Staying Open, Choosing Life
Today I was thinking about all the different perspectives people bring to the world. Some people are happy and optimistic. Some are always negative. Some believe if they work hard they will eventually succeed. Others believe in fate — that life is already laid out for them and there’s nothing they can do to change it. I could go on and on, but I realized that ultimately there are really only two ways of being in the world. You are either open, or you are closed.
Open people, first and foremost, have shunned fear. Open people have decided not to allow fear to be a factor in the way they live. When an open person is angry at someone, she has already decided to stop blaming other people for her emotions and for her life, and instead starts working on letting go of anger. When an open person experiences loss, she does not just immediately suck it up and move on. She allows it to be what it is. She is open to what it can teach her. (Of course she does not just descend into chronic self-pity either — this is actually a way of closing up to experience and getting stuck.) When an open person experiences joy, he does not allow himself to sink into depression because it cannot last forever, but remains in the moment and appreciates what is there. And perhaps most important, open people do not look to other people to norm their behavior for them. They do not say, “I think most people would be angry in my situation,” or “You’d have done the same thing if you were me” (notice how both of those statements focus on others instead of one’s own responsibility). Open people have decided who and how they want to be, and set out to become that person, whatever the challenges. As they continue on this journey, they learn there is really nothing to fear, no one to blame, and no reason to despair.
Closed people, of course, are the opposite. Closed people allow the majority to determine what is acceptable and what is not. If they are offended, they will say that since most people would be offended in their situation, it therefore does not need to be examined. They accept that their negativity and brokenness are “the norm” and fully expect to just continue being negative and broken.
Financial guru Dave Ramsey likes to remind us that “normal is broke,” and the same is true with regard to human life in general. “Normal” is closed off. “Normal” is seeking excuses to not listen to what God is trying to teach us through painful experiences we keep having again and again. “Normal” is allowing others to set the standard for how we feel, think, and behave, while at the same time blaming others for making us miserable. “Normal” is refusing to realize that we see the world not as it is but as we are. “Normal” is assuming that my worldview, my opinion, my perspective is the right one, so don’t challenge me with something that makes me uncomfortable. “Normal” is assuming that I see myself with all the clarity I will ever need to make sound and wise decisions for my life. “Normal” is justifying my negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors simply as “my way of doing things and after all — everyone has their own way.” “Normal” is broken. “Normal” is closed.
Every person you meet is heading towards being either more open or more closed. And no matter how much angry people insist that their anger is “normal,” as they become more open, they will realize that normal is broken and leave it behind. No matter how hard closed-off optimists try to look at the bright side, their very closed-ness will eventually close down completely on them and they will carry around a very deep and bitter darkness, with the happy exterior used mostly for keeping others at a distance. Or as a shortcut to reaching real happiness without learning to open up.
But it cannot be done. True happiness is simply peace. Peace is found in having less and less to hide, and being able to live more and more in the truth — even when truth is unpleasant. Unpleasant truths do not devastate open people because they are not frantically trying to keep unpleasantness at bay. They are too immersed in learning whatever lessons are to be found in the present moment.
There are two ways to live. Open and closed. Those who choose to be open will experience endless unfolding of life and love and beauty (a.k.a., God) because they will always be allowing life today to teach them how to live better tomorrow. Those who choose to be closed will experience increasing unhappiness because they will be constantly trying to keep real life at bay, rather than experience its pain today so they can have a better tomorrow. By learning the sometimes bitter lessons of today, they will have better lives tomorrow. By refusing to learn bitter lessons today, closed people ultimately end up with bitter lives. (The truly tragic thing is that even then they will not know they ever had a choice in the matter, and will resent the direction their lives went.)
Choose life. Choose openness. Choose it not because anyone is forcing it on you, choose it not because I say so, but choose life because life is better than death. If you choose death, you will die in a thousand ways every day, even when God is trying to love you. But if you choose life, you will live more beautifully and openly each day than the day before, even when darkness and death seem to surround you. Choose life. Life is better.
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” — Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT) (emphasis mine)