On reading my last post, a friend immediately commented via Facebook something along the lines of “I still don’t know who the real me is.” This is from an older friend much experienced in life, so I thought perhaps a few details might be helpful in reaching the point I hope to make.
We ended the last post with the thought of looking at ourselves with the labels stripped off. That is, trying to see ourselves before all the labels of nationality, religion, politics, work, etc got pasted on. What do we find in every human being when we look underneath those things? By no means is the following exhaustive, but it seems to me when the labels are stripped away you will find first and foremost…a person.
How silly that seems. Of course you find a person! But watch yourself and others carefully and you will note how quickly we minimize or even eliminate the humanity of others and even ourselves based on the labels we are wearing. Children who ostracize others or feel down on themselves based on surface issues like brand name clothing are just mimicking adults who do the same over the political, economic, and spiritual, and cultural brands we wear. We could end so much of the suffering in the world by just seeing past the labels both when we look in the mirror and when we look out at the world. Underneath the words we are all human beings–not human doings or human believings (no, that’s not a word but it should be).
Ok. So now we have stripped away our labels and found a person. What’s next? What do we see?
We see need. We have physical needs and emotional needs. We’ll save the physical stuff for another time and focus on the emotional needs. Primarily we see the need for love and connection. We may have different levels of need based on personality type, but we all need people who will love and care for us and we need to give it back. We are individuals but not just individuals. This is why neither selfishness nor emotional martyrdom lead to happiness. We are made to live in balance in community, both giving and receiving love. Tilt the balance one way or the other and we will be out of kilter.
Along with the need we see wounds from the times and places our needs have not been met. It’s important to recognize our wounds and to know they shape us, but also to know that we are larger than the wounds themselves and not lose our identities in them. When we lose ourselves to our wounds we become perpetual victims and hand over the keys to our lives to them and those that cause them–or in many cases to those who we believe cause them even if they do not. Living in our wounds we will always be blaming others and not take responsibility for our own lives. People not only survive but thrive in spite of great wounding when they live above it, refusing to give responsibility of their state of mind to others. Call it salvation, transcendence, triumph–I just call it Life. History is full of people who have done just that.
Fortunately, wounds are not all we see. We also see passions. I don’t mean here the romantic feeling of new love (though we could include it to a degree). I mean the things that set our hearts aflame with a zest for living. Have you noticed that we don’t choose these things? Instead, they seem to choose us, or to have been chosen for us. We discover them as our lives unfold. I have no idea why I love wild things and wild places so much. I only know I do and always have since I was a small boy. I come alive more fully in the woods and on the water. I am literally a better, bigger person when I’m out there. Others do it in museums or classrooms or concert halls or laboratories or workshops and thousands of other places and things. What sets your heart on fire?
Lastly (for today anyway) you see some gifts. Everyone is good at something. Everyone’s a natural. Again, while we may develop our talents we do not cause them. They are given to us that we might give them to the world at large, the tools by which the love we have can be given to others.They are the means by which we leave our mark on the world, and our use or misuse of them will echo through the generations. If we fail to use them they eventually wither, so we must use them while we can!
So here is a start. If you don’t know who you are, begin here. Recognize your humanity and value and see the same in others–even if their labels differ wildly from yours. Know your wounds but don’t live in them and they will begin to heal. Pursue your passions and use your gifts in love, for otherwise they are wasted. In other words (and I find myself saying this so often these days)–LIVE! Lovingly. Completely. Abundantly. Because there is only one other option.