"You can be a victim or you can change the world," Glenn said this morning on radio. While the media and the White House like to talk about victims and defenders of minorities, the truth is that they're taking away individual rights from the average American in the name of the "better good" with almost every law they pass. In the words of Ayn Rand, "Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
So what is Glenn getting at? Why is he talking about this now?
Glenn explained that he received an email from a friend over the weekend. His friend shared a deeply personal and emotional story that ultimately proved why a society of victimization is so dangerous - it takes away individual freedom and allows people to view themselves as flawed.
"More and more I find it interesting when I hear people talk about being a victim of racism, social injustice, or any other malady they think keeps them down," the letter read. "Most people would look at me and say, 'I've had it easy. Who are you to talk about racism or being a victim,' they might say. Because they look at me and they see a white male in my mid‑50s, college degree, good job. Must have had a good life."
But that was certainly not the case.
Glenn went on the read the letter:
That doesn't begin to tell my story. That's the cover of a very complex book. So as a friend I thought I'd share with you the truth. I was raised in an upper middle class neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have four sisters, no brothers. To all accounts, we seem a well‑adjusted family. As a kid I idolized my father. He taught me how to play sports. I couldn't wait for him to come home so we could play catch. He traveled a lot for business, rarely attended any of my games, but I got used to that... sort of. But here's what very few people know. My father would beat me. I'm not talking about a well‑deserved spanking. I'm talking about being hit multiple times, multiple occasions. One time when I got into a fight with a kid in the neighborhood, my dad found out, he grabbed me by my collar, he lifted me into the air and he carried me down the street, kicking me in the rear end the whole time. I was to apologize to the other kid, which I did with tears screaming down my face.
So here I was a young child who looked up to his father, wondering why would my dad do this to me. I was confused. The beatings kind until I grew tall enough to where he must have thought I wasn't an easy mark.
Then there was an assistant coach of our little league baseball team. He was 20; I was 10. He had a party for the team at his parents' house after the game in the basement. He asked me and another fellow player to follow him. He took us into the bathroom. He said he wanted to make sure we were wearing the correct size jock strap. I won't go into detail. I'll just say this: He didn't touch me, but I was humiliated. I never told my parents because I thought my dad would get mad at me, and I'd do anything to avoid another beating.
Needless to say, my childhood was filled with sadness, confusion, and low self‑esteem. I never felt comfortable ever being me. As I grew older, I learned to wear a mask and hide the things that happened to me as a child. I became very good at wearing that mask.
To others I encountered, I seemed to have it all, have it all. I had it all together. But I was actually an awful lot like a duck, smooth on the surface but ferociously paddling underneath. My work took me to jobs in LA, New York, Atlanta, Chicago. I climbed the corporate ladder and my peers often commented on my ability to handle diverse situations. But inside I felt like I was a fraud. I took jobs and accepted promotions in order to feel better about myself and to show others that I was worthy, but I didn't feel worthy at all. I often dreamed that the fraud police would show up in my office, congratulate me on keeping it together for so long, and then ask me to leave by saying, "The gig is up. We know who you really are." Relationships with women came and went. I had no idea how to be in a loving relationship. And when one did come along, I'd run away for fear of being let down again. And along the way, I found alcohol to numb the pain. And numb I was. Not that I appeared that way to others, you see, but emotionally and spiritually I didn't feel anything. Alcohol made it easier for me to get out of my shell. Hey, I could actually talk to women, at least after a few beers.
For most of my life I felt like I had every reason to feel like a victim. When problems would occur at work or with a relationship, I'd tell myself it was my dad's fault for being so mean and hitting me. It was my dad who caused me to drink too much. I can't be in a good relationship because my parents never modeled one for me. But deep down inside, I knew that was a copout. I knew I had to take responsibility for my life. And finally I had become sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So 20 years ago I stopped drinking. I attended AA meetings and things started to improve. But still something was missing. Then eight years ago I found out what was missing. I found God. I found the power of forgiveness. For most of my adult life, visits with my parents have been short and not enjoyable. We'd talk about work, talk about the weather, talk about the neighbors, what they were up to. We'd occasionally talk on the phone, mostly just the obligatory holiday greetings. But all that changed when I actually got down on my knees and forgave my dad. In no way did I, nor do I, condone his actions, but I forgave him honestly and fully. But I had yet to share with him. And then a miracle happened. On my next visit to see my parents, I was to meet them at a restaurant for dinner. I arrived first and I waited out front. I saw their car arrive. I walked toward them. I expected to exchange the usual handshake with my dad. As I held out my hand, he said, "Come on, son. How about a hug." Now, we had never, never hugged before. We embraced. I hugged my mom too, but this time it was different. It meant something.
We went inside and we sat down, ordered our food. And in the middle of our dinner, my dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me how terrible he felt for all the things he had done to me. Wow, I thought. Where is this coming from? But I knew. Thank you, Lord. I stopped him and said, "Dad, it's okay. I'm fine now. And I want you to know that I love you." Now all three of us were crying. My dad said, "You do? How could you?" I told him that I had already forgiven him on my knees and that my life now was my life and I was to lead my life as I chose."
Every visit thereafter has been meaningful. I was reminded each time we were together now powerful forgiveness is. My father died this last February and I'm grateful that we had several good years together. I miss him and I love him still. I also took the time to write my baseball coach a letter of forgiveness. I never sent it. That wasn't my goal. But just putting it in writing and turning it over to God has removed that burden as well. Now I saved the last part for what's most important to today. I have a 15‑year‑old daughter. Her mother and I are divorced but we've remained friends. We've forgiven each other too. I have so much gratitude to have such a special daughter. She's an angel. When she's with me in the car and we get out to the grocery store, she takes my hand every time. Just the other day she asked to hold it a bit tighter so it wouldn't slip out. Imagine that. A 15‑year‑old girl that still wants to hold her father's hand. Each night when I tuck her into bed and kiss her on the forehead, she always says to me, "Dad, you're the best dad ever, and I love you so much." I smile at her, I tell her thank you, and let her know that I love her with all my heart. She's never seen the anger that I saw from my father. Thankfully I broke that chain.
Glenn, I'm just writing you because I wanted you to know I could choose to remain a victim and let what happened to me years ago control my life, but I chose not to. I'd rather be 100% responsible for my life without any excuses. Personal responsibility isn't a burden. It's actually the opposite.
Personal responsibility is freedom.
When I hear others complain about their circumstances or about what happened to them years ago, I do have compassion because I know it's hard. But I also know that being a victim is a choice. You can always choose to remain one, or you can be free. It's up to you. The bottom line is we all have baggage. Nobody gets a free ride. I'm happy to report that my baggage now fits in a small carry‑on suitcase that fits in the overhead bin, and it does shift from time to time during flight, but it's my job and no one else's to repack it.
"I got that this morning from a friend who's a member of this staff. You see, what we all forget is that we're surrounded by people that can help us," Glenn said. "We're surrounded by people who have gone through the same thing, if not worse. We all think we're unique. We all think we're different. And we are. We are all as different as our fingerprints, but we're never alone. I've said alcoholics are going to save the country. I don't know if that's true because I'm not sure that the country has a bottom. I'm not sure if enough people have a bottom that they'll ever say, 'Jeez, I've got to stand up and take care of this because I can't live this way anymore.' I think most people would rather live as a slave. I was a slave once, of my own making. To paraphrase Jacob Marley, I forged these chains myself in life, and I am happy to say without the help of any living man, I broke these chains myself as well."