By the time I was 19-years-old I had three juvenile felonies under my belt, I was an alcoholic, I had totaled two financed cars, I got my first DUI, and I got my girlfriend pregnant.  I was driven by fear and paralyzed by shame.  Miraculously, I passed an FBI background check, I was hired and worked as an international flight attendant for Pan Am for three years starting at age twenty.

In my desperate search for acceptance and approval I became a chameleon, void of my own personality, without real opinions of my own.  I was skillful at adapting, mirroring, parroting, and conforming to the behaviors, qualities, vocabulary, and dialects of others–here in the U.S. and in other cultures.  I meticulously studied and practiced the mannerisms, mentalities, dispositions, principles, expectations, styles, trends, and wisdom of a wide variety of social, demographical, geographical groups and subgroups of people.

I learned to connect with and relate to everyone from the street to the boardroom on some level.  I gained the ability to engage people in almost any social situation with an uncanny sense of ease and influence—I had to, because at no cost could the “real” me be revealed or my shame exposed.  I expended an incredible amount of energy creating and wearing masks; steeped in defense mechanisms and protective behaviors, I was often confused, not knowing where fantasy ended and reality began.

In my younger years my drive, my motivation, was to be accepted—to be approved and affirmed—to be wanted.  I was searching for a semblance of security because I believed I was unlovable, undesirable, and defective—I did not know the love of God.

I was extremely irresponsible and careless, never making decisions based on right judgment.  I was constantly in a state of gaining pleasure or avoiding pain—a life lived entirely based upon emotion.  Before Christ came into my life I never truly felt secure or comfortable in my own skin—I had an orphan heart.  I was motivated to do anything for a sense of security and peace of mind.

Eventually, my fear turned into internal rage and I used my knowledge and experience to manipulate, manage, and use people, primarily in passive-aggressive schemes.  I went from a GETTER to a TAKER.

Let me explain.

When I was a GETTER, I was whoever I thought people wanted me to be.  A people-pleaser. Fear-driven, goal-oriented.

I was a performer and my life was filled with props, adventurous stories, worldly experiences, brushes with greatness; whatever was trendy, impressive, sophisticated, romantic, inspiring, valuable and desirable to the flesh.  When I was twenty-two I lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and while there, I was interviewed by Daisy Fuentes at a nightclub called Dr. Smith’s in Botafogo.  It aired on MTV on February 8th, 1991 and you were going to hear about it.

During my GETTER stage, I would woo and charm you with this and a slough of other mesmerizing experiences.  I personally served former President Nixon and his secret service detail; I spent an entire flight from St. Thomas to New York serving and socializing with Bono, his wife Ali, and their baby daughter Jordan—because they were my only passengers in first class.  I saw/met/served a lot of celebrities and politicians; I had a lot of pictures, a lot of stories, and a lot of trivial material possessions, like pieces of the Berlin Wall I chipped off with a boulder in November of 1989—right before the fall of the wall.

I worked vigorously at being:

  • charming
  • competent
  • independent
  • seductive
  • stylish
  • cultured
  • exciting
  • creative
  • spontaneous
  • polished
  • worldly
  • irresistible
  • magnanimous
  • fresh
  • fluid
  • and out of your life in four to six weeks–no more than a couple months.

Underneath it all I believed I was a good person–I judged myself by my intentions and others by their actions.  I would go through people like toilet paper.  I even had a name for my targets, I called them “five minute friends.”  I was on a hamster wheel I could not get off of until it broke down.  And it broke down a lot.  I was in and out of 12-step programs over the course of twenty-four years, completing seven treatment programs in New York, Minnesota, Illinois, and Arizona.

By my mid-30’s, my fear was transforming into anger, rage, resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, and callousness.  I became a TAKER.

When I was a TAKER I was whoever I had to be to get what I thought I wanted.  Apathetic, wicked, evil.  Anger-driven.

The oppression of my greed, lust, and pride was taking a toll.  Did you know that one’s pride is directly proportionate to one’s shame?  I hated myself, and now I hated you, too.  I used people for personal gain and intentionally hurt them because I hurt.  I learned to use people’s words and actions against them to control their behavior in line with my desired outcome.  I was petty, rude, calculated, and vindictive.  I had a twisted view of myself, others, and God—built on a mountain of lies and false beliefs.

My attitudes and actions were:

  • narcissistic
  • offensive
  • selfish
  • manipulative
  • cold-hearted
  • distorted
  • threatening
  • destructive
  • deceptive
  • antagonistic
  • deceitful
  • oppressive

It would be abundantly accurate to say that I delighted in taking advantage of vulnerable people.

And then I paid for it.

I learned that there is suffering far worse than physical pain—spiritual separation from God.

Isaiah 54:7-17
“For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

“This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of agate,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your wall of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
If anyone stirs up strife,
it is not from me;
whoever stirs up strife with you
shall fall because of you.
Behold, I have created the smith
who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

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