My twenties have been a season of un-learning assumptions about life. Here are ten I’m untangling:
1. emotions and truth. It’s tempting to believe something is true because of how deeply we feel about it or that it is false because we don’t feel strongly about it. Deep emotional experiences are not indicators of truth, although they often accompany powerful expressions of truth. Emotions must be tested as much as facts to see if they are true.
2. success and love. Success is no indicator of love or the lack thereof. They are completely separate. Love cannot be earned or lost, success can. Seeking love through success brings anxiety and depression. Believing you are loved makes success a fun day at the beach instead of an existential crisis.
3. ignorance and fear. Ignorance doesn’t have to produce fear. Fear obscures truth by belittling or exaggerating the unknown (i.e. I don’t know it, so it must not be important OR I don’t know it so I’m probably going to completely fail). Do not fear the unknown, fear God and explore the unknown.
4. passivity and God’s will. Don’t think something is an indicator of God’s will simply because it happened outside of your control. Being passive is not a way to discern God’s will, it is a way to hide behind your fears. Your actions are as much a part of God’s will as the actions of others, so don’t discount it in your prayerful discernment.
5. parsimony and frugality. Saving money is good. Not spending money is not necessarily good. There are things you should gladly spend money for and there are things you should gladly withhold money from. Which is which requires judgement.
6. acceptance and trust. Someone may accept, welcome, encourage, help and praise (i.e. flatter) you, but it does not mean you can trust them. Trust is built through trials, conflicts and vulnerable experience. Acceptance can be given or taken away on a whim.
7. rejection and self-rejection. Rejection is usually not your fault nor is it a reflection of your worth. People are usually self-focused and their own circumstances and values are often bigger factors than your actions. So don’t beat yourself up if you are rejected…rejecting yourself does not help.
8. perfectionism and responsibility. Perfectionism says that if you’re perfect you can’t be rejected and conversely if something fails, it must be your fault. That assumption is false. First you’re not perfect, second even if you (or your work) was perfect, you could still be rejected for it for no fault of your own. The world often runs off favors, advantage, envy and image rather than truth or righteousness. So relax. Accept responsibility for your part and relax about the rest.
9. responsibility and reward. Many times you will not be rewarded for taking responsibility. Sometimes this is because life is unfair, other times it’s because you missed something (i.e. you make a great app, but nobody uses it because you didn’t market it). If you want to be rewarded in this life, you need to pay attention to the mechanisms for turning your effort into reward; you cannot not take responsibility for this part. However, you can be free from a lot of stress if you also humbly believe God will take care of it eventually.
10. merit and grace. Human effort matters, but grace is real too. Sometimes after experiencing grace we want everything to be given so freely because it is such a relief and seems to be so obviously of God. Then we confront situations where grace does not seem to be operative…nothing happens unless we make it happen or nothing changes period. Instead of wanting everything to be one or the other, patiently live with both. Some things are accomplished by God’s grace alone. Some things are also accomplished by our effort. Life is both and that back and forth is how we experience Jesus’ life lived through us.
I hope some of these disentanglements are helpful for you (they are admittedly easier said than done). Feel free to share more in the comments below!