That's the title of a Mike and the Mechanics song, off their second album. For you 80's music fans, it's the same album that has THE LIVING YEARS on it, which was their big hit off that album. It might have been their last hit, now that I think about it. That was the lead single, but it didn't make much of a splash. The next single was THE LIVING YEARS, which I'll post those lyrics on here sometime, now that I think about them. A great song.
I’d had some thoughts last week about allowing outside things to define us. It’s pretty easy to allow other people to slap their perceptions on us. It’s a bit tough to avoid taking on the shapes that others want us to wear.
An outsider’s attempt to define us and make us fit that description can be very, very bad. For instance; if you have two people in a relationship, and the other is insecure about something (or a lot of somethings), the insecure one is likely to try and define their partner in terms that make the insecure partner feel better about themselves. In other words, they mercilessly attack the other, running them down, calling them stupid, telling them they’re no good at their job, they’re a lousy father, etc. This is just an example with no basis in reality, of course.
As noted, it’s easy to allow this to define us. It’s especially easy to become vulnerable when the target loves the other person, and craves their respect, their admiration, and their attention. How damaging is it when the one person in the world that one wants love and admiration from suddenly starts cutting them down? It’s absolutely devastating coming from parents or spouses.
When your mother tells you that you’re a lousy son, you start to believe it. When your wife tells you that you’re no good at the career that you’ve chosen or a lousy father, it hits home. You believe it. These people are the closest people in the world to you. You’d not do ANYTHING to deliberately hurt them, so they have to be doing what they’re doing out of the same motivation, right? They’d not try to run you down unless it were true, right?
Wrong. People can be absolutely evil. Even those who should be the closest to you. I guess that's why it hurts so much. You can't be hurt unless your first love. You can't be betrayed unless you first trust.
The real problem here is relying on flawed, damaged, and sinful people. There’s an old maxim that people will always let you down, in some form or fashion, and that’s absolutely true. Whether your friend runs habitually late, fails to return a borrowed tool, etc. People are going to let you down in some form or fashion. It’s just the way things are.
So to allow a flawed human being to define us is pretty darn foolish. When their motivation is simply to run you down to make themselves feel better, it’s actually quite stupid to allow them to get away with their cruelty. It only works if we believe it.
The only way to avoid it, I firmly believe, is to have an internal definition of who and what we are. Only by knowing ourselves are we strong enough to resist what others want to define us as.
The thing I came to realize the other night is that God doesn’t make trash. He’s got some sort of use for every one of us, and has given each of us gifts and talents specific to us, and specific for his purpose. So I’m not Mr. Fix-it around the house. I’ve got a few other things going for me. So I’m absent-minded in some areas. Find me somebody who isn’t. These things don’t make me a bad father, a bad human being, or anything like that. They’re just me. They’re who I am. I probably won’t be able to teach my son to build a kitchen table. I will be able to tell him about the invasion of Normandy in 1944. I’ll be able to tell him stories about General Patton, Miyamoto Mushsashi, or Alexander the Great. I’ll be able to walk him a bit through the history of the Middle East. I’ll be able to show him how to field-strip a 1911 blindfolded. I’ll be able to help him with his homework.
All this follows God’s purpose. I am as I was meant to be.
That’s not to say I don’t have a whole host of problems that need to be fixed. I’ve got things that need working on. But putting me down about them isn’t going to help. What I’ve got to do is allow God to fix those areas that he wants fixed, and use the things that don’t need fixed to his purpose. And I’ve got to allow the same thing to happen for others. They are as God meant them to be, and that’s perfectly ok. I can’t condemn them for it, I can’t fix them because they aren’t really broken. They fit into the grand scheme of things just as I do.
So the thing is, we can’t allow failed, flawed humans to define us. We have to allow God to define us. As noted, he’s perfect. He doesn’t make mistakes. So if we are as we are, it’s purposeful. I’m taking a bit of joy in that realization. It’s boosting my confidence a bit. I KNOW that I’ve got things to offer this world, to a spouse, to my family, my career, and most importantly, to my son. They're good things, too. As was intended.