Charles Thomas: Learning to accept yourself

January 26, 2013

Last week I tuned in to a show that I do not often watch very often anymore. It was "American Idol." I just caught the very end of the program, but it was perhaps the most enjoyable part. The final contestant was a handsome young man with a very large speaking problem. Whenever he would speak and become nervous, he would stutter. He stuttered so much so that it was difficult to understand a complete sentence because it was broken up so much.

What got my attention was the story that he told about his life as a result of this problem. He mentioned that, as a child, he had no friends and was shunned by most.

It has been said that those who have a deep and real inner life are best able to deal with the irritating details of our outer lives, and this young man’s outer life was far removed from his inner spirit and determination to move beyond his restrictions. He found his voice in music and when he sang, there was no stutter, only magic.

I have attempted many times to show the importance that music has in all of our lives. For this young man, it was an escape from a dark, lonely corner of life. He was placed there by that dominating force that says too often and too frequently that you are different. It is hard for me to imagine how people can continually place those types of burdens on someone simply because they may speak or look a bit different.

You see, assaulting someone does not always need to be a physical act. When you deny someone for those invalid reasons, you are in fact assaulting their dignity and respect and in doing so, you give the world a true vision as to how difficult it is to conceal ignorance. I will likely watch "American Idol," at least while this young man is on because there is just something about me that is always pulling for the underdog or the person that doesn’t have life presented to them on a platter. Maybe that explains why I am a lifetime Cleveland Browns fan — always pulling for the underdog.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in times of ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

In this young man’s quiet times, he simply sang himself away from those dark corners that seem to be a place that too many of us prefer others to be just because they are “different.” Since his voice was so smooth and spectacular, I heard one of the judges say, “Don’t talk, just sing you way through life.” Despite being pushed aside, this person made peace with himself and accepted who he was and how he was. His forgiveness was on display through the gift of a song.

Without forgiveness, life is governed by a cycle of retaliation. If only the remaining portions of society would do just the same, perhaps the harshness of the world would begin to fade as well. Being different isn’t always so scary. You just need to allow yourself to accept that which you consider not so ordinary.