Light in the Dark

“Service activates the light”

-Tim Ballard

I went to a devotional tonight where Tim Ballard spoke about finding light in the darkness. Tim Ballard started the organization, “Operation Underground Railroad,” which exists to rescue children from sex trafficking. His job is basically going into the darkness and saving people from it. What he said tonight really resonated with me.

I don’t know why I took things so hard growing up. My life really wasn’t that bad. I’m pretty sure my siblings didn’t see things the same way as I did, or at least it didn’t affect them the same way. I’m not exactly sure what triggered in me all of the thoughts and feelings that followed.

What I do know is what I learned from it all. I learned to take care of people. I learned that everybody hurts and gets stressed and afraid. I learned to protect the people I loved and to bring light to the lives of the people around me. Serving other people is so ingrained in me that I literally cannot stop myself from trying to help someone.

My world growing up often felt chaotic and unfriendly. Part of it was autism and anxiety and depression, part of it was circumstances, part of it was past experiences, but I felt like I was fighting off darkness. I kept putting out light though. I tried to help and serve and do good to others. I remember tutoring people all through high school, joining clubs and participating in activities that helped others, doing things around the house to help my parents. As long as I was doing something for someone, I felt good. The darkness set in at night when the world was quiet and I found myself alone, but as long as there was someone to help, there was light. Like Tim Ballard said tonight, “Service turns the light on.” For me, service was my light. It gave purpose and meaning to my life.

I struggle with being myself. I struggle with loving myself. I used to think I was a horrible person. I used to hate myself. I used to think I never did anything right. Over the last few years, I have been able to change those thoughts. But they still come back. I still struggle to see my worth. I know I need to be good to myself. I know I need to love myself like I love other people. I know it is important for me to take care of myself. I’m just not good at it.

But serving people, loving people, helping people? I am good at that. It is hard to fight the darkness, but service gives me hope. Seeing light go into someone else gives me hope. When I can’t see light going into others, I lose hope. Someday I hope I can put light into myself, too. But for now, I am glad to realize that helping others can be my light in the dark.

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A Good Person

When someone drops something, I naturally want to help them pick it up. When someone is hurting or sad or depressed, I naturally want to comfort them. When someone appears lonely or out of place, I naturally want to be their friend. When someone needs help, I naturally rush to their aid.

I naturally want to help people feel good about themselves. I naturally love people. I am naturally thankful. I desire to do kind things and let people know how much they are loved. I desire to always do good, to make others happy, to make the world a better place.

With all of these things that come naturally, with all of these good thoughts I have, you probably think I would consider myself to be a good person.  The reality is that I hate myself. I consider myself unworthy, not good enough, a mistake, and ultimately a bad person.

I feel like when I’m reaching out to help others, I am messing up. I feel like when I sit with someone who appears lonely, I am being annoying. I feel like when I drop off flowers or candy or a note on someone’s doorstep, I did it wrong. I feel like nothing I do will ever be good enough. I will never be good enough. I will never be enough.

I tried to explain this to a friend of mine. I tried to explain that when I have the urge to do something good, I feel wrong about it. Over the last couple years, I have dropped off many anonymous gifts at people’s homes. Every time I did, I came home and cried. I stepped into my room and fell to my knees, sobbing and wanting to die.

People see the good and think, “she’s such a good person.” I see the good and think to myself, “what makes you qualified to think you know how to help someone? What makes you worthy to do kind things? What makes you think that they will appreciate this?” In looking at the good that I do, I am not proud of it; I am ashamed. I hate myself for the good that I do just as much as I hate myself for the mistakes that I make.

I used to stop myself from doing good. I would force myself to shut up and sit down. I would insult myself until I felt so small and insignificant that I would not think I was capable of doing the thing I desired. I still feel like that, but I do good anyway. I follow my kind thoughts, no matter how much it hurts, or how hard it is, or how much I hate myself for it, I do not postpone a generous thought.

Why do I hate myself this much? Why do I believe I am a horrible person, worthy of pain and punishment? Why is doing good things so hard when it comes naturally? I’m not sure. Maybe partly because of experiences I had.

I remember being yelled at for trying to help. I remember feeling like a bad person because I tried doing something good, but I did it wrong and was told it was better to not do it at all if I couldn’t do it right. I remember being yelled at for trying to coordinate efforts for good. I remember over and over being told that I did things wrong, that I communicated wrong, that I was wrong.

Eventually, I believed it. I believed I was wrong. I am a bad person. I do not do good things, I just do things that are good in bad ways. I will never be enough.

Am I good? Will I ever be good? Will I ever love myself? I don’t know, but I am trying. I am trying to be a good person and to believe I am a good person. It is difficult. I still worry, but I do my best. Maybe one day I’ll believe that I am good, that I am worthy of love, that the good I do is enough, that I am enough. Until then, I will just do my best to keep doing good despite how I feel about it.