Stop Seeking Validation

We are living in a time when validation is probably the most sought after thing (right behind security, which is the next topic). When it’s time to make decisions, we reach for the phone or the computer or flip on our favorite network to find some way of adding credibility to our choices. It’s as though everyone is an authority except the person making the decision!

For example, I bet some of you clicked on this post as a means of validating your desire to stop seeking validation! With that said, I’m selfishly glad you did.

Mwahaha.

Personally, I have a horrible need to feel validated by external sources. When my beliefs or practices shift, I need to know that the path I choose is acceptable (or at least defensible) in the external world. Google has become the means by which I try to find acceptance regarding my body, my workout preferences, my political views, and my religious beliefs.

Until last night.

Talking with a beloved friend, she pointed out to me that my obsessive need to research and validate myself from the outside pointed to a lack of authority and self-acceptance within. I hadn’t considered this. After all, if I recognize my own God-given authority in my life, and if I accept myself as a being that was created “good,” then what need have I for the approval of others? This is especially puzzling when one considers how fickle and temporary such approval can be!

It’s true that humans are social creatures and want to feel like we belong. However, this sense of belonging shouldn’t lead to self-flagellation, denial, and self-editing based on what everyone else deems acceptable. Rather, the feedback from those we love and care about should either be accepted or rejected based on how it resonates within us, especially since WE are the one’s living our life! Further, if the people around us keep insisting that we cover-up or change our self-expression in order to “fit in,” that probably isn’t a group interested in loving us so much as who we could be if we abide by their standards.

Who has time or energy for that kind of stress? NO ONE.

Yet so many of us waste our time and energy seeking that validation. We compare ourselves to the famous or “successful,” we make decisions based on what our parents or friends will think, we believe what the church says we should, and we view the world the way we are told to by sources we trust, for better or worse. Hell, our president was elected largely because he gave validation to a frustrated population!

My point is that this need to be validated has real world consequences. The “powers that be” benefit from our unwillingness to think for ourselves and trust our gut. Our economy depends on your feeling inadequate and in need of more.

More what?

Doesn’t matter. Just so long as you believe you need it and are willing to pay for it.

But what if we change this?

What if we decide to trust our gut? What if we explore the paths that intrigue and delight us? What if our energy goes to those places, people, and practices that enable us to love and accept ourselves and each other to the greatest degree possible?

We’d be more secure in ourselves, and less at the mercy of the world around us. We’d finally grasp how powerful we are and just how much we have to contribute. I personally think that would be beautiful, and it is my prayer that you would join me on this long road to self-acceptance and empowerment.

You are a person created and loved just as you are. Take ownership of your choices and needs, and pursue whatever will enable you to live a life bursting at the seams with love, compassion, confidence, enjoyment, and peace. Life is too short for anything less.

Peace be with you!

When You Don’t “Fit”

Exile though I am on earth, do not hide your commandments from me. — Psalm 119:19, JB

It’s hard when we feel we don’t belong. Humans are wired for connection and community, yet many of us feel ourselves to be outsiders, even among our closest friends and family members. In my case, I often feel ill-suited for this world. I have no real career aspirations, the issues that have people frothing at the mouth hardly affect me, and my idealism kicks things up a notch as I am looked at disapprovingly for holding values and expressing ideas that many believe to be simply unrealistic.

To feel like you’re just floating through existence without a solid “anchor” can be uncomfortable, even painful. It’s difficult to watch other people settle into their lives, hopes and dreams in hand, at least knowing where they want to go. But what about the rest of us?

Something that I feel I’ve been given to say by the Light is that it’s okay to “not belong.” I spent so much of my life lamenting that I wasn’t like everyone else, but my most meaningful relationships were made possible precisely because I was different. My ideas, goals, and perceptions actually provided something for certain people, and I found myself connected to others who felt like I did.

I found that I wasn’t alone, and the truth is that you aren’t either.

