Haters Are My Motivation

So today as I was walking around the city I saw a shirt that read “Haters are my Motivation.” And all I could think was “what a terrible motivation.” And as often happens with me I just couldn’t get this random thirty-second encounter out of my head. I mean I see where she’s coming from, it sounds like a quote someone would post on Tumblr.

In a direct sense, I suppose it’s only fair to admit that it probably means that if you already have “haters” you shouldn’t let it affect you negatively and instead let it fuel your fire to succeed. Yet why hold on to wounded pride as a motivator, isn’t there greater freedom in taking a page from Princess Elsa’s playbook and completely letting it go?

In my experience the road to happiness is love and if your pride is wounded it is indicative that you insist on loving yourself for a reason instead of loving yourself simply because you are. And using your success as revenge to give you a smug satisfaction in being able to lord it over your enemies is a weak band-aid at best, because then instead of having one group of people consumed with hate you have two, the original haters and yourself who responded to their hatred of you with a mutual hatred for them. And, ironically, I would argue that loving your enemies is the better path because it allows you to reject harboring hatred in your heart and avoid the ultimate punishment of becoming exactly like them.

So have I over-thought this t-shirt? Absolutely. Over-thinking is one of my talents. But I point it out because the world always encourages you to be happy by satisfying yourself by every worldly standard, by “earning” every luxury, success, and victory. It is a model that insists your happiness should depend on attaining some worldly thing, whether it be success, or a nice car, or a committed relationship, and your power and self-worth is subsequently determined by how successful you are in getting that thing. “Haters” may fuel your desire to get that thing you want even more and you could, if you wanted to, rub it in their face when you get it.

But this way of life is a lie because it makes you a slave, a slave to whatever it is you are desiring because it makes your happiness contingent on the things of this world. Not the things that you have in the present moment but the things you anticipate having in your future, a future which is unreliable and cannot be controlled as much as society would lead you to believe. Moreover, even if you do accomplish your goal the feeling of accomplishment is not by its nature able to perpetually satisfy you and at best you will just end up in this cycle again as you pursue the next desire.

And I point this out because on a personal level I want more to my life than a succession of 5-year plans designed with outpacing my competition and my “haters” in mind. I firmly believe it’s so much easier to be happy simply by letting God love you because then your happiness can be as constant as God Himself.

And why complicate something so wonderfully and profoundly simple as that?

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Lightening Bugs

Ever get so caught up on big things ahead that you miss the little moments that make life grand?

I hate when I do that. Because I get so caught up worrying about whether
or not I will be happy in the future that I forget to be happy now, in the present. It distracts me from my littler way of just sharing whatever the moment holds with God, the method that fills even the mundane with a little bit of magic. Yet I admit sometimes, in lb2.jpgthose moments where I encounter God, I get tempted to try and overcontrol my life to have more of those moments.  It takes me back to when I was a little girl on my great-uncle’s farm where, just as the sun started to set, about a million lightening bugs would appear just beyond the fence at the edge of his property. Every time my siblings and I would see them, I’d always try to catch one and hold on to it. As if by holding on to the lightning bug I could also capture the moment, because I worried that if I let it float away it might not float back again.

And it’s hard to trust in those moments because there is something so special about them that you don’t want to risk losing them. And with God that feeling is amplified, because I find myself never wanting to move further away, only closer. And the closer I get I start to notice that everything that used to matter sort of doesn’t anymore. Not to be confused with disinterest, but rather more like discovering that your old priorities have eroded away and have been replaced with better ones, and suddenly everything seems possible. 

And I’m left sitting in wonder at the whole thing.

Man Plans 

Boy oh boy today is one of those days where I just cannot help but notice that I am not one for little changes. Big changes force me to rely on God and I handle them better. However a change in the plan for commuting home that’s less efficient than the one I planned irks me to the core.

Perhaps I just have a strong dose of that all too human pride in my plans. I think they’re good, I wouldn’t go through the trouble of making plans that were bad. I like to work smarter, not harder. But sometimes I get so good at planning that I’m less open to life.

What I mean is every time my plans go perfectly I grow attached to them. Attached is a dangerous word in the spiritual life if you are attached to the wrong thing. And being attached to my own plans, to my own way, is a bad thing.

Don’t believe me? Cut someone off in traffic. They were planning to move ahead but then you did. Odds are they are going to be mad at you. (Don’t really cut someone off in traffic-I’m an advocate of driving safely.) But you’ll notice it all over America if you start paying attention. They drill it in us very young with delightful quotes such as “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” There’s no room for error. You’re supposed to have it all figured out, tracked for college at age 8 when they administer the first standardized test. In other words you should always have a plan, and a backup plan. It’s a tough habit to break, and it is certainly not exclusive to academia. People even plan their love lives. There is an aisle in most drug stores called family planning. I would go so far as to say that secular America is obsessed with plans of all kinds.

Planning to some degree is not bad, but I believe it feeds us a very bad delusion: that we are the ones in control. Which might be why anxiety and depression have skyrocketed in recent years because when life isn’t going according to plan whose fault is it? Only yours.

And it’s easy to get mad at God when you have this view because your prayer life gets reduced to you demanding God to bring about your plans, instead if discerning what His might be.

And although I am admittedly still very young I have to confess that life is not truly fun until you surrender your plans and let God begin His work in you. Because He has a wonderful plan for your life.  He wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of making you if there was no purpose. He may be love, but he is also wisdom and wisdom wouldn’t do anything without a reason. I think all genuine contemplation begins with wondering what that reason might be.