How to be Insignificant

While there’s a wit to this series, I’ll admit, it’s actually kind of hard to write…

I’ve chosen particular topics that hit deep to the core of myself and the areas through which God has been walking with me to freedom.

I’m taking next week off of blogging while I travel. I hope to bring some new direction and inspiration when I return.

I was asked once “what’s so wrong with wanting a nice, stable, comfortable life? why can’t I just live my life, make money, buy a house, have a family and just be happy?”

It was an intriguing question.

My response was this: “what if that’s all some people have the potential for? what if other people had the potential to make a legitimate difference in the world… is it their responsibility, if they can, to do something that matters?”

And in that case…which type of person are you?

Living a life of insignificance is absolutely more comfortable than living a life with a contribution that matters. If you find yourself deficient in the “potential” category or simply don’t want to do any more work than what it takes to fulfill yourself in blissful hedonism, here are a few guidelines for you to stay passive, benched and insignificant.

1) Stand firmly in the conviction that ignorance is bliss. You’re responsible for what you’re aware of so a great way to live a distanced, insignificant life is to remain uneducated and unaware of the realities of the world. Don’t think about starving children, poverty-stricken areas, refugees from war-torn areas, displaced people from natural disasters, disease, death or even the simple ills of life like relational challenges or other people like yourself who are riddled with self-obsessed narcissism.

2) Keep a low opinion of your abilities, competencies and passions. If you don’t think you have anything to offer: YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT. Empowerment is a devastating blow to insignificance. Remember: perception is reality, if you BELIEVE you’re worthless, you’ll ACT like you’re worthless.

3) Pick a side. Apathy is for the indecisive. True insignificance is when you are aware but decide to stay firmly out of the game. Pack out your schedule with so many things that making any kind of selfless contribution would be out of the question. If you get really good at this, you’ll find “noble” things to distract you from these contributions such as working for a ministry (so you “put in your time” at work and can dismiss needs during your off hours).

4) Choose a life of voluntary poverty. Many do this to relate to those to whom they minister. When you lack resources, it will always be a challenge to be generous and you’ll often spend your time figuring out how to make money instead of being free to give your time to things that matter.

5) Justify living tight-fisted with your resources. Take all that wonderful advice you got growing up to save your money, plan for the future, make wise investments and manage your resources to the penny. Tithing, generosity and financially blessing others can still be your “first-fruits” without ever requiring sacrifice or compassion. The Good Samaritan was an anomaly and should be treated as merely an inspiring story (he was probably rich anyway).

6) Let your emotions to the decision making. If you get moved by that commercial on TV that says to feed the kids in Africa or save the abused puppies go ahead and give, but if the pitch doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy: your indifference is releasing you from participating.

7) Assume God’s got it taken care of. He’s in control and there are so many people out there doing good things (even humanitarians). Operate under the premise that God will make it undeniably clear when he has an assignment for you. Otherwise, stay passively out of the way until the opportunities come to you.

Leaving the world a better place than when we found it is an inspiring thought… but you can go your entire life surfing on the contributions made by others. As long as your life is comfy and pleasant you can die happy… right?

How to be codependent

Steven Covey talks about “The Maturity Continuum” which we all progress through in our journey to adulthood. It starts with a place of dependence (where we need others for literally everything in our lives…like children), to independence (I don’t need anyone), to the final stage which is interdependence. Interdependence says “I don’t need you, but my life is better because you’re in it.”

If that doesn’t work for you, you can always revert a few progressions and instead embrace a co-dependent (or fully dependent) lifestyle. The problem with interdependence is that it takes a lot of work to maintain the independence you’ve attained while starting to include other people back into your lives. Co-dependence is way easier because you can still desperately need people AND have them around you all the time. It will probably stall out your development as a person, but you’re guaranteed to never be rejected or alone.

Here are some steps toward functional co-dependence:

1) Go into ministry. There’s no better place I’ve found to find yourself co-dependent than to be in a place where people desperately need you. It’s a win/win because they need your help and you need their affirmation so you can co-depend on one another. When you venture into people’s lives and get past the barriers, the natural instinct is to protect your investment. Be ready to make sure people have kept your secrets and that they are always always willing and able to be sucked into more.

2) Keep your circle of friends small and exclusive. You can’t let things get out of your control. Since the world of a co-dependent person critically relies on loyalty, you need a firm line between those who have permission to access your life and those who don’t. Quality time is the key…and lots of it. If people have reasons to be elsewhere they won’t be with you.

3) Tell this small group things you’ve never told anyone before. Trust is the only way to manipulate grow the relationships around you. Make sure people outside the group know that you do this. Tell as many stories as possible about memories you made with the small group. The jealousy will help your group feel better about how exclusive tight knit you guys all are.

4) Be proactive. Always explain the disturbing amount of quality time you spend with these people as something healthy and be sure to use “community” as an excuse explanation for your behavior. People are going to think it’s odd so be ready to explain the joys of this co-dependency intimacy.

5) Deny deny deny. You’re always going to have dissenters. They’re probably right just jealous. Remember: YOU HAVE IT UNDER CONTROL. It feels so good to be accepted and included that it can’t possibly dysfunctional. People will try and give you feedback: DISREGARD it. They don’t understand and never will.

