Hoarders is an excellent new A&E show that profiles, well, hoarders, and the people who try to help them. This isn't an upbeat TLC makeover show, though--the hoarders have deep-rooted problems and they're usually deeply resistant to outside help. I don't watch it often because I find it too disturbing. On the upside, it usually leaves me with the urge to clean something. Last night, a man with mountains of scrap metal in his front yard was days away from serving jail time for a long history of city ordinance violations. The apparently lucid, hardworking, middle-aged man simply couldn't grasp this fact.
Professional organizer: "If we don't get this cleaned up, you're going to jail. That's the reality."
Hoarder: "...I wish you'd lose that word."
PO: "Reality? Well, that's the reality."
Hoarder: (visibly uncomfortable) "I know. I just wish you wouldn't say it."
This exchange struck a chord with me. Reality avoidance seems to creep up on almost everyone, not just scrap metal hoarders. I just started Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud, a book that focuses on this very issue, and others related to the key components of integrity and character. I've always thought of character as "doing the right thing" and telling the truth. I vote, I recycle, I volunteer--I'm a good person, right? Dr. Cloud outlines how this faulty belief keeps people from developing other essential aspects of character. No matter how honest and hardworking, a person without a fully developed character will always fall short of his or her potential. One important facet of character and integrity is the ability to embrace negative realities--and solve them--instead of avoiding, ignoring, and running the other way. Boss doesn't like you? Budget isn't working? Career hit a rough patch? That's life, folks! Left unsolved, problems like these can develop into blind spots that cloud your judgement and keep you from seeing the big picture. I know it's happened to me.
Unlike most of us, the hoarders' main problems are extremely visible to the outside world. It's hard to overlook a mountain of scrap metal, but most of us have less trouble sweeping our own problems under the rug. This book is challenging me to embrace the negative realities in my life (everyone has 'em!), lean into them, and work them out. I guarantee that if scrap-metal guy had embraced his reality, he wouldn't have been facing jail time. In fact, if more people did this, A&E might not have a show. But I don't think we're in any danger there.