The Unnecessary Burden of Manufacturing Our Own Worth

We feel, in our society, a very strong pressure to prove ourselves. To show we are successful. Worth knowing. Accomplished. We define ourselves by our external achievements, and are in turn crushed by our external failures. Is this necessary?

Does our value indeed come solely from what we do? I don’t think so!

But before I explain, let’s consider what kind of world we create when we do think this way. When we determine human worth based on externals, we claim the right to judge others. What’s in their soul doesn’t matter, because it’s all about results. Did they succeed in this job interview? Did they obtain this degree? How much is their salary? Is it more than mine….because if so they must be better than me. 

See the trap we set for ourselves? Not only do we judge others harshly, which is a terrible thing, but we also do the same to ourselves, and risk falling into depression and despair. We feel we are not good enough–that we are failures. Well, you can’t be a failure, you can only be a person, a human being…perhaps one in challenging circumstances, but a human all the same. No one is a failure.

We are not defined by what we do, but who we are

So who are we anyway? We are children of God, called out of all eternity to love and be loved. Each one of us is precious and utterly irreplaceable. We all have unique talents we are called to generously share with the world…and this despite all our weaknesses and mistakes. God made us as we are, fragile and beautiful, so that when we are humble enough to acknowledge the cracks in our hearts, His light can shine through us. 

So when the sirens of the world lure you to the rocky reefs of self-doubt, remember He who made you is perfect, and has a plan for your life more beautiful that you can imagine. It is cooperating with this plan, with all its challenges and opportunities for interior growth, that makes everything worthwhile. 

At the end of our lives, we will be judged on love. St. John of the Cross

Courage to Grow

Little Chestnut: I will not put out roots and shoots. It might not be safe. I’ll remain locked in wood–pure polished potential.

God: Will you not open yourself up and grow into a tree?

Little Chestnut: How can I become a huge towering tree? How do I know there will always be enough sunshine and rain? I am far too little to grow so big. It’s too scary to try. I prefer to keep the doors closed.

God: Little Chestnut, you are filled with treasure. I have made you for growth. I will provide the sun and the rain. But you must reach out with your shoots and roots to receive them. To sun and rain you must add risk. You must add the courage to try—to hope—to believe that it will take someone bigger than yourself to help you grow, but that together we can!

Little Chestnut: But it is painful to open myself up…to split open and expose myself to your gaze.

God: One thing I can promise–to always look on you with love. Will you allow yourself to be loved unconditionally? This is the beginning of growth.

Little Chestnut: So, fully aware of my weakness, I am supposed to hope for greatness?

God: Change is founded on hope. I have great hopes for you…for everyone! Will you take risk of cracking your polished exterior for the chance to grow into a great tree, one who will make the world a more beautiful place? Or will you slowly fade into the dirt, become wrinkled and rotten, and never look outside yourself for nourishment? I am offering you everything you need…but it is up to you to reach out and receive.

Little Chestnut, do you have the courage to trust?

Why Posting an Imperfect Post is an Act of Freedom

Lately my husband and I have been on a theology kick and read to each other before bed…until we get totally confused, inspired or one of us ends up drooling on the pillow (usually me!)…It’s been really interesting, and definitely gives us something new to talk about beyond how’s work and what did the kids do at school today.

Tonight we were reading about freedom, and it made me ponder what it really means to make a free choice, and how it relates to the stifling danger of perfectionism in writing…as perfectionism leads to the inability to make definitive choices and complete things. (Yes, being writing-obsessed, I manage to relate pretty much everything back to blogging…just ask my husband).

Anyway, the author described the misconception of freedom as the ability to make an endless succession of choices, without any of them ever being permanent and definitive. The idea that having options equals freedom, and the more options, the more free you are. “But why not?” you might ask…”Doesn’t that sound good?” The thing is to apply this idea and see where it leads. Here are some examples of how it changes, sometimes subconsciously, how we make decisions:

“I’m not going to choose what to study, because that way I can choose to study anything at all. I’m keeping my career options open.” Yes, and your empty wallet…Being open to the possibility of all jobs but having no job = unemployment, not freedom.

