How might I live differently if I really believed that I don’t need to earn security, dignity, and respect? I tell my children and my patients I believe these are inherent rights to which we are all entitled as human beings. But do I orient my life around these truths?
What would it mean if I believed my value was not inextricably wrapped up in my production of value for others? If I didn’t judge myself by the metric of others’ evaluation of my performance?
Lately, I have been drowning in my inauthenticity. I fear if I don’t come up for air, the person who I want to be will suffocate. I wonder: What parts of me will survive if I don’t nurture my more tender and vulnerable parts? Would I even like that person? My four and seven-year-old children have recently shown me they already have powerful inner-critics.
“I just *know* it isn’t any good, mommy,” my daughter says after crumpling up her drawing.
“It isn’t a great job. It isn’t enough,” my son tells me as we scroll through the pictures of his schoolwork, posted for the remote digital classroom he “attends” during the pandemic.
I can’t help but see my lived values of perfectionism and impossibly high self-expectation reflected by the harsh gaze they turn toward themselves and will eventually cast outward to the world. Unless I bring the practice of my life more in line with the values of grace, compassion, and kindness, I suspect my children will continue to model what they see, not what they hear.
My working definition of faith is behaving as if what one hopes for is true. Faith compels when believers live lives that embody the truths they espouse. I suspect, if I don’t move my actions more into line with my values, the dissonance between my behaviors and beliefs will lead me deeper into nihilism and despair. Attitudes that I have been experiencing more frequently and intensely and which I see plaguing many of my patients, colleagues, family, and community members. If I look critically at my faith in the inherent dignity of living things, I certainly won’t find incontrovertible supporting evidence. I may even find what some might consider evidence to the contrary. Still, I hope that choosing to move my actions into better alignment with my beliefs will bear fruit. It’s certainly an act of faith.
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