Living an illusion

The journey to know yourself is one that is important to take, but also can be difficult.  In order to know yourself, truly know yourself it requires you to look at all the parts of yourself including the ones that you would rather keep hidden.   Everyone of us has parts of ourselves which we like, and try to make prominent.  The qualities of ourselves that we see as strengths which we work on and hope people see.  But we also have parts that we do our best to minimize and keep hidden.  The parts of ourselves that we see as shortcomings or weaknesses.

If we were to have our way these parts of our nature would be kept in the dark and never seen again.  The problem is we cannot truly know ourselves without seeing them for what they are, a part of who we are.  If we only focus on the parts of ourselves that we like, or think are our strengths we will not live in truth, because part of ourselves remains hidden and in the dark.  And it is part of us that God created.  It probably needs some work, because these weaknesses can lead us into areas where we can be tempted to sin, but it still is part of who we are and needs to be recognized as such.

“If, for example, I only know my strong, competent self and am never able to embrace my weak or insecure self, I am forced to live a lie. I must pretend that I am strong and competent, not simply that I have strong and competent parts or that under certain circumstances I can be strong and competent. Similarly, if I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty.”The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery” by David G. Benner

The Holy Spirit’s job here on earth is lead us to truth. Jesus said “The Holy Spirit is coming. He will lead you into all truth.” John 16:13.  That truth is usually seen as the truth about Jesus.  Which is a very important role the Holy Spirit has.  But the truth He is leading us into is also the truth about ourselves.  And if we are unwilling to see those parts of ourselves then we will resist the Holy Spirits job in us because only when we see ourselves as He sees us can we truly live in truth.  I wrote in a earlier post how the parts of ourselves that we try to hide keep us from becoming who God wants us to become, and usually keep us trapped in behaviors that we are struggling to be free from.

Unless we are willing to honestly look at all of who we are and allow God to reach into those areas we are trying to avoid ​
we will never be able to break free of the illusion we have worked to create, and we can never truly know what it means to live in freedom.   God is already waiting in those areas we are working so hard to keep locked up, so He won’t be surprised at all by what we find when we decide to open them.  The pain of opening them might be difficult, but it is infinitely rewarding and freeing when we can face ourselves for who we are and know we are truly loved and completely accepted for who we are, and exactly as we are.

Questions everyone is asking

Every person around the world is asking three important questions.  Questions that need answers for our lives to have meaning and purpose.  Who am I?  Where do I fit?  What difference do I make?

The first is a question about identity, meaning a young person’s conception and expression of who they are. This question holds up the mirror and scrutinizes me.  Often this is a question that goes unanswered.  For a great many people the discovery of self is pushed aside in favor of being a part of the crowd, getting that big job or promotion, or something else that forces us to look away from who we are and instead forces us into a mold.  The church is one place that this happens and everyone is squeezed into the same cookie cutter and asked to conform.  And yet it is in the church, at least the one that Jesus is building, where we were called to find ourselves.  We were meant to discover our identity by coming to know the One who created us and called us to be. The Bible says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11, The Message).  

We were all created with purpose and meant to live with passion.  And when we ignore this first question these get robbed from us and we instead live lives of mediocrity and conformity.

The second is a question of belonging, or a person’s quantity and quality of life-giving relationships. This question looks around the room, eager to explore us.   Answering this question without answering the first one is where many people get led astray.  We learn early on in life to adapt ourselves for a desired outcome.  ‘If I behave this way then people like me.’  Often the desire to fit in over rides our need to be ourself.  Both questions are important but they need to be answered together.  One cannot look for a place to fit in without taking the time to know who they are inside, and how to express that in the world they live in.

If we look to fit in without knowing ourself we will always be squeezed into the closest mold we find.  It is important that we all have a place to belong.  A place where others can communicate worth to us.  The first place is in a relationship with Jesus.  It is the first place and the most secure place to find this value.  And it is the place where we will have the highest value.  Jesus declared that you and I were worth dying for, and then He proceeded to do just that so that the door of relationship could be opened again.

The third is a question about purpose, or a person’s commitment to and ability to engage in meaningful activities that impact others. This question peers out the window and wonders about our world.   All of us start with the dream of changing the world.  It often doesn’t take very long for that dream to be taken away.  Life keeps coming and the demands it places on us are extreme.  And often just being able to pay bills and keep food on the table takes precedence over changing the world.

But every one wants to make an impact and to leave their mark on the world we live in.  We all cannot be Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King.  But the opportunities to change the world are available to us if we are willing to know ourselves.  Because that is the foundation we all build from.  Without that foundation the drive to conform will be to high.

“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know… The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do… to find the idea for which I can live and die. SOREN KIERKEGAARD”

The world is looking for people who will rise up with passion and say that there is a better way.  To live a life full of purpose and passion is something that we all can do if we are willing.  It is up to each of us to determine how will we answer these questions?

The Importance of Personal Values

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
We are all faced with many questions and decisions each and every day.  We are called upon to determine the direction our life takes minute by minute from the time we awake to the time we return to sleep.  What is it that guides your decisions?
Many people determine their decisions based on the situation they are currently facing.  Others simply make the choice that best suits their current desires.  Still many others allow friend or family to make their decisions for them.  How do you make your decisions?  What do you fall back on when your world is in difficulty and the pressure is on?  How do you determine what you are willing to do and where you want to go when the stakes are high?
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ― Roy Disney
What you value is important because that will determine what you are willing to do and what you are willing to sacrifice in your life.  And once you know your values you can then decide easier what will best fit your values.  When you determine your values you decide for yourself what success looks like for you.  You can then be an immense success as a stay at home mom, even when the world wants you to be a leader of a fortune 500 company.  Success doesn’t mean that you are incredibly wealthy.  Success is determined by living life according to what you determined was important.  What do you value?  What are you building your life on?
You may determine that family is of great importance and wealth is very low.  This will allow you to decide what job you may be willing to take and how many hours of overtime you are willing to work.  You may determine that financial gain is most important and you will make decisions accordingly.  What you value arises from who you are and gives voice to the person you are becoming.  And if you don’t determine your values yourself, others will determine them for you.  Society, family, friends, employers are all clamoring to push their values on you.  And if you don’t have your own values to push back with you will become what they want you to become instead of who you are.
Determining what your personal values are isn’t as complicated as it sounds.  It will require you to sit quietly and do some thinking and writing, but it isn’t complicated.

First figure out what is important to you.  And make a list

  • There are many things we do that are important to others
  • What is important to you personally

Second think about why the things on your list are important to you

  • Some things are important to us simply because they are expected of us or we were told they were important
  • Some things we adopted from our parents, or mentors or other people we respected but we never took the time to figure out why
  • You need to decide if they are actually important to you, and if they are going to be something you build your life around you will need to know why they are important

Third work with your list and refine it.

  • Many of the things that are important which you wrote down will fit together.
  • Narrow you focus and shorten your list.  You want something you can use to guide your life, not a novel to carry around to read before every decision.  “For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs.” Simon Sinek
  • If your life isn’t spent living out your values they are not your values

If we will work with knowing what we value, and how we define success we can live lives full of purpose and discover and live our lives to our fullest potential.  With a little work and heart searching we can find out what is most important to us so that we are able to chart our course even when the storms are at their worst.

Values are extremely important.  Do you know what yours are?