped his swollen eyelid and rolled down his cheek. Every breath made his chest burn. He clutched his threadbare blanket and covered his head with his pillow. Only the pale moon witnessed the curled-up boy as the sound of another fight penetrated his bedroom door.
He told himself it would be okay, but his seven-year old brain knew better. He pushed hard, but his pillow couldn’t drown out the noise.
Something crashed. His mother cried. His dad shouted. She yelled. They had long since given up muffling their voices for the boy’s sake.
“Where were you? It’s after midnight!”
“If I thought you cared about me, I wouldn’t stay out so late.”
He squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to listen. The boy never understood the fights.
Then he heard the words that made his eyes open wide. They shot through his mental fog with piercing clarity. “I want a divorce,” said his dad. “You can have the house. You can have the car. You can have the boy. I don’t want anything.”
The boy’s mind entered another dimension. The clock on his nightstand ticked in half-time, like it was slogging through sludge. His clenched teeth hurt. He could hear a fly buzzing against the window.
My dad doesn’t want me.
Instantly, consciously, purposely, the boy raised his shields. I will not let them hurt me. In his emotions he divorced them long before they could divorce each other.
Fast forward. Decades later, happily married with six children and a bubbly granddaughter, his struggles with intimacy seem like somebody else’s nightmare. He bears the scars of other people’s brokenness, but those scars no longer define him. He’s gotten past them. This book describes how you can too.
* * *
A little girl enjoys a tea party with her dolls. Her mom calls for the third time, “Let’s go, and I mean right now! Put your shoes on or we’ll be late for church.”
The girl pauses for a final sip of tea.
Her mother bursts into the room. “I said put your shoes on. We’re leaving now!” The mother grabs a curly-haired doll, rips the head off, and hurls it across the room.
The girl freezes.
“I said put your shoes on!”
She races to find them. Her mind shuts down. Her eyes can’t focus; her mom’s voice sounds muffled. Where are my shoes? She looks in the closet where they belong. Her mother screams words at her, but she hears only noise. She scours the hallway with her eyes. She searches under her bed. She can’t find them. Her body shudders.
“I said put your shoes on!”
“But I can’t find them!”
Then comes the accusation she’d heard a thousand times before. “Why do you have to be so stupid!”
Pieces of her heart drop into an abyss. Soon she will seal it shut.
Sitting silently at church she examines her distorted reflection in her shiny shoes while her smiling mother sings the hymn. No one suspects the storm savaging her spirit.
I’ll show you how smart I am.
Her life tells the tale of an overachiever. She studies hard. Gets the best grades. Flies through college and medical school. Rises to the top.
And hates every minute of it.
She can’t remember why she is so driven. Perfectionism and workaholism pull apart her marriage. She’s trying to impress somebody, but can’t remember who. She’s shocked to realize that her husband makes her feel stupid, too.
What force in her heart made her choose him?
Others, in their moments of weakness, defined her.
Fast forward. A painful divorce and a faltering reconciliation with her mother inspire a revelation: she doesn’t have to accept her mother’s caustic definitions. She’s never had to. She’s always had the power to embrace beautiful new labels from God.
Today, as a successful doctor, she enjoys helping others tap into that same power. She’s made peace with her ex. Her children thrive in their marriages and career. She’s made peace with her past and with God. No longer driven to impress, an image of wholeness and sanity has replaced the distortions of her childhood.
As we trace the hesitant steps of a journey like hers, I’m confident that you’ll discover your own steps to wholeness.
One more case study.
* * *
A little boy sits frozen in the warm, foamy bath water. This is supposed to be fun. Lots of toys and splashes.
Instead he feels exposed and vulnerable. He doesn’t understand these feelings and doesn’t know why he has them. All he knows is that the family member entrusted with his bath this night is doing some things he shouldn’t. It’s wrong, but the boy doesn’t know why.
Nor does he know that this would be the first time of many. Or that he would grow to like it even as he grows to hate himself.
The boy chokes down a gut-wrenching panic. He wants to shout, but no words come. His chest feels paralyzed.
Where’s my dad? he wonders. How come my dad’s not here? I need my dad! The boy has never felt more abandoned.
He doesn’t understand what happened to him. His mind forgets, but his soul remembers.
He feels dirty and lashes back with anger. He searches for a fatherly bond, but sexualizes that search. His confusion frightens him.
Someone else’s evil has altered his personality.
Fast forward. As a husband, father, and acclaimed musician, he confesses that it was his wife who empowered him to fight against that evil. How? She introduced him to God, the only Father who never abandoned him.
In this book we reveal how an encounter with God can overcome any amount of dysfunction and enable even the most contorted spirit to reclaim its truest identity. It’s not easy—the fight is hard. But it’s winnable, and this book is dedicated to showing you how.
Having struggles: normal.
Not being dominated by them: priceless.
* * *
Sometimes, other people’s craziness is more than we can bear. You’ve been there, right?
When I watched Good Will Hunting, I got choked up when the therapist, Sean (Robin Williams), hugged the troubled youth, Will (Matt Damon), assuring him “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”
Is it so bad for me to want some of that?
A lot of people threw their ingredients into the stew of who I am. Not all of it good. Some of it downright evil. I don’t want to nurture a victim-mentality, but I do want to get in touch with reality. The reality is that Other People’s Craziness has affected me profoundly. And I am treated to more doses of it every single day.
When my life gets crazy, most of the time it is my own dumb fault. I admit it. My bad.
But it’s not all my fault. And the mess in your life is not all your fault either. A lot of people have done a lot of bad things to you.
So why is it always you on the hot seat? For once, can’t we put the heat on all the crazies who’ve been messing with you and yours?
Let’s go after the crazy-making world of mindgames and the people who play them.
Other People’s Craziness—next to your own craziness—is the biggest splat on the windshield of your life. Let’s stipulate that we create enough of our own craziness to occupy a small army of therapists. There are plenty of books, seminars and therapists to sermonize about your particular lunacy. But let’s give you a break. Let’s sermonize about the other guy for once, okay?
Consider yourself “off the hook” for however long it takes to read this book. I’m not after confession, repentance, guilt, or shame from you. I’m not after you at all.
I’m after the people in your life who do bad stuff to you, and the forces in your heart that let them get away with it.
I want to show you how to have a great life in spite of Other People’s Craziness. I am totally confident in these principles. Not because I’m a sage or anything like that. I am confident because of their source. The principles in this book come from the Bible, specifically the book of Esther.
Esther is one of the toughest people you’ll ever meet. Her story bristles with palace intrigue, a murderous plot, and bad guys getting what’s coming to them in violent acts of revenge. Esther is not the only character in the story. There’s an ancient Al Capone named King Xerxes, a would-be Hitler named Haman, and a King Arthur named Mordecai.
Other People’s Craziness (OPC) messes with men and women equally—it’s an epidemic. Thankfully, God has given us his wisdom on how to smash OPC into a gooey little mess. Every follower of Christ can access that wisdom in God’s Word, the Bible.
Let’s dive in.