This story of Wendy should inspire you to go from Good to Great
Wendy (not her real name) was the youngest of four sisters. She was beautiful, dynamic and full of promise when I first met her. She was well-spoken and maintained a good position at work. She was about twenty-one years of age and dating a boyfriend who really cared for her. She had been living on her own in an apartment by herself. She seemed quite normal and balanced in most ways. To the average outsider, it seemed as if she had the perfect life. Why would a young girl with a seemingly perfect world see a counselor like me?
As we met, Wendy began to confess that she had anger issues against her seemingly perfect boyfriend. She admitted that the boyfriend was fair to her, kind to her and treated her with the respect that every woman wants. But she had fits of anger and rage against him. She really wouldn’t explain why. He seemed perfect after all.
After we had established the proper rapport, Wendy stated something that stunned me. She broke down crying hysterically in session. After working to regain her composure, Wendy said that she had been molested by her father. She added that all of her sisters had been molested by her father as well. As if that wasn’t stunning enough, Wendy said that she was still being molested by him even at twenty-one years of age.
Although I could never comprehend the horror that she had suffered, my heart was torn as much as it could be for another human being suffering a tragedy that I would never experience. I could only imagine the pain that she must have endured growing up. Wendy’s childhood was lost early in life and been repeatedly violated ever since.
My mind raced. I didn’t know how to respond? Do I tell my supervisor? Do I tell the police? Do I just let her continue to spill her soul to me? What can I say to someone like this? She came from a very middle class family in a fairly wealthy community. I’m abhorred at what I have just heard. Do I let her know that I feel disgust and I wasn’t even the victim? How could she continue to let this happen even though she’s living on her own? Do I tell her that I have three brothers and that I can get them all to over with me to kick this guy’s ass? If she wanted to kill her father in revenge is it really too extreme? Did she need help planning a murder?
While my head was spinning, I decided to let Wendy continue with her story. As the story unfolded, she revealed that this had been going on since she had hit adolescence. All of her older sisters had been robbed of their childhood as well. I wanted to know why, at twenty-one, she was allowing the abuse to continue. I pressed her as to why she allowed her father to continue even though she was out in an apartment of her own.
Wendy told me that she moved out and got her own apartment in the hopes of separating herself from her father. To ensure that she always had enough money to afford her apartment, she became the one of the best employees at work. She couldn’t fail. Moving back in with her father was not an option. Wendy told me that when she got the apartment she was excited to be free of the threat of her father’s passes at her. To further protect her, Wendy kept the blinds shut so that any passerby could not determine whether or not she was inside the apartment. But although she had moved out on her own, her father came knocking and began to force the issue again.
Despite all of her precautions, dad still came by. Her father would knock on the door and say “Wendy, I know that you’re in there.” Quietly she would freeze both from sheer terror and in order to ensure that no sounds would be emitted from her apartment. Her father would knock all the more. In fact, he was relentless. He’d yell “Wendy, I know that you’re in there.” Though she refused to answer the door, her father would throw down the final words that would ensure his conquest over her. “Wendy, if you’re not going to let me in, then I’m going to go get it from one of your sisters.” It was finished. Wendy lost. She would get up, walk over and open the apartment door.
This was probably one of the most devastating times during my short career in clinical psychology. Wendy became one of my favorite clients for reasons that I’ll delve into later. I really wasn’t equipped to deal with something of this magnitude this early in my career. But she trusted me and I really felt a personal responsibility to help her find a solution out of this hell that she was living. She needed healing. Her pain was incredible. I wasn’t experienced enough to be handling something of this magnitude, but our relationship had evolved to the point that she trusted me in spite of my inexperience, and in spite of the fact that I was male. If I bailed out and turned her over to another therapist, I would be one more male letting her down.
Personally, this case took an immense toll on me. This was supposed to be just a job. I was to use this internship to learn. Therapy 101 says that you can’t get attached to your clients. And I definitely wasn’t supposed to bring any of this home with me. This would be difficult. I came from a great family. My parents loved me. They challenged me, but the one thing that my parents did that Wendy’s didn’t do was that they protected me. I was crushed know that her father, the one who brought her into this world, her personal protector as assigned by God, had violated each of his daughters…each and every one!
To make matters worse, Wendy’s mother permitted the abuse. Mom knew of the atrocities and did nothing to stop the molestation of any of them. Wendy told me that she vividly remembered a time that her father had his friends over for a weekly poker game at their house. The father had excused himself. When gone for more time allotted for a bathroom break, Wendy’s mother went looking for him. She found him molesting his daughter in the middle of the hallway upstairs. In the middle of the hallway! Wendy remembered her mother going up and hitting the father and yelling, “get back down to your poker game.” Dad got up and went back downstairs and rejoined the game and mom went back about her business as if nothing had happened.
