Three Hard to Absorb Letters

Here’s one from our podcasting guru, Scott Jones: This week Charlie Sheen revealed to the […]

Mockingbird / 11.19.15

Here’s one from our podcasting guru, Scott Jones:

This week Charlie Sheen revealed to the world he is HIV positive. In an interview with Matt Lauer, Sheen describes the moment he received the diagnosis:

… it started with what I thought based on a series of cluster headaches and insane migraines and sweating the bed, completely drenched two, three nights in a row, that I was emergency hospitalized. I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought it was over. Um… after a battery of tests and spinal taps, all that crap, it uh… they walked in the room and said, ‘Boom. Here’s what’s going on.’ It’s a hard three letters to absorb. You know… It’s a turning point in one’s life.

Three hard letters to absorb…

Charlie-Sheen-Selling-Two-Beverly-Hills-MansionsIt’s tempting and perhaps even understandable to be cynical about Charlie Sheen’s motives for his very personal disclosure. He did after all admit to being blackmailed–in his own words, being the victim of a “shake down”.

Confession is good for the soul. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to be dragged into to it kicking and screaming fighting it every step of the way. It also doesn’t mean that the catharsis and healing that can come from confession require pure motives to precede it.

The Charlie Sheen in the interview seemed to me a little different than the defiant Tiger blood guzzling self-proclaimed “Vatican assassin.” He’s an actor so maybe he fooled me. But he seemed as if he might have undergone some of the humiliation that leads to the gift of real humanity. At the least he looked like he was experiencing a mild sense of relief.

Who hasn’t tried to keep a lid on a secret or spin a story to preserve their self-image, terrified by the seemingly irreparable damage the leak would cause. More often than not, the weight of suppression and rationalization creates more emotional duress and pressure than originally was created by the fear of whatever it is getting out. As Brene Brown puts it, the problem with shame is that we all have it and the less we talk about it the more of it we have.


Charlie Sheen is now part of a social group that is sadly and unfairly stigmatized, this despite decades of education and awareness and medical advances that allow the hope for a normal life after those three hard letters are absorbed. But at the same time, this might be the beginning of a hopeful chapter in his life. Less is often more.

Nothing I know points out why spiritually and existentially less can be more than these words of the great psychiatrist Frank Lake:

The natural man in us tends to reject the paradox that mental pain and spiritual joy can exist together in us, without diminishing either the agony of the one or the glory of the other. The whole personality may be afflicted by a sense of weakness, emptiness, and pointlessness, without diminishing in the least our spiritual power and effectiveness. This is possible because Christ is alive to re-enact the mystery of his suffering and glory in us. So far as our own subjective feelings are concerned, any inner-directed questioning of our basic human state may produce the same dismal answer in us as before; the cupboard is bare. While we regard our humanity as a container which ought to have something good in it when we look inside, we miss the whole point of the paradox. We are not meant to be self-contained, but channels of the life and energy of God Himself. From this point of view our wisdom is to let the bottom be knocked out of our humanity, which will ruin it as a container at the same time it turns it into a satisfactory channel.

Losing the things which we think make our life mean something, things that often prop up our shadow selves and leave us emptier inside but proffer a false sense of security, this is a terrifying prospect. Yet often, when the bottom gets knocked out of us, there’s no place to go but up. Not through climbing, but through a lifting that’s not our own.