When we talk about it, it makes sense. Excuses are excuses. However, when it’s not the conscious part of our discussion, we still too often end up living the lie, spending our days making the same gratifying comments or thinking the same unhelpful things:
- If only I had…
- I’ll be happy when…
- Life will finally be peaceful after…
- Work will be so easy once…
Individually there’s certainly some degree of truth in them. As a whole, however, the pattern evident throughout each mentality is that we are attributing our happiness or the outcome of our desires to external (presently non-accessible/existing) circumstances. The lie is in wanting more instead of becoming more. When these desires are realised into concrete goals we are working towards, edification can certainly occur in the process. When they’re more wishful thoughts that we aren’t really doing much about, these mentalities can too easily reinforce ‘victim’ mentalities where one separates their responsibility to create their desired reality from their beliefs of entitlement of achieving the same.
The gratifying thought process stems from the idea that our lives would be easier if some external thing that is not a reality, finally was (or vice versa). The reality check, however, is that we’re trading honesty for ease. The principles of edification illustrate that the actual benefit doesn’t come from focusing on bringing the external in, but the internal out. It’s not about having a ‘functional world’ around us as much as it’s becoming a ‘functional being’ to the benefit of the world around us. Our capacity to enjoy, find meaning in and effectively utilise our existence for good will always primarily come from responding to existence itself in edifying ways. Improving our ability to perceive value in the moments and circumstances we find ourselves in and then responding in such a way as to maximise that potential.
‘Honesty’ provides superior progress over ‘ease’. Wanting our world to change without being willing to change ourselves, is not honest. Despite the fact that we can literally change many aspects of our external world for good, becoming somebody who is habitually doing the same is far more valuable. Any of us who wait around for anybody else to come and fix that world around us, forfeit that greater opportunity of becoming better ourselves. Complaining about external factors prohibiting progress is gratifying. Even if the external factor were to change without the internal changing first, little to no personal progress would be made. Simultaneously the process of trying to improve one’s world still improves the individual even if the external world fails to be improved. What’s happening internally is usually more important than what’s happening externally. Honesty>ease. The next time you catch yourself prioritizing focus towards that which is outside your control/influence over that which is within, remember that there’s a degree of dishonesty involved there.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend, long ago. He was dealing with some serious marital and personal issues which included all sorts of layers and complexities we don’t need to analyse here. However, an important concept that he touched on, in his own words, was his hesitancy to ‘walk the high road’ due to the expected loneliness of doing so.
The moment the words left his mouth and entered my ears I deeply identified with his illustration. Doing what’s best in difficult circumstances often does indeed both seem and genuinely feel, very lonely. It can feel like we’re carrying most if not all of the difficulties ourselves and due to inability or even disinterest, those we otherwise expect to take responsibility to help, can seem to be completely unreliable.
I can only speak from experience as I’m certain there are countless people who have walked through those experiences and remained in that valley for far longer than I ever have. However, the many experiences I have had, indicate to me a number of very important truths that remain with me, sustaining my confidence to walk through those valleys as often as I need to, even with a degree of excitement about personal improvements I’m expected to experience along the way.
The first is that the valleys always have an end. In the moment they feel like they could go on forever, but for me, they never last as long as they feel they’re going to. The second is that despite how genuinely impenetrable the darkness and loneliness feels, the retrospect acquired upon exiting once more, repetitively indicates that those feelings are primarily perception based. Time indicates once more that there were always innumerable lights around and countless people genuinely trying to reach us, despite the very real feeling we were experiencing indicating that they weren’t there. The third is that there are at least two, very different reasons we struggle to feel that light or those people and being able to distinguish the difference while in the valley can genuinely be of fatal importance.
One reason is due to the isolating nature of whatever it is we have to pass through. Some things we absolutely have to go alone, and other’s just can’t come with us or reach us while we’re there. I’m convinced these exist and are important, but also that they are extremely rare. The second is that we feel we need to go through it alone, or that we just don’t have a choice in the matter. This is a lie, nearly all of the time. The feeling is a gratifying deception.
It’s my opinion that the nearly all such feelings are wrong and rooted in gratifying, incorrect beliefs. We don’t have to go alone. Even the times we do, as mentioned above, there are those who love us eagerly awaiting us on the other side. Their love and concern for us ever ready, even when temporarily inaccessible. In nearly all cases we don’t actually have to go through the experience alone and would have been far better off letting others go with us. Those feelings are as dangerously wrong as they feel real. Don’t get trapped there, because you can get stuck there for a lifetime.
It’s unquestionably true that people’s fear of these lies too often leaves them trapped for far longer than they need to be. A fear of walking the high road can leave someone so permanently trapped in their valleys that they’ve completely forgotten the view from the top. As my father-in-law once said to me, the mountain tops are great but you can’t stay there. We have to come down and work through the valleys to keep moving forward. It true. Another important truth is that walking the high road and frequenting those mountain tops as often as one can, helps us maintain greater perspective. It’s far too easy to get so distracted by what’s within the valley that we stop visiting the lookouts entirely.
If we want to push on quickly through those valleys and be sure we’re seeing the world clearly, we need to be aware of those gratifying lies we too frequently allow ourselves to believe. Are our beliefs asking more of us, or of the world around us? Are they inviting us to climb higher or to take the easier road around/back down?