Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Definition of You

Mount Rushmore

I have been doing a lot of retrospection over the past month or so.

Why? Maybe because I’m turning 30 this year, I’m looking back at everything that has happened in my 20s (and seriously, so much happens in your 20s). I am also job searching right now, so I’m continually poring over my resume and analyzing—or probably over-analyzing—all of my educational and employment decisions to date, revisiting the reasons why I made those decisions.

During all of this retrospection, one considerable change I’ve noticed in myself over the last 10 years (or more) is my much improved ability to be true to myself.

Be true to yourself.

I had heard that phrase many times before I actually learned its invaluable lesson. Once upon a time, as a teenager, I was so caught up in pleasing people and wanting everyone to like me that I can’t say for certain that I was always true to myself. Do you know how easy letting your own personality, preferences and point-of-view fall by the wayside to accommodate others’ is?

I also avoided any types of confrontations at all costs. I resented situations that forced me to decide one way or another about an issue, especially if it meant that I would have to take a side, thereby creating opposition to myself. I could hardly bear that sort of thing!

I have never liked being put on the spot to make a tough decision. I have never liked being confronted with opposition or being forced to choose between two things. I like to keep everyone happy, so even though a decision might be good for someone else but bad for me, I still struggle and tend to want to decide against myself. During every difficult situation that demands a response from me, I spend a lot of time wondering, What is the right thing to do?

Be true to yourself.

As I got older and matured into adulthood, I realized that I would be regularly required to make serious, potentially life-altering decisions, for the rest of my life. We are consistently put in difficult situations and faced with challenging circumstances as adults. How do we survive and still remain strong and completely sure of who we are? By knowing who we are in Christ and by remaining true to that person we know we are.

Picture this: let’s say you are a big, square block of slate-coloured stone. You are plain and have no definition—until life happens to you, and you are met with challenges, and you have to make serious decisions, and you have to confront people who attack what is important to you. Every time you act, every time you form an opinion, every time you stay true to yourself by saying “no,” every time you avoid trouble by walking away and every time you decide how to deal with difficult circumstances, a chisel strikes the stone and creates a new slope, curve, indentation or definition. With every strike of the chisel, you take more shape—you become less indistinct and more interesting.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d rather take some risks; I’d rather stand strong in the morals I believe in; I’d rather stay true to myself; I’d rather square my shoulders and be what I need to be if it means that I can become an individual carving, unlike any other carving there is. Wouldn’t you rather have defined lines than remain an unremarkable block of stone?

Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Embrace life’s opportunities and challenges because they enable you to emerge from the boring blob of rock and become something of shape and substance; for we are defined by the way we handle all of the problems and blessings alike that we encounter.

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