Have you ever told yourself you were going to change something so many times, it got annoying to even think about? Maybe it’s going to the gym and getting built. Maybe it’s tackling that monstrous pile of papers accumulating on your desk. Or, maybe on a different note, it’s becoming a more abrasive person- with yourself and others.
Whatever it may be, we all reach a point in our lives where we lack the discipline to push ourselves to our actual potential. The circumstances of life swirl around us in a whirlwind of false promises and empty hope. Packing our agendas full of meetings, fundraisers, and deadlines, we choose to invest our time in corporate slavery, rather than enjoying the free will actually endowed to us.
Over the summer I had the privilege of sparing a few moments to read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for my summer AP Language class (Ok, maybe it wasn’t such a privilege after all). In Krakauer’s book, he retells the story of Chris McCandless, a young journeyman who abandoned his future career and family to bum the country. The theory is that McCandless believed he could find himself by stepping away from society- and although he took this to an utter extreme that would ultimately lead to his death, there is a very valuable lesson to be learned from this. Chris wanted change, so he acted. It wasn’t easy- it cost him a terrible price. But he made the decision to put who he was before anything else. The standards of those around him simply didn’t apply. Why should they? They weren’t his standards. They weren’t God’s standards. They were the standards of a distorted American Dream and corrupt success.
I’ve recently realized that my entire life has been based on the ridiculous standards of those around me. Now, Mom and Dad, before you give me a nasty phone call, let me explain myself. It’s not my family I’m necessarily talking about. I’m sure I could recall moments when I felt ousted by the pressures of my relatives- weather that be academically or athletically, or whatever other form it may take. But that’s not who I’m referring to. I’m talking about our schools, our politics, and our country as a whole. Haven’t you noticed that only the most slender people make it onto television? Of course you have! And how about all those high class people who always dress dapper and have the complicated letters at the end of their name. Surely their intelligence has made them wealthy and happy, right?
Heres how this works folks:
Our culture paints the picture of what is considered attractive, beautiful and prosperous.
We see these people as living happy, extraordinary lives. We too, want to feel such fulfillment, thus, we too esteem to what is considered attractive, beautiful, and prosperous to culture- often finding our moral beliefs and values in the crossfire of a popularity gold rush. Craving for acceptance, we lose ourselves in the fray- achieving nothing but a loss of humanity and civility.
And people still wonder how a person can stand in a crowd of thousands, and feel desperately alone.
I have personally felt the bitter sting of abandonment and betrayal many times from others. When my sister left home and married in secret. When my family laughed and considered me a dramatist due to my self harm. When my ex went through every file on my computer’s hard drive, stealing my information so as to pass her classes- something which I had caught her doing once before, was merciful about, and then relinquished my anger by writing A grade essays for her english class (a subject she wasn’t particularly well gifted in).
The sweaty palms that come with it. The aching head and agonizingly hollow heartbeat. It’s as if you’re frozen to the tracks of a railroad, the train continually crushing your body till your numb to the entire situation. The anxiety of why things happened the way they did, the angst of how you can make things right, and if you can make things right at all, gnaws at your conscience- consumes you slowly until all your bloodshot eyes see at night is either the waved patterns on the ceiling drywall, or the flashing images of failure behind your eyelids.
And it’s only elevated when you realize the biggest loser of them all, the thief who’s been stealing you of all contentment, all inalienable righteousness and purpose, all sunny side gospel croaking boy-am-I-glad-to-be-alive-today joy… is you.
I always wanted to get large muscles and six pack abs, not for my own personal benefit, but because I knew people would like me better. I wanted money because I could attain more stuff, have more “friends”, have more fun and have less troubles than the average person due to my superior intellect and knowledge
I only valued the characteristics of the healthy, welathy, and wise when it made me first in the rat race. I didn’t actually care whether or not I got fat. I wasn’t actually concerned about my grades in high school, or how much money I made and what I did with it.
I thought I cared. But I didn’t really.
I only cared because society had told me to care. These things were the images of triumph I had been witness to my entire life. I couldn’t help it if it was practically programmed into me. It’s programmed into all of us- every decision we make at our work, church, and neighborhood is based upon the criterial normalcy of our audience. That is, after all, basic rhetoric.
Thing is, the modern American audience doesn’t exactly have your, mine, or anyone’s best interest in mind (except for themselves of course). It’s a vicious world out there and we have to keep our guard up. We have to be self-inspired to put one foot in front of the other every morning, despite the opposition, and fight for the life of purpose that God has given us.
No longer do I want to get in shape because it will put me first in the competition of life. I want to get in shape because I believe God created me to be a healthy person. No longer do I want to strive myself to become an academic genius for the purpose of superiority to those around me. I want to challenge myself in my studies because I believe God created me to be an informed and intelligent being.
With this new perspective, life has become less and less of a competition for me, and more an audition I’m performing.
Presenting myself under the lights of the stage, I take my assigned script and give it my best effort. In the end, we will all have to grab hands with the person beside us, thank the Great Director above, and take a solemn bow.
I am convinced that this is the way in which God wants us to live- with the eyes of our heart set on who we ought to be, that is, the best version of us possible, and we should want this not for popular demand, but for the betterment of ourselves personally, and for the embellishment of our communities.
If you’ve found yourself stuck lately, lost in a sea of high achievements and overbearing criteria for success, ask yourself these five questions:
- Who am I allowing to define my value of accomplishment in life?
- What standards have I been held to that are not my own, or God’s?
- Who am I depending on to hold me accountable for change?
- Why do I want to become a better person?
- How will I become a better person?
These are tough questions! Asking these to myself everyday has begun to change my mentality and viewpoint. By answering honestly I hope you too can find the courage to make today “day one”, and finally make that big change you deserve.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
TLDR: Decide who you are or someone else will.
– Jeremiah Luther