Sunday, April 27, 2008

Suppression of Self

My friend Russell revealed a life-changing truth to me once. He said that we must examine our lives and determine if the activities we are involved in are life-giving or life-taking. His point was that you can be the busiest person in the world, but if all of your activities are taxing, exhausting and unfulfilling, you'll also likely be the most unhappiest person in the world. On the other hand, activities that occupy a great deal of your time and energy yet leave you feeling inspired and energized, these are life-giving.

Drop the life-taking activities (or minimize them at least). Embrace the life-giving activities.

Great. Thanks Russell. Those are words I continue to try (try) to live by.

What about relationships? Surely there are relationships that are life-giving and life-taking.

Some people take everything they can from us, never giving anything back. Or their personality is so overpowering that we shrink back in their presence. Or they are so needy that merely being in their presence can be exhausting and overwhelming. It's as if you are slowly bleeding to death and don't have any idea that you have been cut. Relationships that are imbalanced to this degree can be deadly. If each person either cannot or will not invest the same amount of emotional energy into the relationship, it is only a matter of time before it becomes life-taking.

Relationships that exhaust us in this manner can also be harmful on another level: they encourage suppression of self. I'm talking about relationships where we find ourselves saying, "I cannot be me." Perhaps the other person is not equipped to receive who we really are. Or perhaps there is a level of rejection or unhealthy expectation that dams up our emotions, causing us to hold back our authentic selves. You can't always pinpoint the cause, but you can usually recognize the existence of suppression of self.

If, at a very young age, we fall into the habit of suppressing our true selves, lest someone reject or ignore us, it can be a difficult habit to break. I believe this is why we encounter so many people with impenetrable force fields surrounding their persons. Try as you may, they are not going to let you in.

It's frustrating to try to befriend someone who regularly battles "suppression of self." It is downright stifling to be in a situation where you yourself feel suppressed.

Human beings are limited and finite. Therefore, I believe our ability to interact in a completely open manner with others is also limited and finite. Transparency is difficult to pull off, and rarely advisable anyway. If you have people in your life with whom you can be transparent, who will receive the real you with love and patience, you are blessed indeed.

Jesus tells us that he came to give us life and to give it to the full. (John 10:10) We never have to suppress our true self in the presence of Jesus. In fact, one of the most freeing aspects of a relationship in Jesus Christ is the freedom to be ... me.

Yes, thank goodness for relationships where no suppression of self is required. They are truly life-giving. They are truly a blessing; a gift from above.

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