This blog post is a self-reflection on how I have personally dealt with "stuff in my basement."
There won’t be “7 points,” “5 How to’s,” or "10 Secret Tips."
I am simply sharing a personal experience and struggle. Just like you, I have had many seasons in my life where I have had to figure myself out. It’s been my experience that a transparent story of what another man has gone through, or how he is thinking about a particular aspect of his life often helps others breakthrough something in their own.
Several years ago, my wife and I took a date night and went to watch the movie Rocky Balboa. Our kids were young and even though I thought life was progressing well, there was a part of me that was unsettled. Even though I first saw this movie over twelve years ago, the story within it hit me very deeply and has caused me to regularly reflect on how I am approaching life.
There was a very profound scene in the movie in which Rocky’s son came to him and practically begged him not to go back into the ring. Rocky, in his eloquence, proceeded to educate his son about the harshness of life and that making excuses and putting blame on external things for his own lack of success and fulfillment was a copout.
He challenged his son with the following charge…
“Life ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!”
*This is the entire scene to get the full impact behind Rocky's charge, but you can skip to 1:53 if you want to just see the speech.
This message transcends any one person.
The context of this scene is that Rocky has aged and is somewhere in his 50’s. His wife has passed away and his relationship with his son is not quite what he would like it to be. As he begins to soul search and contemplate the significance of his life, he realizes there is some unresolved dissonance that is holding him back. There is something he has pushed down so deep that he needs to face it in order to be truly free. He simply calls it, “the unfinished stuff (business) in my basement.”
In this scene, Rocky is talking to himself as much as he is talking to his son. His message is for all men, and he helped me realize I had some “unfinished business” in my own basement.
Admittedly, I was faced with the reality that even though I desired success in my life, I had developed a habit of self-sabotage. In truth, I had no idea how to rightly think about success or even go about the right plan to achieve it. Therefore, I feared it.
My natural default was to judge people who were successful.
I had developed a false belief that all people of wealth were just lucky, and that very few of them had a strong work ethic. I was judgmental of anyone living in prosperity and had convinced myself that the pursuit of financial abundance was an automatic pathway to some sort of corruption of the soul. Rooted in jealousy, I had convinced myself that people with money were those that Jesus would confront and say, “I never knew you.”
Sadly, I had also allowed my faith journey to become a crutch for this mindset. I had completely misconstrued and mis-contextualized passages like, “take up your cross” and “deny yourself.”
I was realizing I needed to step away from what the man at the pulpit was telling me and dive into a personal encounter with the text myself. I needed to seek and understand what God was really saying about abundance and prosperity on my own.
I had to face the reality that much of my thinking, when it came to success, was flawed, full of B.S., and needed an overhaul.
Around the time I first saw this movie, I had moved into a community with a very mixed bag of affluent people. I was observing that some in the community had indeed allowed money to corrupt their moral and spiritual judgment, but at the same time I was also coming in contact with people whose financial abundance was doing more for the growth of God’s Kingdom than I had seen in any church I had been in. Their thinking was very different than mine, and they were some of the most loving, god-fearing, and gracious people I had ever met.
My bad theology was being challenged.
This experience has taught me a couple things over the years.
1. You can’t fix what you’re unwilling to confront:
Rocky knew that the freedom he sought could only be found on the other side of surrendering to a process greater than himself. He had to get back into the ring and be willing to take the punches that would deliver the answers to overcome his internal conflict.
The ancient Israelite king, David, has helped me understand this idea best through one of his personal journals. Most popularly known as Psalm 139, King David acknowledges the sovereign nature of God as the ultimate creator of all human beings.
However, the most powerful part of his journal entry is that he admits his hatred toward his enemies and then has the boldness to ask God to search his heart, examine his mind, test his resolve, expose his wrong thinking, and then lead him through the process of making things right.
This is DANGEROUS, for two reasons:
- If he doesn’t confront the tension, the bitterness and resentment he is carrying will ultimately erode his soul. The King knows there is no freedom in unforgiveness, hatred, and anger. If he leaves his heart as is, it will only corrupt his ability to lead.
- On the other hand, by admitting there is an issue, he knows God will actually deal with it. Actually dealing with the “stuff in the basement” is a deep spiritual, emotional and intellectual refining that is typically painful. However, when the process is complete, the freedom that is found on the other side is just that, freeing and empowering.
The King had a decision, and so de we!
2. Embrace the reality that you’re not the author of your personal being. You’re only the caretaker of your current existence.
Whether you are a believer in God or not, every human faces the same reality. Not one of us had anything to do with our personal being. We all seek the answer of how we got here, and many of us have landed on the foundation of faith. Faith that there is a creator, that he is knowable, and that he will insert himself into our lives if we ask him to.
People of faith also believe they have been given human faculties to allow them the ability to become brilliant thinkers, big dreamers, unified collaborators, and innovative creators. They are to be Men of continual Growth and have a responsibility to THRIVE in their spiritual health, physical health, relational health, and yes, financial health.
If you are one of these men, I encourage you with the following as a means to keep the “business in your basement” always in good order.
I pray this article has brought value to you. I hope it provokes thought, engages discussion, and most of all, causes you to take action in an area of your life you know you need growth in.
God Speed, my friend.