I met a person in my dream last night who was just miserable (you probably know someone like this). She was never happy with anything or anyone. She asked for a glass of water, so I got her something from the filtered water in my refrigerator. It was horrible, she said. “Where does this come from?”
“I got it from the fridge.”
“Tap water from the fridge?” she said disgustingly.
“You know, from the filter thingy I have.”
I woke up feeling sad for this woman. Then wondered what Freud would have to say about this dream.
“Why are you so miserable?” he would ask.
“Oh (I’d chuckle), it’s not me, it’s the person in my dream.”
“I know.” He’d smile that all-knowing smile that always ticked off his friends. “That person is you.”
“What are you talking about! I’m perfectly fine. There’s nothing…” I caught myself. He was right. It may not be about a glass of water, but I’m constantly on the verge of being a completely miserable perfectionist. I know the way things should go, how people should be, heck…how I should be. But the reality that things will never be as I think they should be, that I’ll never be as I think I should be, is holding me back from living as fully as I desire, and coating my life with sticky covering of misery and sadness.
“Oh, but Mark, you must be exaggerating. You sure don’t seem miserable!” You’re probably thinking.
While I am prone to exaggeration for the sake of a good story, I have to confess, I’m not doing it too much here. I sure don’t want you to see this in me, so I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, except to hopefully help someone else who might feel this way. So, what would I like to say to this person in my dream who can’t ever seem to find what he/she is looking for? Here are a few items for starters:
1 – Nothing in this world is going to give you what you’re looking for. It’s like going to a well that you know is dry, hoping to get a jug of water. Why we keep going back to the dry well, I’m not certain, except that every message we receive through the media tells us that, finally, THIS PRODUCT or THIS PERSON, will scratch our itch and satisfy our longing. We’re not dumb, we’re just being constantly led to a dry well, and then wondering why we’re still thirsty afterwards. We’ve got to find another well.
2 – It’s always going to be easy to blame other people for the misery you feel: there are horrible drivers on the road, people will actually try to steal your job or talk badly about you, sickness will strike you and those you love. Do you want to be a person who constantly is reacting negatively to the chaos and brokenness in the world around you? Or would you like to be a person who chooses to be centered and at peace, no matter what? We have to be intentional about finding this inner peace. It’s not going to be handed to us.
3 – You’ve got to like yourself. It’s easy to see when someone doesn’t like who they are. It shows up in exaggerated spikes toward insecurity and fear, or arrogance and trying too hard. It also shows up as ugly criticism or frustration toward other people. The person who truly loves who they are is at peace and has nothing to prove. Stop keeping lists of the things you don’t like about yourself or wish were different, and think about what you do like.
I’m not going to hide that I come from a Christian faith perspective which says this peace we’re all looking for comes from a personal relationship with Jesus (please send me an email if you’d like to know more). So why then are so many Christians not experiencing this biblically advertised peace? I think it comes from not believing the amazing truth of the gospel, which states that we are perfectly made and unconditionally loved exactly the way we are. We still think we have to be better and do more in order to get right with God. How can we stop spreading this lie? Let me start with me, and you start with you, and see what kind of wildfire might spread.
In my next post, I’m going to give you some suggestions on how to like yourself. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it’s astounding that many of us like our pets or our cars more than we like ourselves. Please let me know in the comments if you have anything you’d like to add. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
With grace & compassion,