The world is full of abandoned and broken houses. Many of them are grand old buildings which were allowed to fall into ruin. Some still look beautiful on the outside. They’ve been left to fall apart on the inside, though, because someone decided they weren’t worth the trouble and expense to save — to repair and make whole again.
The world is also full of broken people. Many look normal from the outside, but on the inside, they’re dysfunctional and falling apart. Most don’t even understand how broken they are. They’re full of invisible damage from their past. They hurt others and they hurt themselves, because it’s all they know to do.
These broken people need repair. They need to be made whole. Even if they figure out how much change they need, they often drift aimlessly or thrash about in pain and confusion.
I know this so well because it’s been my own path for many years.
When I was younger, I didn’t realize how damaged I was. I thought I just needed some minor adjustments. And then I slowly started breaking down my inner layers — stripping off old walls and floors to see the shaky foundation and crumbling supports underneath.
I eventually had to see my own pain. I had to see the damage I had unintentionally done to others. I was forced to acknowledge the source of my inner damage — and then to start taking painful steps to find healing.
When people try to restore old houses, they often take shortcuts. They put plasterboard and paint and new flooring over problems that are left in place. They sometimes spend a lot of money for work that just covers up the underlying faults that can be temporarily hidden. It’s not a wise investment, but people often get away with it. At least for awhile.
The alternative is expensive and time-consuming. It can require stripping everything back to the core of the building and fixing problems with the foundation or the support structure.
If you compare the two processes, one will appear to be making progress more quickly. If you just cover up the problems and make everything look nice with new wood and paint and flooring, a house can look great in a week or two.
But if you look at a house which is having foundational issues dealt with, it will look like a mess after the same week or two. You’ll see walls and floors torn out and you’ll see all the rotten wood and crumbling bricks exposed.
It’s the same way with people.
It’s easy to cover up problems. It’s easy to keep pretending that everything’s fine. And if you play the game just right, everybody will think you’re fine — or they won’t say anything if they suspect otherwise — and you can carry on as a depressed and dysfunctional and angry person inside. The internal details can take a million different forms, but nobody has to know about the demons inside of you.
If you invest the time and effort to really fix the underlying problems, that’s almost certainly going to be obvious to a lot of people. Others are going to know that you have issues. What’s worse, your emotional condition will probably look pretty unhealthy for awhile. Breaking down the damage requires tearing down the walls that you’ve used to hide from everyone.
But once you get that honest — with yourself and others — nothing will be the same. The repair process will be long and difficult. But when you get finished, you will be an emotionally healthy person who is at peace with yourself and with those you choose to love.
When I was young, I tried the “cover up” procedures. I thought that was all I needed. But new paint and floors didn’t fix things. I had to dig more deeply and find far more serious problems. I had to be honest — with myself and with others — about how damaged I was.
I’ve been going through a rough period for the last few weeks. I often feel like this as I’m breaking through another layer of internal resistance, after which I sometimes find the freedom to make changes I’ve needed to make. I couldn’t find that freedom without going through this painful (and often depressing) process.
Right now, I feel like walking away from something in my life. There are things I know I still need to change — which I haven’t allowed myself to change — and something in me feels like simply saying, “I quit,” whether it makes sense or not.
Everything about this would be easier for me if I were still in that place — where I was long ago — when I was in denial about how much needed to change. Lying to myself — and causing pain for those around me — was far easier, but all it did was set me up to keep hurting myself and others.
If you fix the foundational problems in a house, you’ll have a building which will last longer and will be worth more money in the long run. If you don’t fix the building’s core problems, you’re just setting yourself up for unexpected catastrophe when you can least expect it.
The same is true for a person or for a relationship. Dealing with core problems isn’t easy. It isn’t alway pleasant. But it’s the only way to be emotionally healthy and happy.
If a house or a person is worth saving, it’s worth doing the job right. It will take longer that way. It will have a higher cost. It will expose a lot of ugly issues along the way.
But the rebirth waiting at the end makes it all worthwhile.