We face many pressures in our society. What are they exactly? Parents have to deal with the pressures of raising their children and hoping they will turn out to be who they want them to be; employees have to deal with the pressures of demanding jobs and deadlines; the holidays bring the pressure of having to entertain and get along with extended family and sometimes they bring the pressure of having to deal with painful holiday memories. As Americans living in a land that is dominated by the philosophy of the “American dream,” we often have to deal with the pressure of finding ourselves and looking like we have it all together when we don’t. We face pressures of all different kinds.
Something I have learned recently (and am still learning) is how to deal with the pressure of feeling like you should have all the answers and think of all the right ideas. I put pressure on myself to think that I have to think of everything and if I don’t, I can take it personally. When others think of something that is a good idea, it is not uncommon for me to beat myself up a little and think “I should have thought of that!” And not only do I think that, but I also think everyone around me is thinking the same thing: “He should have thought of that.” While there may actually be times I don’t think of things I should, most of the time, I end up falling into the trap of thinking I need to go it alone and try to think of everything.
This isn’t going to be a psychological blog post where I try to delve deep into the human psyche and try to uncover the root issue of all the pressures we face. Rather, I want to offer a simple truth that I think many of us need to hear. It’s something we have all heard a lot before and probably so much so that we become deaf to it…
We can’t make it on our own. That’s it. It’s really simple but also really hard. Somewhere along the way we have let ourselves believe that we have to have all of the answers whether it relates to parenting, our jobs, relationships, etc. The truth is, however, we were made for relationships and therefore need to open ourselves up to being influenced and shaped by others.
We may be strong in certain areas and have certain skills and training that others do not, but no one needs to be trained in how to be prideful – we can all do that wonderfully and masterfully. We know how to be prideful without reading any books or registering in any classes, but letting go of that pride which is rooted so deep within us is the scary part. Realizing that someone else may be better or wiser or have a greater idea than us is hard to accept; but it is absolutely necessary, not only if we want to do well in life, but also if we want to truly be the people God wants us to be in His church and in the world. We have to let others shape us.
Letting others shape and influence us can sometimes be like a pencil and a pencil sharpener. If I am the pencil and need to be sharpened, I can imagine it would hurt to have a part of myself shaven off, even though it is needed to help me be who God wants me to be. It is vital if I want to use the gifts and abilities well that God has given me.
A pencil won’t be able to write or draw unless the sharpener is there when the pencil needs it; and likewise, the sharpener won’t be able to do what it is supposed to do without the pencil. If the pencil and the sharpener both decide they don’t need each other and want to go it alone, they will eventually become useless, and it is the same way with us.
If we don’t let others help us when we need it – if we fail to acknowledge other peoples’ strengths to our weaknesses – we will become isolated and not as useful as we could be. We will become lost, and only by opening our hearts to being molded by the influence of our friends who love Jesus will we find our way again. We need each other.
In closing, read and meditate on this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called The Arrow and the Song:
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.