Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chains: Shackled (beginning)

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.
-Jean Jacques Rousseau

I find it interesting how things in this life are woven together - like a giant tapestry. If we start to pull on a thread in one part of our lives, things start to unravel in another part. I came to a realization yesterday while driving home from a trip to Michigan, that the stress I have in one part of life is caused by the attitude I have in other parts of my life. All of my stress and anxiety is tied to the fact that I "need" to complain about and dwell on things I hate, things that bother me, things that annoy me. I'm overly sensitive. In my life, I spend too much time reacting to what happens to me. If someone makes me angry, I spend too much time thinking about it. If someone hurts me, I spend too much time dwelling on it. If something bad happens to me, I spend too much time complaining about it. And it's that very part of my personality that causes me stress when I worry about things that may or may not happen. That same part of my brain dwells on the details and the bad things that are happening to me.

When I'm complaining, I'm dwelling on the bad stuff that has happened to me in the past. When I'm stressed or anxious, I'm dwelling on the bad stuff that might happen to me in the future. If I wasn't sensitive to all the stuff that bothers me, I wouldn't be sensitive to the stuff that causes me stress.

It's all linked. So, in effect, all of these personality traits - my "enjoyment" of going off on things that bother me, my "need" to complain about how people have slighted me or hurt me, my "obsession" with how other people do things wrong - these, in a sense, cause the stress I have in other parts of my life. I make myself a slave to all my fears by dwelling on the things that make me angry.

So in trying to figure out how to be less anxious and less stressed, I realized that I need to be less complaining and less angry. I'm the only who has control over how stressed I am. If I want to be less anxious about life, I need to do something about it. I've always like this painting (based on a Mr. Boffo comic strip) that illustrates this pretty well.

"Handcuffed to the bars of a cardboard prison, he waits out his time like the fool he is."

This has always been real powerful to me because it illustrates how close we truly are to freedom - we just usually don't do anything about it.

I guess if I want to change some things about myself, I have to change some things about myself. I better dust off that bracelet that reminds me to stop complaining.

Our bad habits and bad traits chain us down - we all create our own prisons. What God has attempted to do is set us free from these things. If you look at our lives and all the things that Jesus said, all the things that Paul and the other apostles wrote about to the early Christians - these weren't rules...they're good things that help us live better lives. I've got some more to say about that, but that, but I'll save it for tomorrow, for the conclusion of this discussion. My brain is already starting to hurt.

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