Last week the Daily Telegraph released a podcast of Prince Harry that was picked up by various news outlets in the U.S. including the Washington Post, in my home town.
I read various versions of what Harry said online, but was then blown away by the actual recorded 30 minute interview which you can listen to here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/16/prince-harry-sought-counselling-death-mother-led-two-years-total/
I think many in our culture would see Harry as a man’s man—hard drinking, adventure seeking. In his twenties he was flying helicopters, fighting in Afganistan, playing polo, partying hard—and keeping his emotions tightly zipped.
But three years ago something happened to Harry that I think we all can learn from. He recognized that he had not processed the death of his mother, Princess Diana, and that that bottled up grief was at the root of his restless ways. But let me start at the beginning.
The first question his interviewer asked was, “How are you really?” Harry gave a great answer right out of the pages of our books, by reporting on both his body and his emotions. He said, “I am a little bit nervous, a little bit tight in the chest, but otherwise fine.” Bravo Harry for being aware of your body and emotions and not saying, “I am fine!”
His interviewer did not validate his response. Instead she said, “Don’t be nervous.” I know from the tone of her voice that she meant to reassure him, but Harry stood up for himself, with a quick response, “It is understandable.” Go Harry! Good for knowing that is it okay to be where you are!
Harry, his brother William, the future king of England, and his sister-in-law Kate Middleton have formed a public charity called Heads Together to focus on mental health. Why is mental health is so important to him personally? Harry shared candidly: “I lost my mom at the age of 12. My way of dealing with [was] to stick my head in the sand, and refuse to think about my mom because [I thought] “Why would that help? It is only going to make you sad. It is not going to bring her back. So from the emotion side [I thought] don’t let your emotions ever be part of anything . . . I shut down all of my emotions for the next 20 years. [It] had quite a serious affect, on not only my personal life, but also my work.”
That 20-year emotional shut down was followed by what the Prince calls “two years of total chaos,” where he came “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions . . . All kinds of grief, lies and misconceptions were coming at [me] from every angle.” It was only when his older brother the future King of Great Britain, and other friends, told him, “You really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that none of this has affected you,” that Harry began to consider getting help. Harry had wondered if the way he felt was just part of growing up but he admits that he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.”
Harry explains, “I started having a few conversations and all of a sudden all of this grief that I had never processed starting coming to the forefront. [I realized] there is a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with. Go Harry for listening to those who love you and getting help!
He says that being in the public eye, having to take part in “certain public engagement from which he could not escape,” would trigger his flight response. Because he could not flee, his body would kick into fight and he found himself wanting to punch someone.
As he got help he found that his mates began talking to him and “started to slowly unravel their own issues because they knew that I could relate to it and there is nothing better than being able to share your experiences with someone who has actually been through it rather . . . someone who doesn’t get what you’ve been through.
As a volunteer with the Army’s Personal Recovery unit, Harry was meeting with emotionally and mentally wounded vets. He was also meeting with terminally ill children and their parents. He wondered, “How . . . am I supposed to process this?”
Harry spoke to a psychiatrist who said that even they need to process. “The rule is that for every three hours of listening, they need a half hour to talk to someone else and process it themselves.” His conclusion: “We’re not cut out to take on everybody else’s emotions . . .”
At age 28, when Harry began to really care, it was “really uneasy, trying to find a path in life.” But by the age of 30, he realized, “Wow this is a much better way of life–dealing with all [my own] grief,” as well as “sharing other people’s grief and knowing what they’re going through.” Now he enjoys interacting with others making it “lighthearted when necessary, but . . . also being the person holding their hand and being a comfort for them when they cry.” Sounds like our mission at HCI, to share the joys and sorrows of life.
Harry says that sharing each other’s grief is “a fascinating process for me, not just for me, but all of the people that I get to meet. I’m so fortunate to get to meet these people who have literally turned their live’s around. It’s all part of a conversation–being able to talk to a brother or sister or parent or colleague or complete stranger . . . some of the best [people to talk to], the easiest people . . . are, shrinks.”
“I’ve done it,” he admits. “It’s great.” “You sit down on the sofa and say [to them], ‘You know, I don’t actually need your advice, just listen to me, and let it rip.’” Did the Prince of Wales just admit that he sees a shrink? Go Harry.
“I think everyone should do it,” he continues. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone [who] has a stressful week . . . had someone [they could] speak to where they could offload all of their week’s grief or all the day-to-day ___ that everyone has to put up with? If you could dump that on Friday, how much better would our weekends be? . . . once I offload my stuff to somebody else, I feel so much better.”
“There’s huge merit in talking about your issues,” continues Harry. “Keeping it quiet is only going to make it worse. Not just for you but for everyone else around you as well, because you become a problem. [During] my twenties I was a problem. I didn’t know how to deal with [my issues].”
“I had to find the right person to talk to . . . One of my biggest frustrations . . . over the last few years is how hard it is to find the right person . . . But Harry urges everyone to “just have that conversation. You’ll be surprised, firstly, by how much support you get; secondly, by how many people literally are longing for you to come out. You’ve got so much more in common with other people than you ever thought.”