By not fighting for her daughters, Wendy’s mother was condoning her father’s actions against each of the daughters. Wendy’s mother violated her as much as her father had. Each parent had made the decision that Wendy and her sisters were disposable and not of any importance or worth fighting for. Even today, I’ll never understand the amount of damage that Wendy’s parents did to her. I don’t know how a child or adult will ever be able to let go of something as horrendous as what she had experienced. Wendy was violated and destroyed by the very people that were assigned to protect her. The only people that Wendy learned to trust were her sisters who were experiencing the same hell that she was. But it was Wendy who offered herself as the sacrificial lamb in order to protect the others from their demented father.
So this begs the question, what does this have to do with greatness. Wendy never had a normal life…ever! Yet somewhere inside, Wendy said to herself “this can’t be all there is to life. There has to be more to life than what I’m experiencing.” How would she have any idea of what a normal life was? Perhaps she heard her classmate girlfriends talk about the good times that they had experienced with their father? Perhaps they spoke of their mother who wouldn’t allow her friends to do something because the denial was to protect them. Maybe she envied other children whose parents would insist on being with them when their friends went off on their own in order to protect them.
For over twenty-one years she had no knowledge of anything normal, but something inside, deep down wouldn’t let go that there was something greater for her in this world. Her older sisters weren’t good examples for her. The sisters never went outside for help. Yet something inside of Wendy told her that she wasn’t going to be like her sisters. That she could create her own freedoms if she would only take the actions necessary to search it out. She didn’t know the route to get there, but she knew that she had to move forward.
As a matter of finality, Wendy and all of her three sisters did take appropriate actions in order to ensure that their father would never commit these crimes against anyone again. At the age of twenty-one Wendy had the rest of her life to create the life she wanted. Sure she would need further help in order to deal with the bastardize view on life that she was exposed to during her youth, but she was free to do so now.
Wendy was a protector. Wendy protected her sisters. Wendy would allow herself to be abused by her father in order to protect the elder sisters who shared the similar pain. Wendy was not dealt the same deck of cards as most of society.
Wendy probably grew more than almost any of my patients under my care. I don’t attribute that to me. I was no more that an encourager or guide for her. Ultimately for Wendy to be set free, she needed to decide four things;
- Was her life valuable enough for her to aspire to something greater than the hell that she lived daily?
- Did she have a purpose in life that was worth living for? In other words, was the potential for her future greater than the pain of her past?
- Could she even let go of her past and the associate atrocities in order for her to have a meaningful future?
- Was she willing to pay the price to see if she could create something great with her newfound freedom?
You see, for a lesser woman, the answer would be no. Her father, her supposed protector, had broken and repeatedly violated the trust that comes with parenthood. You might argue that a reasonable mother, once finding out that her husband, is the one exposing their innocent children to evil would immediately intervene and yet didn’t.
She had every reason to give up living.
You are called to greatness NOW! In case you are one of those people with short attention spans who skip the introduction of a great literary works such as this book, I’ll repeat myself again. You, yes you, are called to be great NOW! This is an important sentence for three reasons. First the person that has been called to be great is you. Not your neighbor. Not the friend with the outrageously high I.Q. Not the child heir to someone’s multi-million dollar estate. You! Only you. You have two choices…you can accept it and embrace this as a plan for your life or reject it and continue in the safe, yet unfulfilling manner in which your life may be led right now.
The second part of the sentence, “you are called to be great now” is the word great. One of Webster’s definitions of great is “eminent, distinguished or chief or preeminent over others.” I love this part of the definition. It’s irrelevant what your calling is in life. Greatness transcends position or title. What being great means is that you are to be eminent, distinguish or even preeminent over others in your calling. That does not mean that you are someone to lord power over others, it only means that you are to be the best of what you are called to do. From housewife to president of the United States, you have been given a DNA that no one else on this earth has been given. You need to utilize it to the best of your abilities.
The third and final part of this sentence, “you are called to be great now” is the tense of the sentence. Being great is not about your future. Being great is not about your past. Being great is not about yesterday, last week, two weeks ago or ten years ago. It’s not about your failures, your missed opportunities or about the devastating tragedies that may have happened to you in the past. Being great is about being great…now, today. And it’s designed for your future. That future is the rest of your life.
When are you going to make your decision?????