Thursday, January 20, 2011

Have you ever...(part 1 of 2)

Have you ever felt insecure? I would venture to say that every person has felt insecure at least once in his or her life. As a middle school teacher, I witness insecurity on a moment-by-moment basis every weekday. Kids are insecure about how their body looks, so they eat less or sometimes eat more. They’re insecure about how they dress, so they make fun of others for how they dress. They’re insecure about how they talk or about their opinions so they end every sentence with a questioning inflection or the word, “right?”, or they don’t talk at all. Retail clothing stores make a killing in sales every August when school starts up because young people must feel secure in their social standing by exhibiting the latest trend or brand. But young people aren’t alone in their insecurity. Adults do the same thing. Men experience a “mid-life crisis” because they’re insecure about their future. So they go out and buy a sports car or a motorcycle to reinforce their masculinity and give them a sense of security in that feeling. Women are consistently battling the signs of age because our culture holds a viewpoint that once a woman starts to get wrinkles and gray hair, she is no longer attractive. So they’re insecure about how they look and they get plastic surgery or they continually die their hair back to its natural color. Cosmetic companies are making money hand over fist by putting out a new product once every 6 months that claims to hide wrinkles and then they throw up a digitized picture of a 50-year-old celebrity to “prove” that it works. I’m not bashing the cosmetic companies or the retail stores, in fact I applaud their marketing endeavors and their desire to sell their product. Nor am I angry with people who feel insecure. Insecurity is a natural process of trial and error.
People feel insecure when they don’t have a clear picture of who they are. Their identity is in question. This is why adolescents, colligates, and middle aged adults all feel insecure, and people in between seem to be doing just fine. Humans are in a constant quest for identity. We attempt to identify ourselves first and foremost by the position we hold. For most men, we seek a career that will give us some sort of meaning in life and fulfill our quest for identity so that we can identify ourselves by our position. I would argue that most women identify themselves by their position as a mother-that’s their primary position. We hope that our position in life will help solidify in who we are. However, there are times in life when our position becomes insecure and therefore, we become insecure. Adolescents are learning what their position is in their social stratosphere, and feel insecure about it. College aged people have just spent 4 years studying for a career, and then they have to go out and actually do it, a step that is often very scary. When men linger at a job too long or don’t achieve the paycheck they hoped, or maybe they feel they’ve settled for too many things, their position in life gets shaken and they feel insecure. As women age, their position as a mother becomes insecure because their kids are grown and leaving the house. When we don’t maintain a clear picture of our identity, our insecurity causes us to create and project different prototypes of what we think we are. They are messy versions of what we think we could be. In most cases these prototypes are rejected by either the person themselves or the people in their social circles. In essence, these possible versions of us are all asking, “Is this who I am? Does this match who I think I am on the inside?” This is demonstrated in various ways: sometimes in depression, sometimes in anger, sometimes in just an emotional shutdown.
I myself am feeling very insecure right now, and have been feeling so for the last few months. I am insecure about my position: working at Starbucks and teaching middle school students about discipleship. It’s a meager living and I have a lot of trouble being satisfied with it. I tell people this and they say, “Well then why don’t you just go get another job?” I wish I could. I’m stuck in my insecurity, absolutely paralyzed. I’m not confident enough that I could do any job I put my mind to. I try to talk myself up and say, “Bryce, you’ve got a college degree! You graduated high school with a 4.0 and college with a 3.7. You’ve got great communication skills…You can do anything you put your mind to…blah blah blah.” It only works for maybe a few minutes and then I’m back to my paralysis of insecurity. This came as a surprise to my wife. She told me that I’m one of the most confident people she knows. I would agree with her in most other areas of my life. I learned early on that you can’t please every one and that attempting to do so will drive you mad and only decrease your sense of security in who God made you to be. It has been very easy up till now to maintain that security because I had a clear picture of what God wanted me to do with my life. Furthermore, I wasn’t married and therefore not responsible for another person’s well being. However, God has since shoved me into a giant cloud of ambivalence and uncertainty. The calling that I had once felt so secure in is no longer present. I’m grasping for straws of solidarity and permanence every day. I ask, “Is this right, God? Maybe I could do this with my life?”
The problem with insecurity is what I mentioned earlier. When we identify ourselves by our position or our capabilities, we’re placing our trust in things that aren’t completely secure. The only thing that we can really identify ourselves as with any certainty is our position as helpless creatures of a loving and sovereign God. That position will never change. I will always be a helpless creature; and my God will always be loving and powerful. Sometimes I may not see the love when its present, and many times my insecurity is my acting out and trying to take control back from Him. Kind of ironic, is it not? As I have said before and will continue to say, God help me.

1 comment:

  1. The truth is most men are hoping that those around them never discover the real person inside. The weak, not so smart, mistake prone, flawed man I really am.

    Those who have the career all figured out before marriage wonder if they really picked the right career at one time or another for many of the reasons listed above.

    For me it was seven years of marriage before I fell into the 'career'. Even then I was unsure it was "the career". Yet I know I always had a sense of confidence that God would lead me to where I should be. This kind of thinking could not be shared with my father who was goal oriented. And good at it. You decide what you want to do, layout the plan, and then do it. That just is not the way I am bent I guess. There are times in my life when I have demonstrated this ability but not predominantly.

    Once the career was identified the next step was the place. God placed in me a desire to find a place where I could spend my career. He lead me there and it exceeded what I would have chosen for myself. There are many days in the midst of the toil that I hope they don't discover the fraud that I sometimes feel that I am. If they only knew. But God knows.

    That's why I love your conclusion. God help me. He will. He is. The direction, path, confirmation and fulfillment are on the way. Trust takes time, so these things will arrive just like Gandalf. Precisely when they mean to.

    Ironically, you are one of the most capable men I have known. It is sometimes easier for those of us observing you to see what God sees in character, integrity, humility and decency.

    I always had a sense that God would bring the right man to my daughter. When you came into our lives I was pretty sure you were him. As time went on we all knew it. God exceeded my expectations once again. He provided far better that I could have chosen. I have great faith in the one who brought you into my life. And I have great faith in you. Not unrealistic faith, but GREAT.