Here’s a snippet from an email I just sent a good friend. She had sent me a list of questions and one particularly stood out: Is what your doing really speak to your heart and soul?
Modern society tends to view the word ‘happiness’ as similar to sitting around eating chocolate cake all the time. When philosophers up until the 19th century talked about ‘happiness’, however, they meant something VERY different. The Greeks framed the original term ‘happiness’ (eudaimonia) – but their term encompassed the idea of a person’s wellbeing. Many now posit a better translation using modern terms would be ‘human flourishing’. In order for a person to ‘flourish’ – they need to live rightly. And living rightly meant pursuing truth in all things (eating, exercise, government, law, work, etc).
The framers of our constitution (do the words ‘pursuit of happiness’ ring a bell) would have said the word ‘happiness’ with the Greek understanding. That the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is to seek the highest good of the person/government. The Greeks, and the framers of our constitution, believe that striving towards the good should be pursued even at the expense of giving up one’s own life for one believes is good, right, and true. But knowing what is good, right and true isn’t always easy – and the Greeks well knew.
In the same way, I’ve found the search for the true self to be a very difficult process. My email to her went as follows:
I have been asking that question a lot because I really, really liked software engineering and just didn’t understand a lot of the ministry work I did. But what I’ve been learning most lately is that knowing what *really* touches your true self/heart takes a lot of work and discovery. We start with the things we are attracted to; but then have to keep digging into our motivations and attractions to those things.
I found out that one reason that I was so drawn to the order and predictability of software was because I had so little of that in my childhood. It also gave me a sense of control, accomplishment and a way to feel important when I wasn’t very socially adept/popular. It’s interesting; but I liked it not because I was a really free person, or it was really what my heart wanted, but because it was helping me patch over pain, disappointment, feeling unloved, and give me a way to ‘feel fulfilled’ without actually becoming free of those pains or addressing them.
Yes, I genuinely enjoyed it with as much love as I had, and it really was great work. I still enjoy the challenge and creativity of it. But I’m only now realizing how un-free, and little of the true/inner me I was really reaching. I was acting out of fear of old hurts or expectations of reward, not out of what I *really* thought was the best and most giving thing for me and those around me. I also learned how un-loving and shallow I was because of that. I kept making decisions that helped me stay in that ‘safe’ place. I think that is why relationships have so much power and why I want to explore them so much more right now.
Relationships force us out of our comfort zones and force us to face those places of pain/disappointment/feeling loved or at least they should. We all will have a tendency to pick partners that won’t challenge us or that we know can secretly help us stay in our comfortable brokenness by reading their dysfunctions/lack of maturity as ways they won’t challenge us in those very areas. Or worse, take advantage of them to enhance our specific coping/patching mechanisms. Growing beyond this is not always a pretty process – which is why relationships are so hard. My view of relationships has really changed because of this understanding. Relationships are when people decide to put themselves aside (as best they can) in order to provide a place where both people grow well into the people they should be.
I think these questions are very good ones to ask yourself. They’ll help you pursue the things you are drawn to, and then you can keep digging and discovering things about who you, a unique and gifted person, with all her deep joys and longings are really looking for.
Someone that has a lot to offer the world through her freedom and self-knowledge. I know that it’s a difficult journey at times; and the change it calls us to can feel overwhelming. But that is where I find that’s where God lives in me. It’s when I start digging into the real joys of my heart (and finding out why they are joys to me) that I start confronting my real self and find lots of brokenness in why I do things I do.
God is there in the joys, and hence I can then feel safe in revealing the why’s and hows of my brokenness to God (and myself) to be given forgiveness, healing, and love. He won’t abandon me in those most deep and truthful places – the place where I’m finally honest with myself. But honest with myself in front of Him. So it’s not just me, but both of us, looking, laughing, crying and enjoying what we find there together. That’s what I want to share with others.