Monday, June 11, 2012

Fractions & Whole People

It's a very American mindset to covet everything our neighbors have - the largest house in the suburbs, the large family car, the swimming pool, the ivy-league education. We've gone as far as to motivate ourselves with the inter-generational mantra of "keeping up with the Joneses." Well, I recently came across a car ad on a billboard that - along with the picture of a hip, foreign car - had the message: "%#@! the Joneses!" Keep reading.

In life, we go after everything we can think of in an attempt to validate or measure our worth. If we feel less dignified than normal, we buy a power suit; if we feel lonely, we get a new significant other or have more children or adopt a puppy; if we feel dumb, we read a book and tell everyone in the office about it. This is what I like to call surface-level therapy. Surface-level therapy is when you scratch the surface of a deep-rooted issue, find some way to mask the symptoms for a bit, and subsequently master the give-a-little/take-a-little relationship model. This is the art of compensation. It’s literally like driving an SUV on a road trip, stopping for gas frequently and only filling a quarter of the gas tank, and then complaining about how long it’s taking to get to the final destination.

Most people don’t know that they have the opportunity to live their life as a whole person. Until we transform the way they think, it is extremely difficult to grasp the concept of living our lives as  people who feel whole. There is a misunderstanding of what being whole is supposed to look like; everyone can’t keep up with the Joneses, and in reality, that may not be a bad thing. There is a wonderful Christian scripture that says, "Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). You don't have to be a Christian to understand that  by compensating for something in your life, you are conforming to someone's idea of what your life is supposed to look like or feel like. A renewed way of thinking will give you insight into the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge shows you what being whole as a person looks like in the lives of others, but wisdom will show you that you don't have to reflect the life image of someone else to feel whole. If you take a tea cup and place it next to a pitcher and fill them to their respective brims, are they both full? The tea cup has a purpose and a capacity, although not as large as the pitcher, it is still useful. You don't have to be a "pitcher" in life to be useful.Having a performance attitude will cause you to confuse ambition with passion. Usually, ambition stems from a place of scarcity (a probable cause of compensation), be it a lack of power, a feeling of inferiority, a lack of money. Passion, on the other hand, tends to be of a less self-interested nature, and builds on an honest and less-conflicted pursuit.

You may be wondering how to recognize if you're compensating for something in your life. There are many ways to recognize compensation versus resolutions in your life, and many of them start with day-to-day activities. If the simplest of decisions often cause you to feel pressure, you may need to address some deeper issues in your life. Life is full of stress, but small decisions should not cause us anxiety. There should be a portion of your life that you can live out on a daily basis without stress. Compensating by working too much, taking on too much debt, or dating too many people will cause you to overflow stress into the simplest areas of your life. Going to the grocery store to buy milk should not give you a panic attack simply because you don't want to risk being seen by multiple girlfriends/boyfriends, or because you can't afford milk (because you were buying a round of tequila shots at the bar last night), or because you feel like taking 30 minutes away from your desk will cause your business to suffer.

Compensating for your problems will only treat the symptoms of your deeper issues, but being honest with yourself  and admitting there are some areas in your life that you need to improve in (be it time management or communication with family, substance abuse, etc.) will help you alleviate large amounts of stress, and you can begin to heal. Every day that you wake up healthy enough to take advantage of a new opportunity is a second chance to reconcile whatever life issues or insecurities you may be facing. Once you become confident in yourself and move toward the progression of becoming a whole person, you will soon learn that in whatever area of your life that you are lacking, you are covered by your integrity, your potential, and your future. That's what makes a whole person. You don't have to have it all, you just have to be all that you are meant to be at that given time. You want to shy away from the feeling of needing to feel needed, and instead of using people or things as supplements to your life, simply allow them to compliment the life you already have.  And remember, %#@! the Joneses!

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