The only real way to grow is through connection. Sometimes we think we need to pressure, prod, or push growth by telling people what to do or making a plan to which they must adhere. The only real growth in the natural world around us, though, is through cells connecting with one another. There is no real laid out plan for how plants should grow (except maybe their DNA – the plans are encoded within), and there is not someone there demanding they straighten themselves up and reach out further toward the sun. The cells just come together and through some magical interaction, plants grow.
Living in a perpetual state of repentance is the way to change. We are always in brokenness and there is nothing that keeps our hearts tender like saying we’re sorry, turning around and repenting for the things we have done. It is true you make mistakes every day. Why would you not want to live in repentance? The alternative is to not pay attention to the things you are doing wrong or to rationalize and try to convince yourself and others that the things you have done are not that bad. When you put it that way, it seems like there is only one option.
Remember your life is not supposed to be stress-free. I think we all have ideals we are dreaming of: “Everything will be great when….” Fill in the blank: “…when I find ‘the one,'” “…when I get a new job,” “…when I retire.” It’s the time when it feels like you’ll just be able to kick up your feet and relax for the rest of your life, when you’ve finally “made it.” I’m not saying we can’t experience good things, but if we count on attaining some version of utopian paradise, we are going to start wondering why all this stress keeps coming at us.
Believe it or not, your self-hatred is the vehicle to finding love. This goes against some common wisdom which says you should really learn to see your own value. I mean sure, you have some nice things about you, but as you examine yourself, you will undoubtedly find some things that are lacking – even just by your own standards. It is impossible to produce love in yourself since you try to do so by some standardized merit system: “if you do and are such and such, you’re okay. If not, you’re not.” That type of love is not even really interesting to us. The only way you can truly receive the love we are talking about is to know the Love that loves you despite yourself and despite your sometimes intense hatred of yourself. Do not be afraid of this self-hatred. It will lead you right where you want to go. It’s just sort of an inside-out way to get there. Do an honest appraisal of yourself and find your wretched unworthiness. Then reach for the Love that loves you anyway.
In order to love and accept our life and those around us as they are, we must learn to grieve what we thought they would be. Without doing that, we will always love our ideals more than we love the actual thing. This does not mean we have to stop wishing for things, for hope is a good thing. In fact, if we do not do this sort of grieving, we will not be able to hope. We will only have depression – the kind that follows when we do not get what we thought we should have. Everyone goes through this kind of disillusionment – mostly in our adulthood (there is a normal developmental idealism that carries us through our youth). Our marriages, our careers and our lives in general undergo this disillusionment and it is totally normal! Maturity is the consistent “surrendering” of our ideals to attempt to love what is, rather than what we hoped would be. Again, the hope is good. Our demands for what we hope are what are dangerous.