Sunday, November 25, 2018

Strange Shape

"And I became such a strange shape, 
such a strange shape from trying to fit in
Yeah, I became such a strange shape, such a strange shape"
“Wilson” Fall Out Boy

There is a distinct difference between “fitting in” and “belonging.” Author Brene Brown nails it when she writes, "“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.” 

Constantly trying to fit in isn’t being true to yourself. It is a marker of an off-balance dynamic where you feel pressure to change your real nature to conform to someone else’s ideal. It’s an unhealthy stretching that doesn’t cause you to step more fully into your fulfilled self, but to become less of who you truly are.

You know when you aren’t living out of your genuine identity. It causes internal tension that manifests in uneven emotional and spiritual states, difficulty finding healthy rhythms of life, and stagnant transformational growth. Over time it will inevitably be revealed that you still won’t be good enough for those who are trying to get you to fit in. They will be unhappy with their lack of total control and you will be left feeling unfulfilled and incomplete. It’s better to be in community with people who create an accepting space for you to mature into the most real, growing, grace-filled person you can be.

Don’t settle for less by squeezing into an ill-fitting form. You can’t be the best version of yourself when you are stretching yourself in unnatural ways. If you aren't careful, you might get stuck in that strange shape.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Storage Capacity

As I was driving home recently, I went by a site where a series of storage units were being built. My first thought as I rode past it was, “Really? Another storage unit? Do we actually need this?” I feel confident this was not an overestimation on my part of the number of storage facilities in our community. Obviously there is a demand for them or there wouldn’t be an increase in their supply. It’s a thriving industry as people collect so much “stuff” that they need to store them in other locations. Perhaps if we didn’t insist on keeping things we don’t need there wouldn’t be a continual demand for the construction of more storage units.

We don’t just hang onto physical things however. Our journey through life takes us through relationships, decisions, and unexpected circumstances that lead us to accumulate emotional and spiritual baggage as well. Those life experiences have value as they have shaped us into who we are today and should not be ignored. If we don’t learn to deal with them in a healthy manner, however, we end up hanging on to parts of life that we don’t really need. We harbor resentment, exude bitterness, cling to unforgiveness, wallow in shame, and live in mistrust—the things we cling to out of our hurt. Don’t reject the life lessons from difficult life experiences, but refuse to store up the negativity that often accompany them.

Much like the possessions in life we no longer have a purpose for—we should pick up each of these old scars, carefully examine them, and discard the ones that no longer influence us in a healthy way. Hanging on to them only crowds out space for engaging in new ways of thinking and feeling that take us down healthier pathways.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Whole Story

I am a storyteller. I love to share a riveting tale while engaging people around me in the emotional waves of action and making them feel as if they are part of the entire event. It's a characteristic I feel helps me connect with people (as I've seen it throughout the different career paths in my life.) This isn't a factor to be manipulated, but instead reinforces my deep desire to be inclusive of all people and to acknowledge each other as we travel through life together. I truly believe it's a reflection of the fundamental truth of our desire to be part of a story of significance and to feel as if we are characters influencing the plot.

The truth is that we are all storytellers. Our entire individual lives are one overarching story that simultaneously interweaves with the ongoing biographies of others around us. Much like a well-written novel there will be plot twists, unexpected characters, devastating events, and great triumphs. The key is to remember that the entire story matters and that our current events are only one part of the grand tale of our lives. The joyful and discouraging events all have significance.

Don't overlook the chapter you're in right now because it's all part of something grand and ultimately beautiful. Learn from each story arc as it becomes part of who you are and who you're becoming. Tell your story while eagerly listening to others as they share theirs. It's a common trait of compassionate humanity and in recognizing the power of influencing each other through what our lives have to say.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Learning to Speak Again

I have a fairly distinctive speaking voice. It’s a deep voice that I’ve learned to project through years of theater, working on athletic fields, and public speaking. There have been times I’ve walked into rooms and spoken with people who recognize me instantly because of the sound of my voice. I’ve even been told the that my voice is intimidating to some who may not have as strong-sounding a voice. I’ve grown to be comfortable with it as part of who I am and I have become attuned to using it in the right situations as I’ve aged.

We all have a voice that is distinctive. It may not necessarily be one that booms out from a stage or across playing fields, but each one is unique and has an important message to be communicated. Each of our voices is a key to who we are as it reveals our passions, fears, convictions, and perspectives.

There is a growth curve in learning to use it in a way that is helpful, however. We need a safe space to communicate and to know that it is okay for us to be who we are. When we are in places that stifle our voice and only want it to speak the script written by others, we are in danger of losing our identity and forgetting who our Creator has made us to be. Regaining that confidence can take time and will almost certainly require a monumental shift in what influences we allow into our own lives.

Our individual voices are needed as we speak into the greater collective of humanity around us. While the sound we make may be a little squeaky from under-use, we’ll find it gets easier over time as we use it more.

Speak up, my friends. Speak words of peace, kindness, curiosity, and grace. Speak up against those who hold you back from discovering and living out your true identity. Let your voice be as distinctive as it is already designed to be and don’t be ashamed of what it sounds like.