in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.
The standard of communication today is the same as the expectation of a two-bite brownie: It needs to taste good, and be fully digestible in under two-bytes.
Its quick and dirty, sweet and cheap, all while trying to offer profound philosophical pithiness.
Stylized “inspirational” slogans plaster the walls of every twelve-year old girl’s bedroom, and every family’s home has halls of motivational walls. The self-branding professional publicizes 140-word-sized snippets of “wisdom” daily. Devotional books have become cue-cards. Sermons are forgotten except for their catch-phrase points meant to “drive the message home” (perhaps without realizing they are often taken as the entire message).
Quotes have replaced conversations. We encourage our friends with quick platitudes and some-good-saying we heard or saw somewhere (probably in a colourful and context-less Instagrammable box). Long conversations with people and history are far bygone as our rivers of strength. We do not have communion, only communications.
Is it because we have short-attention spans? Are we lazy? Short on time? Or are we running from things? Or too impatient to stop long enough to regain our strength, rehab our broken knees, and consider where we are really going?
We have re-programmed our brains to hastily and aimlessly fill the moments of rest, contemplation, and self-encouragement found in solitude and the “pauses” in our brain’s activity – even in times of grieving and discouragement – with something, anything nice-sounding and hope-giving to alleviate the discomfort involved in understanding pain and sitting with ourselves in silence. Daily discomforts are prevented with over-the-counter self-prescriptions of “Rx Pinterest search ‘motivation'”, “Rx daily Facebook encouragement group”, and “Rx role model Newsletter subscription” that make up our Daily Bread.
What is the cost of all this?
Motivation is a push, not fuel. A stream of pushes is not the same as the strength to run. Motivation is a short-term booster-shot of a weak (and weakening) spiritual, mental, and emotional immune system. Inspiration is encouragement by an image before us, it is not vision; it is direction, not purpose. Inspiration is the inhibitory medication of intellectual and creative struggle. These things have a place, but they are not meant for long-term or chronic use.
We are losing our strength and resilience. We are building our foundations with only shallow roots; keeping energy-stores, not convictions. We are trying to live out our unique purpose and carve the path of our calling by copying and cutting corners. Our lives revolve around fueling our inside from outside, instead of the other way around.
We are hamstringing ourselves, and others.
Everyone wants to “inspire people”. But merely inspiring people distances ourselves – it allows us to suffice for interacting with others and their internal lives via our image, our status, our outward behaviour and display. It allows us to think we are making a difference simply because people watch us and hear us. We have forgotten the blessing and hard work of really influencing people. We make converts to adages not disciples of truth. We have mistaken public “authenticity” with all of our personal statements and confessions for the intimate, stomach-turning vulnerability of sitting face-to-face with people who know you all-too-well and can respond with the full range of emotional expressions and immediate, undeletable reactions we secretly fear. We think we can be intimate while still maintaining distance, and be close without having the circumspection that comes in cultivating reliability and shared privacy. We have bought a lie that without being “motivating,” we are not captivating, and without being “inspirational,” we are a nobody.
We are so very concerned about our presentation, and reliant on the motivational morsels of others to satisfy the very insecurities we feed by fearing closeness with ourselves, others, and truth.
The real remedy.
We need more. No, not more of this medication. No, we need the long-lasting, unshakeable understanding of where our security lies. We need the edifying understanding of our worth that comes from a genuine Friend’s encouragement in the midst of our embarrassment of ourselves. We need exercised freedom of thought and action outside our comfort zone. We need to model the intimate, ugly side of Redemption, and the beauty of steadfast peace and fortitude in the monotonous and mundane. We need long conversations and long pauses, long journeys, and long stories; wide consideration of diversity, deep thought and old history, and wide arms so outstretched for each other that our ribs are exposed to punches and the fullness of embrace.
We need to fast. Fast of our quick-fix remedies and shallow philosophies. We need to sit (uncomfortably) in the empty void this will create. We need to then replace these itching habits and addictions patiently, steadfastly with the hard work of reflection, imagination, and mental invention. We need to get off this runaway train of constant (pre-)occupation to learn how to stick with things (and ourselves) long enough to really test their strength.
Confidence and strength come from peace, not another pat on the back. Peace cannot be bought cheap. We cannot experience its value if we do not understand its Price.
We need to replace motivation with learning to keep our peace, and this is not a skill developed by only taking practical advice. Peace comes from Truth, and Truth is rarely easily digestible.
May we put our hearts and hands to the plow and really pursue what we are all so deeply longing for.