Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please, Please, Understand Me!

There is deep within the human heart a desperate need to be understood…to be known, to be seen for ‘who I am’ and not what you may want me to be! The life journey of ‘being known’ is a sometimes distressing and even a bit fearful but always ends with the joy of discovery.

The person that I am is not some ‘thing’ that you know but is a growing, changing, evolving, and yes even vibrant soul! As life moves, I change and become and discover who I am. John Powell said, “Please do not give me a “batting average,” fixed and irrevocable, because I am “in there” constantly, taking my swings at the opportunities of daily living. Approach me, then, with a sense of wonder, study my face and hands and voice for the signs of change; for it is certain that I have changed. But even if you do recognize this, I may be somewhat afraid to tell you who I am.”

Countless books have been written on becoming a ‘more authentic self.’ The ‘becoming real’ idea has been a popular topic of many conversations; so much so, that we have adopted a phrase “would be please get real!” which, being interpreted means, “Cut the crap, don’t you know who are talking to?!” We want people who are close to us to level with us, talk to us, to tell us who they are and what they are thinking…in other words, to open with us! And with this, I wonder, am I going about this a bit backwards?

You see, books can’t explain this, lectures cannot impart this…this “knowing and being known” thing…not it only occurs within open, honest, connected human relationships. In other words, it must be experienced on the journey of self-discovery. The journey of self-discovery is a voyage that is a bit fearful, daunting at times, and yes even painful….but always ending in ‘becoming a bit more real.’

Children are very good at being real…at least better than most adults. Why? Because they have not developed the need to hide…but they will. They will hide like you and I…behind a smiling face, or a know- it-all attitude, or behind prejudice and bigotry, or behind pouting. We adults have a myriad of games we play to keep people (with whom we do want to be close) at arm’s length…and yet we desire to be understood for who we are! What a conundrum to be in…screaming “please understand me” on the one hand and hiding behind some mask or playing some game on the other.

Several years ago my wife said, “I don’t know anything about you that everyone else does not already know.” I remember thinking, “what a dumb statement…what is it you want to know, I will tell you…” (No additional comments are needed here!). She later asked, “What are your vulnerabilities, your fears?” Again, myopic Me thought, “Me? Vulnerabilities? What are you talking about?”

But with her gentle persistence, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Questions like, “who am I, where did those emotions come from, and why does that upset me?” I found myself (as Morris West wrote) abandoning the search of security and reaching out to live with both arms, beginning to accept pain as a condition of existence, counting doubt and darkness as a condition of knowing, and learning to accept the consequences of living and dying. The life of being real meant knowing my vulnerabilities, owning my vulnerabilities, and disclosing them to others. As I discovered myself and as I ‘knew’ myself more fully, I experienced something very liberating, the need to hide and play games was being replaced with a ‘real me!’ The experience of accepting myself led me to (yep you guessed it), accepting others, and of course accepting her…and through that I found, I am understood and known by her!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Elusive Contentment...The Lost Art of Serenity

I am not sure there is anything more taxing nor trying to the human soul than to watch your child go down a path that you and I would think is destructive, damaging, and yes, even damning. This can be one of the most challenging 'situations' to my serenity.

A dear friend this morning emailed me the following: "I am writing [about] our daughter...she now is claiming to be a full-fledged atheist. She emails us last night with a video on Youtube of an atheist against Christ and the Bible. It made my heart sick, knowing this is how she is believing...[the daughter further states] 'I'm not trying to argue a case...religion is manmade, all the evidence is there. I was simply sharing something I enjoy.'"

For the past several years, contentment/serenity, as an experiential settling of the human soul, has been something that I have read, pondered, discussed, and even experienced as time goes by. Contentment was sold to me as a by product of getting my world in order and I interpreted that as "make sure there are no loose ends," and I exerted my will upon whatever needed to be 'controlled.' Alas, I soon was to discover that the harder I tried the behinder I got and my serenity suffered as I became more dismayed and the more my life was disrupted the more dismayed I became.

I remember one of those moments (dare I say, epiphanies, you know those sudden, intuitive perceptions of or insights into the essential meaning of something that was initiated by some homely commonplace experience) when a light went off in my mind that flashed this insight onto my soul; "the opposite of contentment is control!" Uh oh!! For me, that brought about a transformative way of thinking that was counter intuitive to all I had believed up to this point. That epiphany changed the way I approached my self, my clients, my church, my family and all of life.

This counter intuitive approach to contentment is grounded in the fundamental truth that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in GOD's world by accident, and therefore, everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. And, further more, until I could accept that truth, I would experience no serenity/contentment. You see, my 'former' belief was grounded in the notion (not a very productive notion, I might add!) that some situation, some event, some person, some thing is unacceptable to me and therefore must be changed! Of course I knew what the change was to 'look like!' And I truly believed, that until those changes occured, I could never experience peace of mind...and as people will do, my beliefs dictated my behaviors and my thoughts and I would do my best to talk you out of, talk you into, make you wish you had, and whatever good passive agressive people do, I would do...all in the name of me 'finding peace!'

However, the peace and content GOD created me to experience is eternally grounded in the truth, that nothing, absolutely nothing happens by accident. And until I could fully accept this life changing principle, I could never find contentment. I often lose my focus and find myself looking at situations and what I expect and disturbs my peace!

So my prayer for my friend, is that the focus of he/his soul will be upon the God he/she trusts in. And when that focus zeros in on that unassaible radiant character of God, he/she will not judge God by the situations of life but will instead, judge the situations of life by the character of God. Then contentment will settle their human soul. And sweet peace will bring rest!

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