The Graffiti On Your Window
When my wife and I first got married we lived in a small apartment in the downtown area of a large city in British Columbia.
Times were a bit tough financially, and our apartment wasn’t in the best part of the city. It was covered with graffiti tags – scrawls used by kids to identify themselves or their territory. Illegitimate marks of ‘ownership’.
I didn’t like how it made the building look, and I didn’t like that someone would claim my home as their territory, so I asked the property manager if I could get rid of it. She was more than happy to have me clean the place up, and bought me all the cleaning supplies I wanted.
I went to work one weekend and scrubbed the whole building clean. It took me almost an entire day. And you can probably guess what happened.
The very next day I awoke to brand new graffiti.
So I got out the cleaner, and before I did anything else, I removed it. All of it. Off the walls. Off the doors. Off the windows. It made me angry, and I resolved to beat the taggers.
Every single day, morning and afternoon I did the same thing. I took it personally. I made it my first priority to scrub every single piece of graffiti off the entire building.
Something remarkable happened.
The graffiti lasted less than a week. It just wasn’t worth it to tag my landlord’s building – I wouldn’t let taggers claim it as their territory. They quickly realized that writing words on my walls and windows was a waste of their paint and their time.
We eventually moved away. A few years ago, we were driving in the area and thought we would drive by our old apartment. And – no surprise – the graffiti was back again. Nobody had been doing the work of removing it.
Hanging right in front of every one of us is an invisible window through which we see the world around us. As we go through life, we view events, people and circumstances through this window.
As time goes on, different things get tagged on our windows, and whatever is written on there will always be filtering our experiences. Those things may be something wonderful and strengthening and empowering, or they can be demeaning, like a remembered insult.
Your parents may have drummed into you that you’re slow or irresponsible or stupid and those words are still written on your window. And when you’ve made mistakes in life, as we all have, what you see on your window has served to confirm that you are indeed slow, irresponsible or stupid.
But here’s the thing; someone else sprayed graffiti on your window. Like a tagger, they put a mark on your window. A mark of ownership. Their tag is a claim on your mind.
You alone decide whether or not to let it remain there. You alone are responsible for what remains written on that window.
You can clean it off. You can write something else on that window. Years ago I wrote Joshua 1:9 on my window : “Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Those words have given me a great deal of strength over the years.
There are so many empowering ideas, thoughts and truths that you can write on your window. Some of my favorites are “This too shall pass”, “My final freedom is to choose my attitude in any circumstance”, and “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Once you start to understand how other people’s graffiti affects your personal window on the world, and you try to scrub it off it, here are some things you’ll quickly learn.
- Emotional graffiti is like real graffiti – all it takes for negative tags to multiply is inattention.
- The hardest part about removing graffiti is the first time you tackle it. Don’t be discouraged when you wake up the next morning thinking the same old thoughts.
- After you remove emotional graffiti, there is a period of time where it will quickly come back. You must be diligent and scrub the tags off your window immediately – morning and night.
- Set aside specific times of day to meditate quietly and consciously scrub negative tags off your mental window, and write positive new ones. It is not enough to remove negative messages – you must replace them with tags that give you courage and emotional strength.
- It won’t take long – usually around 30 days – before you’ll find that you’re seeing far fewer negative tags on your window.
- Remember, you can never prevent emotional graffiti altogether – extended periods of inattention will result in a discolored, ugly and tagged mental window.
Make it one of the highest priorities of your life to keep your window clear! There is absolutely nothing that will affect your daily life more than a focused and positive window on the world.
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