By Scott Weeman | Men’s Staff Writer
Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography
One of my least favorite questions that people ask me when I first meet them is “What do you do?” For some reason, this question triggers all sorts of insecurities in me as a man, as if there is some right or wrong answer to their question, and the answer I’m about to give is certainly the wrong one. While the person asking the question is simply attempting to get to know me better (or doing the best they can in the undesirable arena of small talk), what happens internally is that I end up projecting all of my insecurities onto the other person, waiting for judgement to come after sharing a little bit about what I do professionally. Sometimes I’ve even dodged the question’s true intentions, responding with,
“Well, I play golf. I ride my bike around the beach. I play volleyball with my friends. I help out at my church doing various things. I get together with many guys on an individual basis to discuss life. I write. I drink coffee… Oh, you want to know what I do for work?!”
I have spent quite a bit of time analyzing why this question has created (and to some degree, still creates) a gross amount of turmoil within me. What occupation would I be happy to proclaim as one that I “do”? I love my life, I love the opportunities that my job as a server in a restaurant (which I have done for seven years) has created as a result of my availability and the flexibility it offers. I get to do all the things I responded with above during my free time, and I get to enjoy myself while I’m at work.
I have made some mistakes in my life based on selfish ambitions and short-sighted grabs for pleasure that have squandered dreams and efforts towards achievement. A few blatant examples of this include a few attempts at school that were ended abruptly and a relationship that offered me second chance after second chance, only to be ended in great pain. What was the end result of all of these losses, all of which were tied to my addictive and alcoholic behavior?
The Gift Of Desperation.
I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable. With the help of many others, I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I (slowly and imperfectly) turned over my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him.
In short, I found God. I found that a life run on my own will was leading me nowhere and that God still had great plans for me regardless of how much I screwed up the things I wanted so badly. It turned out God had greater plans in store for me than I had for myself. Confidence – not in myself, but in the love and strength God has been guiding me with – came back. I started to realize that the people who truly care about me are less interested in what I’ve done and care more about what I’m going to do, and that they’re willing to help me get there.
This has been my experience. We all experience varying degrees of insecurities and the unhealthy defenses that accompany them. When those appear, we have options.
One is to stay in self-pity, resorting to being the victim of the show that we’re doing our best to direct. Sometimes it feels good to stay stuck in self-pity. It feels familiar, and for some reason that offers comfort, albeit short-lived. When those shame-based emotions of being “less than” are triggered by another, it’s common to think that the world is against us. In reality, though, this can be very toxic and instill great anger and resentment towards others. In his book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw notes that this reaction is formed very early in life. “Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.”
The better option is to ask God to direct our lives and accept our role as actor in His Divine Script for us. Sometimes the will of God is made painfully clear by the closing of doors and opportunities that can seem vital to our existence and hope for a bright future. It can feel that way in relationships – whether romantic, friendly, or familial. As in my example highlighted above, it can feel that way regarding the educational and career ambitions that we have in life. Furthermore, it can feel that way as we embark on a progressive spiritual life. It’s quite common to be fed up making the same spiritual blunders that we feel should be behind us (which can sometimes be God’s way of regaining our attention and renewing our sense of desperation). Be sure that God will use what you perceive as a failure to bring you closer to him or to strengthen you in some way.
As virtue can often be found in the middle of opposite extremes, it’s critical to ensure that the opposite of shame does not seep it’s way into our psyche. Upon receiving that job, relationship, or spiritual achievement, let us not be caught in the trap that we have all-of-a-sudden “made it.” It can be quite tempting to think that God’s mercy and love is greater when we’ve achieved a level of notoriety or a position befitting of glory. That’s just not true.
“Giving and receiving unconditional love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness,” Bradshaw writes. Surround yourself with people who love you as you are. Love others as they are. Use the insecurities that surface as an opportunity to re-evaluate the values that are truly important to you. You’ll probably find that there are a lot of good intentions and motivations behind them, but that somewhere they got twisted.
Hearing someone say “I love you no matter what” must be the greatest words that can pass through the ears. Hearing God say “I love you no matter what” must be the greatest words that can pass through the heart.
P.S. You are enough.