I've been thinking lately about my two selves. Yes, I split roughly down the middle, it seems. Is it a split personality disorder? Hmmm, I have to channel the "right me" before I answer. You see, I jokingly call them my evil twins - Expectations-Me and Comfortable-Me. I have them both operating full time, but then again so do we all, I am guessing. They fight like cats and dogs, and it's a constant struggle to see who wins out.
Expectations-Me is the tough guy, and is not just born out of a professional work environment and the closest of relationships - family, spouses and our kids. It also comes at us from impersonal sources too - our youth and gender based society and the massive media/mass marketing machine. We want to, need to, HAVE TO please, so we perform. We compare ourselves with others and take our cues from them (and commercials). We put on a happy face, smile, shake hands, and above all else, "don't let 'em see you sweat.”
If someone is upset with us, or if we THINK they are, we shift into overdrive to step up our game. This constant set of lofty expectations and pressure bears down on us like an oncoming freight train. That motivation isn't necessarily a bad thing because it promotes productivity, but it can also produce a sense of disconnect with who we really are. But who we want people to see and who they likely see anyway can be two different things. Most of us get pretty skilled at being inauthentic - hiding the real person inside.
On the other side is E-Me's more genteel version. Comfortable-Me shows up more when the pressure is off. He loves to make gentle conversation, laugh, and float on life's lake in a kayak, basking in the warm day's gentle breeze. Certainly there is that sense of "this is the way every day should be" - little stress and pressure, the freedom of being yourself and producing good works without being constantly analyzed and evaluated.
Now I know what you're thinking. If we could all be retired right now with a healthy pension and a kayak, we could all be happy Comfortable-Me every day. Yep, already there. It doesn't cost anything but time to daydream, but then POW, that pesky train rudely awakens. I remember noticing how much my father changed after he retired. He smiled more, laughed more. But the value of retirement is not my point here.
What I am suggesting is we learn to straddle the two personalities because they both have value. Going through life's meat-grinder while practicing the act of returning to our real source of calm and security - our Lord's quiet presence is the absolute, don't-miss-it KEY to effective living. What emerges is not only grace under fire, patience, and all other fruits of the spirit, but our true identity, that sense of "real me" we crave.
Doing Expectations-Me without abiding in God's presence tends to drive us to excess, make us shallow personalities, alienate our loved ones, and produce a grotesque fear and success-based caricature.
Equally sad, avoiding pressure by only wearing Comfortable-Me can produce a kind of fantasy-based wimp - untouched, unchallenged, a shallow person bereft of deep Godly character.
Let's all practice abiding! Seeking his face in quiet moments. We have to be proactive and purposeful about this. In our society, it does take practice.