6) Operate with a worldview that believes God needs help. In Genesis God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Use that reference to justify that you need more than just God’s love, acceptance and intimacy.

Codependency is like going through a maze and ending up at a dead end. You’re still in the maze and still moving but you’ll end up camping out at that dead end thinking you’ve finished the maze.

How to be a control freak

Continuing our cynical diatribe, if the “victim” mentality doesn’t work for you, you can always consider the alternative: being a control freak. Sometimes the victim thing doesn’t work because it actually stresses you out to feel so powerless (even if it does absolve you of having to work or make decisions). Being a control freak has the wonderful ability to fabricate a sense of significance and self-worth. Especially if you’ve been devalued, rejected or ignored in your past, being a control freak can help expose meet those deep, personal, vulnerable needs…at least enough to survive.

So here are your tips and tricks to being a successful C.F.:

1) Be afraid…like really afraid. All control is just a front for deep rooted anxiety. If you’re going to get the reigns of the relationships around you and orchestrate your environments to suit your own sense of safety and preference, you gotta start by stirring up some serious issues. It helps if you can project some of your past hurts and pains (rejection, being overlooked, abuse even) onto people around you. No one’s coming to make sure you don’t get hurt again so make your world work for you.

2) Always formulate and fight for your opinions convictions. You’re going to have to do some work, but always make sure you see the flaws in everyone and every scenario you encounter. Remember: no one’s ideas are ever as good as your own. Even if it’s genuinely impressive, it’s not as good as it could be. The second you settle is the second you lose your power. There’s nothing more threatening to a good control freak than losing their power.

3) Assume that people are always one statement away from rejecting you. Remember: you’re in control. People are flippant and emotional and are easily impressed by… well… more impressive people than you. You’ve got to give them a reason to stay loyal to you. You’ve got to keep the attention on yourself. People like to feel needed so need people. But don’t ever let them see what you really need (unconditional love), just make sure that they see their part in your drama (real or fabricated).

4) Speaking of unconditional love… Make sure that the roots of your worldview are never truly based in understanding or living as one who values unconditional love. Love can’t be real if there’s no way to lose it. People (and God) aren’t robots who are just living out what they’re programmed to do (love you). So make sure you are always EARNING their love and trust, that way you can always stay in control. Grace is unnecessary when you’re in control.

5) Go to extremes. Either get super clingy to a few select people who can never leave your side or float often from group to group constantly winning people over, becoming the center of their social universe, then leaving when they need you too much. Normal, casual, mutually beneficial relationships won’t work for you. It’s either all or nothing.

6) Assume that God’s staying distant for a reason. It might not have even occurred to us them that God’s even noticed our plight. He didn’t seem to be around when pain happened in the past and life was too lonely, out-of-control, or painful when He had His chance to intervene, so we’re content to make it work for ourselves. It can never be God’s fault (because He’s…well… God) so don’t blame Him, but don’t count on Him either.

7) Always talk about your latest life-changing epiphanies. As long as you’re “growing,” you’ll always steer people away from confronting how intimidating, manipulative or needy you might be.

Controlling your relationships and environments will give you a complex purpose. That’s what we all want: to matter. If you can get people to notice you, listen to you, change their minds because of you, fight for you and never cross you, you should find the safety you crave…just remember that it will need to be monitored and maintained 24/7.

Modern Proverbs

I love it when people use proverbs they don’t really understand. I don’t mean a reference to the book after Psalms or even cheesy cliche or catchphrases. I’m talking about oldies but goodies.

“A watched pot never boils.”

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Red in the morning, sailor’s take warning. Red sky at night sailor’s delight.”

Seriously? Who uses these anymore? Who even really understands why looking a horse in the mouth would be something to avoid?

My mom always taught me that “history repeats itself.” I’m thirty now and I’m just beginning to understand this. I don’t mean that we’re going to go back to the stone ages and rediscover fire. I mean that the issues of the past will resurface at some point and manifest in the given time in just another cycle. We have histories full of wars and have just discovered more colorful (or more “humane”) ways to commit genocide (please sense the sarcasm). But the heart of man really hasn’t changed. My roommate said to me one night “time creates new problems.” (Good one Jared). But man’s response to those problems really only comes from one or two basic roots.

Modern proverbs are for the time. They’re not really timeless, they’re just repackaged. Our generation just loves profound things. I don’t mean “loves”…I actually mean is o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d. with profound things. In working with young adults for a living, I can tell them a nugget of truth in plain words and get about 10% retention (that’s generous by the way). But if I put it in a song or illustrate it in a story, it’s like I just suggested that everlasting gobstoppers were real and that I had one for each of them.

I like proverbs. I actually keep a note page on my phone to keep track of observations I have about the world. Figuring out the world and understanding how it works is fascinating to me. Right now here are a few I have:

“Passion is the motivation of the young.”

“Immature conviction has hugely destructive potential.”

“Beauty is not dependent on my recognition of it.”

I’m trying them on for size. Maybe there’s merit to them, maybe there’s not. I’m looking at the world to see if there’s wisdom in there somewhere.

That’s the point right? The response to Solomon’s prayer?

“I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” 1 Kings 3:12

Let’s find this wisdom folks. It’s getting some good reviews.