“I’m not going to choose someone to marry, because that way I can marry anyone at all…I’ll be so free.” Or so lonely and jaded, because it takes one real heart to love you and keep you warm at night, not several billion theoretical ones.

“I’m not going to post anything on my blog (ah, finally, blogging!) until I have something perfect. As long as it’s in my draft box, I have the freedom to keep changing it. It won’t be permanent.” Ah, yes, that horrific word….permanent! We are so afraid of it. It implies commitment, confidence, strength, endurance…yikes!

But tell me, is having a draft box full of unexplored possibilities really freedom?  Nothing wrong with drafts, but to really mean something and come alive they need to be released, imperfections and all, into the world. You need to say as a writer (or painter, photographer, chef, etc), “This isn’t perfect and I’m ok with that. It’s not perfect but it’s mine and I stand by it. This is me.”

That one irrevocable act of posting your little poem, photo, story or ponderings is a greater expression of true freedom and honesty than that of hoarding your drafts like treasures, choosing to hide them away lest they not shine as brightly in the light of day as you’d like. I think it was Julia Cameron who said that you need to be willing to be a crappy artist in order to become a great one. So be yourself, stand by your work, make a permanent choice to share your work and in that way really own it. Post that thing you’ve been hiding away so jealousy. Chances are what’s closest to your heart will resound in the hearts of others as well.  

“You’re pretty, Mama!” A Toddler’s Take on Beauty

20140530-230337-83017214.jpg

“You’re pretty Mama!” My toddler said enthusiastically the other day as I stood in the kitchen in my pj’s.
“And I’m shiny!” she added beaming.
“Yes, you are.”

It’s true that she is. She shines, despite often scraggly hair and peanut butter in her face from lunch, because there is beauty within, and it can’t help but emanate from her.

20140606-024244-9764799.jpg

It is said that the light of the eye enlightens whole body….children see beauty because they are filled with it, and they are filled with it because they can see and appreciate it.

We adults often fall into the trap of thinking that maturity means seeing primarily the darkness in the world, but often this cynicism is merely a defence mechanism. Instead of being vulnerable and enthusiastic, we remain critical and detached. We retreat into ourselves instead of connecting with the world.

The great British writer G.K. Chesterton wrote that there were two falls of man: in the first, man lost innocence by recognizing good and evil, and in the second, more recent fall, he fell again by losing sight of goodness and only seeing the evil.

The truth is that the world contains both. That reality is made up of light and darkness. That the tiniest candle burns away the darkness with an assurance of hope.

20140606-025116-10276834.jpg

We all need to kindle this little fire inside ourselves…”Carry your candle, into the darkness, carry your candle, light up the world,” sings Chris Rice.

My little one’s candle burns brightly and joyfully. She isn’t afraid to wear all sorts of finery because she is confident of her beauty. A star isn’t afraid to sparkle, and I don’t mean an egotistical movie star, but one in the sky, which can’t help but shine.

20140606-024245-9765474.jpg

Like a star she shares her light, and it falls upon those she sees. Recently we were playing in the grass outside the community centre where her big sisters have an art class, and we could see a class of older women dancing through the open door.

20140530-230336-83016606.jpg

“Look at the princesses, Mama! There’s Ariel!”

Given that they were mostly older short-haired Asian women of various shapes and sizes, this was a bit of a stretch, but a lovely one. That were dancing, and that was enough to make them royally beautiful in her eyes.

20140530-230336-83016892.jpg

She isn’t afraid to be herself, and because she accepts herself as she is, she accepts others as they are as well. Isn’t this the meaning of unconditional love?

20140606-025116-10276532.jpg

If more of us lived this kind of love, the world would be a more beautiful place…or rather, our hearts would be open to see all the hidden beauty that is already there.

So go out and sparkle: chances are others will shine in the glow of your reflection, too.

20140530-225540-82540093.jpg