Friday, May 8, 2015

Letters to a young man 38

Hello my friend. I want to talk to you today about the great regrets of life. Particularly, the regrets I feel upon looking back on the last 10 or 15 years of my life. I pass these on to you in the hope that you may avoid the traps which I myself have fallen into.

To begin with, I feel I spent far too much time in that period trying to gain acceptance from other people. This includes people who I've only ever met online, people who could disappear in an instant (and some have), never to be seen nor heard from again.

This was, in hindsight which is of course the great leveler, a great waste of time and effort. But beyond the waste of time and effort, it led to a lot of poor decision making. The truth, though, is that I had always struggled with acceptance, and that I had always looked to the wrong people for acceptance. I think this goes back to my childhood, and I won't bore you with those details.

And let me say, there is nothing wrong whatsoever in building relationships with people online, so long as you keep things in proportion. For me, the grave mistake was in the looking for acceptance from them, the needing of their acceptance. I pray you never fall into this trap as it may lead to bad things.

As an example, you may suppress your true feelings and opinions while trying to win the favor (acceptance) of others. Or you may do and say things that are not in true accord with your beliefs (almost on auto-pilot) because you can't bear the thought of losing their approval. Whether in real life or online, this is always a danger.

For quite a long time I looked for acceptance in others. Then I fooled myself into believing that I was looking for acceptance within myself, but truly I was looking for acceptance from without. Then I truly did look within but it was like looking for food in your stomach after you have eaten: it quickly is digested and is nowhere to be found. In truth, I pushed God aside and told myself that it was within myself that the answer was.

And, ironically, I wasn't entirely wrong to look within myself for the love, truth, and acceptance that I sought. I just didn't realize what the true source of it was and that it was not truly "me". 

Here is where I'm going to diverge somewhat from my usual tract and perhaps lose some of you in the process, but I must speak plainly here. I think no good can come at all from merely trying to rely on oneself for acceptance and strength. As human beings, we're weak and it is just a matter of time before our strength, courage, resolve, and belief in ourselves runs out. What we need is belief in God, and to look to God for acceptance. It is the Holy Spirit which is within us as a gift from God the Father through Jesus Christ.

Now, those of you who haven't closed the browser already, thank you for hearing me out. I do not wish to proselytize here, but I see no other way of speaking plainly about what I believe. I've spent far too long trying to do everything myself, to rely on myself, and it has always ended in failure. And, I don't think this is an accident. It is precisely built-in to our human condition.

Let me also say that I see no problems with being a Christian Confucian, or a Christian Stoic. Quite the contrary I see there being overlap between these moral and ethical philosophies and belief in God. Yet, I see in both of those realms that Christianity is the strong point, the wellspring of spirit which keeps things together and always able to move towards the best of what we human beings can be. It may be all well and fine to have an ethic or plan for society but if you lack the spirit to continue amid the challenges of life, you may achieve what you would hope for.

So, let me get back to regrets. I wish I had spent more time and effort over the last 10 or 15 years reaching out to people whom I could touch, and help in some way, in ways beyond what I have done online through my writing. On the one hand I believe this blog and writing precisely is a big part of my mission in life, and the belief in this mission has kept me going through numerous changes. And yet, I also do feel that I could have done more along the way, in my own community where I live, with my family, and so on,

I guess what I'm saying, my friend, is that there are many places where we can put our efforts, and there are also many places where we can look for acceptance. Keep your need and longing for acceptance fixed on a place of true acceptance and love, on the solid ground where it belongs. And move your energies beyond what is easiest and most comfortable. By no means need you give up what you have done and are doing, but reach out further beyond what is most known to you. You may find that you will achieve more and touch more lives than you had before, and you may find that you can learn and grow beyond what you might now think possible. And when you find that you are at a loss as to what to do next, spend some quiet time alone in meditation and prayer.

And, finally, if belief in Jesus Christ isn't for you or you're just not sure, I recommend meditation and focusing in on the here and now of your life. Focus on ethics and try to determine what is best for your world, and what is best for those you come into contact with. Do not focus only on what will make you rich, or gain you acceptance, for these will be empty branches that will grow dry, crack, and fall out from under you. Find solid ground to make your stand.

Peace be with you, farewell for now.