Their new charity Heads Together is for “every single person out there [who is] suffering from daily stress, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, alcoholism and depression . . . What we’re trying to do is normalize the conversation to the point where anyone can sit down have a coffee and say, “You know I’ve had a really ____ day. Can I tell you about it?” Once you’ve had a chance to share, Harry says, “Then you walk away and it’s done.” You don’t have to wait a week or 20 years. [If you wait] what could’ve been small can grow into this beast of a snowball that you can’t dislodge. Or you can dislodge it, but it’s going to cost you a load of money, a lot of time, a lot of heart ache, and probably a lot of grief for you and your family and friends.
Now Harry says he is in a good place. He acknowledges that being a prince has many benefits. A house, a car, a job that he absolutely loves. But what has really made a difference is learning how to process grief. “Now, because of the process I’ve been through over the last three years, I’m able to take my work and private life seriously. I’ve been able to put blood, sweat, and tears into things that will make a difference. For me, none of this would have ever gotten off the ground if I hadn’t dealt with [my own grief].”
It was this desire to make a difference that motivated Harry, William and Kate to start Heads Together. They are hoping to “remove the stigma and pave the way for people to be able to talk about issues . . . [such as] day-to-day stresses, homelessness, and HIV. It’s all connected. Everybody struggles. We are not robots. We are human.” Hearing this from the land of the stiff-upper-lip is quite encouraging.
Harry then casts a vision for the future. “Imagine if everybody is . . . wandering around at 50% mental capacity. Imagine what we as a country, we as individuals could achieve by unlocking the next 25%? Now that, I’ve cleared my head of all that rubbish . . . I can function at 25% more at my job, at home–whatever it be. It doesn’t matter whether you are a prince or a mother or the CEO of a company or a white van driver or a kid–it doesn’t matter who you are mental health, mental fitness relates to every single one of us.” Imagine that!
When you make it better for you, you make it better for everyone who cares about you, better for everyone who worries about you.
What about you? Do you want to see 25% of your capacity restores by offloading the grief that weighs you down? Think what might be possible if you did.
GO TELL YOUR NEIGHBOR . . .
“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Moses, Exodus 4:13 (NIV)
If you feel weak, limited, ordinary, you are the best material through which God can work.
Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God
The last conversation I’d had with my neighbor, Frank, had been a disaster. So when the Lord told me to tell him how to fix his car, I couldn’t imagine a worse idea.
I was in my backyard, lugging a load of branches to the compost pile, when I saw Frank standing in his driveway, two houses away, leaning over the open hood of his Audi sedan. His fists gripped the edge of the car, his shoulders were hunched forward as he stared intently at the engine.
Go tell him it’s the fuse to his fuel pump. I shook my head. Where had that thought come from? Was it God? Or was I making it up? I couldn’t imagine telling Frank how to fix his car.
I dumped the load of brush on the compost pile and trudged, deep in thought, back to my front yard where Sam was cutting down an overgrown Leyland cypress.
As I watched my husband whack at the cypress, I thought back to my last conversation with Frank.
It had been six months ago, after a winter storm, Northern Virginia-style–four inches of snow, followed by rain, then freezing rain and more snow. The next morning, one look at our slick snow-filled driveway was enough to make my husband and me break out our sleds and cross-country skis, heat up the hot chocolate, and call our bosses.
But not Frank. He was determined to make it to work.
Our picturesque little street, which winds down and around a steep hill, is treacherous in winter. From our front yard, we have a perfect view of the steepest part of the hill, and our neighbors do their best to entertain us on snowy days. Their humorous attempts to escape from the snowbound neighborhood provide a welcome diversion while we shovel the driveway.
The hill is a formidable obstacle–even for macho men in four-wheel drive vehicles. Twisting and sputtering, cars slither their way up the hill, wheels spinning. Frank was usually one of the first to try, even though he had one of the least suitable vehicles–a long 12-passenger van.
I was skiing home when I saw him. His van was speeding along the flat section of the road, then turned to climb the hill. The van continued at top speed for about 20 feet, then slowed to a crawl, wheels spinning. Yielding to gravity, Frank carefully backed the van down the track his vehicle had made in the snow for another attempt. He repeated this routine at least ten times while I stood watching from a safe distance. Occasionally he advanced a few feet. This only tempted him to try again.
His final attempt began like the others. This time when the van stopped moving forward, it twisted and slid back against the curb, coming to rest against a huge mound of snow halfway up the hill. Now he was in a fix. The van was wedged with one of the back tires against the curb in snow so deep I could barely see the top of the van. And right on the steepest part of the hill.
Several neighbors who had paused from digging out their driveways to watch Frank’s dogged efforts grabbed their snow shovels and headed toward the van to help him dig it out.
This is ridiculous, I thought. Why can’t Frank wait until the street is plowed? Imagine! Trying to drive a van out! I didn’t know at the time that Frank drove a vanpool. Other people were depending on him to get them to work. No wonder he was trying so hard to get out of the neighborhood.
