Reflections and Musings

If you’ve got it all figured out, you’re doing it wrong

Certainty can be is deadly. My desire to retract that sentence is proof of the dread disease of certainty;  few things are worse.

The drive for certainty, for perfection bars the door of creativity, innovation, and general thriving.

Maybe you’re one of the privileged few who figured it out way before me, but I’ve struggled with this desire–to be certain, right, correct–before I speak my mind for most of my life. It prevents me from engaging, being vulnerable; it’s kind of a safety tactic.

I’ve heard all the advice: “There are no stupid questions.” “Dissonant ideas allow innovation and creativity to thrive.” “Nothing you do or think will ever be perfect so, just say/do something.”

But still, I hold myself to an impossible standard; a standard that’s not even fun to bear.

Ever had a conversation, err…monologue with someone who staunchly holds position X, view y, knows z? How’d that go for you? Was it an enjoyable sharing of ideas and stimulating conversation? Did you come away with a sense of appreciation and wonder at the beauty of artful interaction and relation?

Likely not. It probably felt more like talking to a brick wall, a waste of time. The other person (perhaps you or me, we’ve all been there) was so certain, so entrenched, that she made no effort to even entertain, let alone consider, an other possibility. We would probably all agree that such interactions are best avoided for their lack of enjoyment and black-and-white view of the world.

brick wall

But I think our reticence for these one-sided interactions stems from something more fundamental to our created nature. We’re creatures, created to live in a dynamic call and response with our Creator, the source of our life and the life of all creation.

This line struck me in class today: “Man [sic] was created to be a hearer of the word, and it is in responding to the word that he attains his true dignity. His innermost constitution has been designed for dialogue“(22, Prayer, Hans Urs von Balthasar).

So living into the fullness of our created nature, our true dignity, is to participate in dialogue, a conversation. God speaks (meets) with us in God’s Word (Jesus, the Son of God in flesh) and we respond. This is prayer and life.

There is a place for petitioning God, but if we’re always talking at God–certain of our needs and desires–we miss the richness of the dialogue. We can’t hear the call over the din of our own voice.

Likewise, if we assume God likes the sound of God’s own voice, and make no effort to respond in word or deed, we neglect God’s call. We settle for a monologue more characteristic of a distant, cold, angry Judge than the One who embodied “the life that was the light of all people” (John 1:4).

If that doesn’t persuade you, then compare the enjoyment and delight, the fresh and unexpected journey of a life lived in a rich dialogue with the alternative: a dull, droning monologue on a never-changing path.

“Therefore the word of God is never something finished, to be surveyed like a particular landscape, but it is something new every moment, like water from a spring or rays of light. ‘ And so it is not enough to have received ‘insight’ and to ‘know the testimonies of God’, if we do not continually receive and become inebriated by the fountain of eternal light'” (24, Prayer,†)

I’m not arguing for lack of conviction in what you believe or think, but I do think a vibrant life (or dialogue) with God can shape our interactions with each other. We can be open to speak, not content just to passively listen. If nothing else, maybe there will be fewer monologues at brick walls.

† Balthasar quotes Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 118, XXVI, 6 in the last line.
Photo credit: Sam Howzit

3 thoughts on “If you’ve got it all figured out, you’re doing it wrong

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