The Inside Face Lift
- 2008 19 Jun
Been there. Done that. And it’s not that great. Neither is the glitz and glam. At the end of the day, when it’s time to turn in for the night, and you’re alone with your empty thoughts tucked in not-so-neatly between your Egyptian cotton sheets, you hate to admit it but — you’ve been slow to learn that everything you hold dear is wearing out. The sheets you’re laying on, your waistline, your interior decorating choices, your cars, and especially those $500 dollar shoes you just bought. They went defunct shortly after the third time you wore them and saw them on someone else taller and thinner than you.
The Game of Life
It’s a mighty tough pill to swallow — the realization that there’s always more and there’s never enough; that the bulk of your life is just a game you play — a game that determines whether you’re winning or losing by comparing your status and acquired lifestyle with everyone else’s acquired lifestyle — and finding that you always come up short. Someone always has something bigger and better than you and someone else is always thinner than or more together than you.
Every time you think you can sit back and enjoy your cultural nirvana and cash in on your winning status, some culture geek has launched the latest and greatest “something else” that you absolutely must have in order to stay ahead in the winning game. Exhausted from surfing the last big wave of cultural enlightenment and social obligations, you hunker down and prepare to launch yet another whirlwind campaign of acquiring and recycling. Before you know it, 6 months have flown by and things are wearing out again, including your nerves.
And don’t even start about the guilt you’ve buried for all the family time you’ve missed. Or the broken hearts who stumble along with you that you’ve blatantly ignored — including your own. Maybe if you just bury the pain or stressful situation deeper this time and numb the feelings again — go watch Desperate Housewives or something — maybe it will pass. Sure. Detach. Watch a movie. Get a facial. Shop. Do something — anything. Just don’t think about the responsibility of dealing with anything too emotionally difficult right now. And if you avoid it long enough, maybe it will go away.
And maybe the people will too… go away that is.
Why This Life Strategy Doesn’t Work
The culturally conformed nature of the person I just described is forced to live in a shallow existence because, whether they realize it or not, they have confined their time, energy, and resources by subjecting themselves to a system thickly padded with consumer-centric values. With so much attention given to servicing and maintaining their outer culture — their inner sanctum has been severely neglected and cannot stand alone in the face of change, crisis, or loss. The inner character of such a person is weak because it is not conditioned to endure hardship. It is only conditioned to avoid it.
Sooooo…Take a Break!
Howya doin? Feeling a little cramped after reading that? Getting’ a little edgy and looking for the “turn it off” switch? Breathe deep. Don’t worry. Life is about to get better; you just need to learn how to stay connected to reality and grow from it; to see the priceless value of a life that’s not detached and experience how such a life never wears out, and only gets better, gaining valuable personal equity as time goes on.
There’s just a couple of things you’ll need to do differently, and then you will be off the old “dead horse” of game-playing, and on to the new one (and it’s a gorgeous horse, like the kind you see in all the cool movies) riding off into the sunset of an authentic life.
The Short List
1.) Stop your relentless pursuit of comfort, pleasure, and social status.
2.) Stop suppressing pain in yourself and in others.
3.) Stop avoiding giving, serving, and preferring other people. Let yourself do these things and let yourself do these things often.
But how do you stop?
Without judging yourself, clearly identify the habits you have developed to avoid pain when it surfaces. Honestly describe what triggered the habit and how you respond to pain when it strikes. What do you do to avoid dealing with the real problem straight on? Track and record the patterns.
Challenge yourself to change direction
Stop spending your personal resources (your time, energy, and money) on your self and your avoidance habits (you may have to wean yourself off of them instead of going cold turkey and setting yourself up to fail) and start spending your resources on helping others.
If you apply this to your everyday life, you will…
…gain deep compassion and inner serenity in the midst of changing or difficult circumstances
…be asked over to other “real” people’s homes and have real fun with them,
…sleep better at night, knowing that you are making a timeless difference in this world,
…save time, money, and emotional energy or better, spend it on things that don’t wear out,
…feel like you have a purpose in life,
…realize how valuable and special you are when you see it in the eyes and feel it from the hearts of those you are caring about by serving and preferring them,
…feel loved on a regular basis, and you won’t…
…need it, but you will be thanked… a lot.
That’s it. Pure and simple. It is your God-given right and your God-purposed duty to live your life authentically and connected to realness.
It’s scary, I know. Letting go of fakery and a pompous lifestyles can be challenging. But you can do it — even in gorgeous high heels and a designer bag slung over your perfectly sculpted shoulder — if that’s what you decide you’re really like and getting there doesn’t consume you or deprive your inner sanctum resources. (But make sure the shoes and bag are authentic fashion choices made from your real desires and not choices you made to please the pleasure, comfort, and social-status gods).
To regain your authentic self and live a connected and enriching life that will never wear out, just do the 1-2-3 short list for a while. You’ll get in touch with your “real self” real quick. The 1-2-3 short list has an uncanny ability to cut to the chase and make you real — real fast!
Janet and George Weaver Smith co-pastor their home-church family in