By Tony Marciano
When I was a kid, my mother won the lottery. She won $40 and bought a toilet with it. She was tired of her son clogging it with so much toilet paper. When my dad lifted the old one off the floor, he noticed something inside of it. There was a defect in the casting causing a blockage in the toilet. I remember saying, “It isn’t my fault. It was a defective toilet.”
Truth is, I use a lot of toilet paper. I didn’t realize how much toilet paper I use until COVID-19. Without thinking, I pull 18 inches of toilet paper off the roll. I can use a roll in three days. With the shortage of toilet paper in our local stores, I found myself changing my consumption of paper. I began to amend my ways. I labeled a roll my “St. Patrick’s Day roll of toilet paper” since I installed it on March 17. How long would it last? It didn’t last three days. It lasted over two weeks.
Sometimes we do things that are so ingrained, we do them without thinking. It took the virus for me to pause and consider my behavior.
Beyond toilet paper, there are our human interactions. I was at our women’s division, Dove’s Nest, teaching them to say “no” to verbally abusive relationships. Could they say “no” to that toxic person? The room went silent.
One woman said, “If I told him to pick up his dinner he had just thrown on the floor, I’d get beaten.”
I watched her shrink into a pool of powerlessness. It was learned behavior.
Let me tell you about my own learned behavior.
I grew up with a rageaholic father. He would verbally assassinate a waitress in 10 minutes or less. As I looked back over my life, I learned early on I was powerless to stop the verbal assault. I learned to go not behind my father, but ahead of him to clean up what could be a disastrous situation. If I didn’t clean things up, I would say to myself, “Here it goes again.”
I learned a pattern of survival. I learned to be quiet. I learned not to rock the boat. Unlike the verse, I leaned on my own understanding. Just like pulling 18 inches of toilet paper, I did what I’ve always done. It was familiar.
Twenty-six years ago, I looked at the Scripture verse “Why do I do the things I shouldn’t do and not do the things I should do?” What changed since then?
I learned that “no” is a full sentence. Not “no because, but “no – period, end of sentence.” If I give you a reason why I said, “no,” I still want your approval. As a Christ-follower, I believe I have God’s approval. Therefore, I don’t need yours.
I learned that if I rescue people from their self-destructive decisions, they will never become all God created them to be. I’m a rescuer. I have to back off and let God be God in their life.
I learned I am responsible “to” you; I am not responsible “for” you. This released me to stop going either in front of or behind individuals and clean up the consequences of their self-destructive decisions. (Does that sound familiar from my childhood story?) I am now able to “lean not on my own understanding.”
Yes, I am using a lot less toilet paper today than I did a few months ago. More importantly, I am learning about myself during these uncertain times.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He is available to speak to your group. Go to www.charlotterescuemission.org for details.