There are many of us who feel like “exiles” in this life; as though we were made to belong somewhere else. The truth is, however, that those who don’t feel “at home” here are supposed to feel that way. Our world needs people who can see things differently, who aspire to different goals, and who live outside the accepted norms of thought and behavior. It’s been my experience that God works best through those who are open to a different way of doing things, as there is less comfort and conformity standing in the way. We were born to be the monkey wrench that stops the machine of homogeneity from running rampant, and we are meant to be the exception that keeps everyone from “having it all figured out.”

Seeing myself and others this way has opened my mind and my heart up much more, as I am realizing that everyone has a part of themselves that feels like it just doesn’t belong. Many of us press this bothersome little attribute down, hoping no one will see, but the reality is that our differences are what can lead to powerful transformations in our lives and in the lives of others. Embracing and loving ourselves and our other-ness enables us to extend that love to others, and such affection is Godly, spiritual, and powerful. It can build bridges, demolish walls, and shatter the fragile myths of uniformity that drive the current state of affairs.

Instead of letting my difference become isolation, I choose to treat it as a gift. No, I don’t feel like I belong here, but it’s neither a curse nor some delusion of grandeur that I am above anyone. I’m just different, and so are you. Everyone has a uniqueness, a gift that when embraced, stands to enhance our understanding of life and of one another. So let your “freak flag” fly, refuse to fit the mold, know that you are an exile by design, and we need you now more than ever.

Peace be with you!

Don’t Judge Your Journey…

Do not reproach one who is turning away from sin; remember that we all deserve punishment. Sirach 8:5, NRSV

At age 27, almost 28, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I’ve learned lessons about managing emotions, honoring relationships, watching the words of my mouth, and avoiding situations I don’t need to be in. I’ve learned about my relationships with God, religion. and other people. As you can imagine, many of the lessons I have learned came through the undesireable avenue of mistakes made… and I used to hate myself for it.

As a society, it feels like we have gotten in the habit of judging not only the lessons we have learned, but also those others have had to learn. While one person may struggle with addiction, they cannot fathom why someone would cheat on their spouse. When one person works their way to an early grave, neglecting their family and friends, they can’t stand those who are overzealous with their opinions online or at social gatherings. In all these instances, we are resentful of ourselves because we weren’t born perfect, and downright wrathful toward those who have had to learn things we didn’t.

As I said before, I used to HATE that I ever had to learn how to be a decent spouse, son, friend, etc. I hated myself for not having a natural gift for navigating complicated people and situations. On top of that, I would find relief in the obvious flaws of others.

Guy that yelled at me after a sermon? What a jerk!

Lady that flipped me off in traffic for stopping at a stop sign? Rude!

Overzealous Facebook warrior? Crazy!

It feels good to hammer on people who are flawed in ways we are not. We are able to rationalize OUR mistakes because WE have good reasons, right? We couldn’t say the same about others… Could we?

The Book of Sirach teaches that we shouldn’t reproach people “turning away from sin” because “we all deserve punishment.” The language is somewhat condemning, but the message is powerful. Jesus says something similar in Matthew 7:1-5.

In more positive terms, instead of condemning others for their darkness because we don’t want to confront our own, we should remember that just like “them,” we have lessons to learn, and THAT IS OKAY. We are imperfect creatures, and each of us is on a path. When we despise our path, we start to envy or judge those of others, and no one gets anywhere.

Instead, we should mind our own road, fearlessly and compassionately embracing that which we must learn about life and ourselves. In that process, we become more understanding of others and what they are going through. That understanding enables us to lovingly embrace others where they are, possibly helping them along just as Jesus does in the Gospels.

All of this boils down to treating ourselves more kindly. I had to learn through long processes and lots of therapy that my lessons are nothing to fear or be ashamed of. They’ve made me a better man, husband, friend, son, and (God willing) father. The acceptance of who I am and how I got here has also made me more accepting of others, and I believe this is something God desires for us all.

I pray that you will ease up on yourself. Learn the lessons before you, for that’s what mistakes are intended to be. Through them, we learn humility, patience, and how to do better. Embracing that ride also helps us to be more compassionate toward others, and I don’t have to tell you how important that is.

God loves you. I love you. It’s time for you to love you, so you can love others.

Peace be with you!