Then I made a terrible mistake. As I skied past the trapped vehicle, my thoughts rolled off of my tongue and out of my mouth.
My thoughtless comments upset Frank and, as I skied into my driveway, I wondered, When would I learn to keep my mouth shut?
Even though I’d gone back later that day to apologize, I still couldn’t imagine offering him more advice. As I carried another load back to the compost pile, I thought, I’ve already made a fool of myself once with Frank. I’d better keep quiet this time!
But I couldn’t escape the nagging voice. Tell Frank that the fuse is blown. Was God speaking to me or was I making this up? I was beginning to squirm. The turmoil in my heart grew. Finally, I turned from the compost pile and walked hesitantly across the lawn.
Frank was fiddling with something under the hood.
“Hey, Frank,” I said, trying to sound lighthearted and feeling idiotic, “having trouble with your car?”
He took a deep breath and turned to look at me. A smile froze on his face. “Yes,” he said slowly, in an icy tone of voice, “it won’t start.”
I took a deep breath. “Have you checked the fuse for your fuel pump?”
“Yes, I have,” he said even more slowly, enunciating each word. “It’s not the fuse.”
Oh, great, I thought, now what, Lord?
“See,” he said, flipping the cover of the fuse box in my direction.
I looked down, bewildered. The diagram drawn on the inside of the fuse box lid looked complicated. My eye caught the phrase “fuel-pump.” It was listed in two places. I took another deep breath, “Did you know there are two fuses for the fuel pump?” I asked.
Frank was removing the distributor cap. “No, I didn’t,” he replied, so sharply that I jumped.
I turned and bolted.
About halfway across the lawn, I called back over my shoulder, “I hope you get it fixed. See you later!”
I ran back to my husband. While I was gone, he had reduced the cypress to a stump. As I told him about my conversation with Frank, tears began to roll down my cheeks. “Why do I always think I’m hearing from God, when I’m not?” I asked him.
He put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and hugged me. “You do hear from God a lot. You made a mistake this time. Let go of it, Betsy,” he said laughing. “It’s okay. You were only trying to help.”
I tried to put the conversation with Frank out of my mind and focus on helping my husband pry the stump out of the ground. But I felt wretched. Once again I had managed to irritate Frank.
About 20 minutes later I saw Frank drive off in the Audi, but it was a few days before I knew what had happened.
I was working in the garden when Frank’s wife, Jean, stopped by. I couldn’t resist asking her about the car.
“Oh, it was the fuse,” Jean, told me. “After you left, Frank replaced the fuse to the fuel pump and the car started.”
“Really?” I asked, stunned. My heart leaped. God had been speaking to me!
“It rattled him,” she continued. “He asked me how you knew it was the fuse.”
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“I told him that I thought you were surrounded by angels,” Jean replied.
Angels! I had prayed for Jean several times in the past year when she was sick. Each time God had answered those prayers. I could see that Jean’s heart was opening to God.
But what was happening with Frank? What was God doing the day he told me to tell Frank how to fix his car? And did he need to humiliate me to do it?
Looking back, I see that I needed to be reconciled to Frank. I was so embarrassed by the unkind remarks I made the day Frank’s van was stuck in the snow, that I kept my distance. I was content to wave from my driveway, never letting our relationship fully heal. But God was not content. He was not willing to let my shame over past mistakes get in the way of being reconciled to my neighbor. Talking to Frank about the fuse forced me to face my discomfort and this time my words brought help to a frustrating situation.
We all have people that we avoid. The neighbor who borrowed our rake and never returned it. The teacher who thought our kid was a brat. The former friend who made an insensitive jab. When we sin, or someone sins against us, we often avoid that person rather than taking our shame and hurt to Jesus and letting Him forgive us and cleanse the wound so we can be reconciled.* * * *
Who are you avoiding?
That was so embarrassing. Sometimes I just want to hide. I don’t want to admit, even to myself, that I did something wrong. Lord, forgive me! Show me how to be reconciled to those I have wronged as well as those who have wronged me. Help me to forgive myself when I do stupid things. Help me to see that the only way past these feelings of shame is to face what I did and receive your forgiveness. Move me past the places where I get stuck and take away my shame.
In Jesus’ name,
David and Goliath: I Samuel 17:1-37
1.In this passage it says “Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. Have you ever felt that way?
2.How did David see Goliath?
3.How did David’s older brother see him? Have you ever had a family member tear you down? How did you respond?
4.How did David’s commanding officer see him? Have you ever had a commanding officer tear you down? How did you respond?
5.How did David respond when Saul questioned his ability?
David Mighty Warrior
Today I am going to start posting a Bible study about David. Please answer the questions in the comment area and I will do my best to respond.
David Anointed as King: I Samuel 16:1-13
Read this passage aloud. This is our first introduction to David who would later become a mighty warrior and a king.
1. What does this passage tell us about him? Write an answer in the space provided, share it with your group. Report back to the large group.
2. How did David’s family see him?
3. How did God see David?
4. How do you think David felt before he was anointed king? After he was anointed king?
5. Have you ever felt like this?