Editor's Note: Chris has had unusual and varied careers, ranging from years as a Navy SEAL (including leading the Atlantic Ocean recovery missions for both Gemini and Apollo spaceflights) to the highly successful and innovative costume jewelry business that he and his wife Christina now own. He says their large store is "revolutionary and daring, because it allows the customer to look at and select the jewelry on their own, which is heresy to conventional corporate thinking on
security." He's also currently in charge of building a 25 million dollar Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL. "But," he adds, "my real passion is raising the visibility of the poor, for I believe that when the rich come out from behind all their walls and get close they won't turn away. Anyway, that is my hope."
On present world issues, Chris comments, "There are many sides to war and evil. It changes all sensitivities. An innocence is lost. We erred. But we
are also fighting for the future for our children. Because if we don't solve the Middle-East/Muslim/terrorist problem, then hell will find us. And the consequences will be no rules, no rights, only survival at all costs."
September 15, 2004
Why is acceptance so painful?
When we were born and accepted into this world we were unaware of the great pain and joy our mothers experienced. The extreme pain came first. We, the profound joy, came second.
My first introduction to acceptance came as a young kid, trying to be accepted by groups of other children that I felt I wanted to be friends with. This is all very blurry, but over time I saw that many different groups formed to protect themselves from unacceptance. I would try to do what I could to get accepted into the group I wanted to. There was something about feeling secure once I was accepted. Of course, one could then be the judge or chooser of who was then allowed into your group. Pretty soon it had to do with looks, who looked cooler. Pretty soon it had to do with who had what … Kids who had something special ... even stupid things like a rich father or celebrity acquaintance … just who knew someone seemingly more important than me. I think we can all remember back to those early times through high school and what made us feel uncomfortable and unaccepted. Teenagers work very hard at being accepted… and it is mostly painful. Self doubt rules every action. We had moved alot; that didn't help. New school when at 2nd grade, new school at 3rd grade, 6th grade, and 10th grade. Had to fit in more than I realized. Sometimes things happen we have no control over. Some kids have very bad things happen to them. These are held deep inside and make the journey to acceptance even harder.
How about not getting on the football team?? Or making it, but not being first string?? Or becoming a starter but not winning the big game? Always feelings of being unacceptable haunting us. So if you win the championship and want to get into the Pros? But you don't make it. But if you do, do you win the Super Bowl?? Are you then accepted?
Look at movie stars… always fighting being accepted…. Privately painful unless you opt for drugs to numb the truth of your unacceptability…
Well, I get "accepted" to Yale University. Four years of feeling unaccepted. Get into a fraternity, but is it the best?? Everyone else seems to have more money and all those impressive contacts or friends. Secret societies are plentiful, but I don't get invited. All of this further separates one from private good feelings about yourself. Sure, I am going to church during all this … and get brief glimpses of some higher calling … but, alas, there is too much partying to do….
I go into the Navy to Officer Candidate School. It is refreshing, as everyone is treated equal. I do well and graduate, getting to wear a beautiful uniform, commensurate with a new acceptability. I always wanted to become a Navy Frogman, but have to serve a year on board a ship to be acceptable. Then I have to take a fairly rigorous test to be acceptable. Then I start BUDS training in Norfolk, Virginia on Jan 1, 1964, along with 100-plus screened acceptable candidates. But to become a Navy SEAL you have to endure the pain of 6 months of the toughest training in the world, especially Hell Week, 5½ days of no sleep and relentless exercising, running, swimming, cold and harassment. The instructors ask you to quit 24 hrs a day. All you have to do is say "I quit". Kinda the same with the Lord. It is all on your shoulders. I graduate in the top of my class of 18 survivors, everyone else had quit. I am accepted… Yet now there are many guys who have done so many exciting and dangerous things… I no longer feel accepted until I do too. I finally am honored to be assigned to recover Gemini 6 & 7 and the very first Apollo!! Very acceptable for a while. But I never had combat, Vietnam. Years later I would not feel in the same company as those who did. I felt unacceptable. Silly. I get out of the Navy looking for even more in life.
Bent leads Gemini 7 recovery
I find a job in the fashion business in NYC for Lord & Taylor. Do well but never feel comfortable. I now get to judge others by what they wear and look like. I am now a fashion expert and, boy, do I become judgmental. 30 years in that business only makes acceptability more superficial. B. Altman, Brooks Bros, J. Crew, and finally the World Wrestling Federation where everything is false reality and acceptability reigns only for the moment. Where values are mocked and courage cartoonized. It all crashes, undone by falsehood and betrayal. Out of work again.
I now find myself taking a "temporary job" in a Catholic Charities Soup Kitchen in Stamford, CT. Helping the truly destitute 5 days a week. But here I have to prove myself acceptable to these poor and drug-ridden. What, me worrying about them judging me?? I grow and bring prayer to them at meals. I start to lead.
Life brings me to Naples after my mother's death. I get a job fundraising for St. Matthew's House. Except I didn't fit in; I wasn't a broken alcoholic. Yet, I yearned for their acceptance. Nope, I would not be a member of their club. I was asked to get more money from the churches. So I drove 5000 miles in Naples, visiting with over 80 different pastors. What an eye opening for my Catholic eyes. I would go to different services and hear very interesting preaching. In fact, so much of it was better that I would get in my church. I felt more comfortable, more acceptable in the poorer churches. The wealthy churches made me always feel uncomfortable. What people were wearing seemed more important than the Lord. You felt judged. So I learned (from my days in Cursillo) to sit in the front pews where it was just me and the Lord. And I could go into any church in the world and always find a seat in the front pew.
It became apparent to me that the rich, who are supposedly the most acceptable, are the most uncomfortable to be around. The poor tend to accept others much more readily. The rich look you over for credentials, social acceptability, and how much money/things you have. They are so insecure about their own acceptability. They have to have the right car. But even if you have a Rolls Royce, there is always someone who drives up in something even more exotic, for that is the world they choose to inhabit. People yearn to join a country club to be accepted. But then there is always one more exclusive, the Port Royal Club, the Royal Poinciana Club with its long drive flanked by royal palms. Superficiality, insecurity, and false acceptance are taken to unreality and irrelevancy. They are irrelevant. I grew up in that world.
"It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich person to get to heaven." This is true, for they are farther from Jesus than they think. Do you think they think that He really existed???
Yet the poor think that He existed. You go into poor churches and you feel the Holy Spirit? Sure don't in the rich ones, except for the exceptional preacher.
So one goes through life searching for acceptance. We go down every dead end street and find out the truth. Drugs, sin, evil actions, selfish acts, self-centered havens, all yield nothing. The "self" movement of the '60s is a dead end street. You have to die to self to live. You have to be reborn somehow. Well, all along, Jesus is waiting for us to accept Him. I didn't need to be accepted by a group or a church. I needed to be accepted by Jesus.
He accepts us. If we could just learn to accept Him, then real acceptance is ours. If we accept Him, then we see that He is Acceptance. We have been accepted by Him all along. And then a joy in the Holy Spirit fills our being and therefore makes us acceptable to all. In Christ I help others, in Christ, I listen to others, in Christ I expose myself to others, in Christ I am finally whole, in Christ I find myself acceptable to myself. What others think is now irrelevant. I live for each day with a positive spirit. Yes, I get down, but yes, in His faith I pick myself up and find places where I belong.
There is so much more to share when one feels accepted. I thank Jesus I did not give up and finally found his loving arms. I am home. Rock on. … (as in Jesus is now my Rock)
Chris Bent's email address is FROGFATHER@aol.com