We live in a constantly changing world. In a rapidly progressing culture, we find ourselves spurred on by newness. Some of the newness is helpful, but most of it is not. It doesn’t really matter. Almost immediately after receiving the new thing, we are waiting in expectation for the next new thing.
Why? What is our culture’s fascination with newness?
An obvious observation is that we are a dissatisfied people, unable to appreciate what we have and be thankful for the present. But why? Why are we so dissatisfied? And what is it about newness, the next corner, that gets our attention?
Simply put: we are quitters.
We absolutely cannot stand the pit of despair. We are constantly looking for shortcuts to get us around it or rescue us from it. When things get difficult, we want out. Pull the escape hatch. Abandon ship.
At the same time, we have decided as a culture that quitting is a shameful enterprise. We are taught to keep our commitments, to attend appointments we have made. We want to show up when we say that we will. Nobody wants to be seen as someone who gives up easily.
The pursuit of newness is our solution. We have found a clever way of quitting.
If you’ll remember, the structure of The Mood Curve is the path every project, relationship, and human endeavor takes. At the beginning, we are filled with high expectations. This is going to be great! Reality sets in during the second phase, the pit of despair, where things are tough. Relationships are tested. Obstacles manifest. And the third phase is the rarified air that comes on the other side of perseverance.
So, then, in the pit of despair we have to decide whether to persevere and move on to phase three or quit and start over at the beginning. The latter is a very tempting option. Phase One is filled with romance. It is high emotion where expectation and anticipation run wild and our unchecked dreams are possible.
Because of the high emotional feelings we get from Phase One, we are addicted to quitting. We are so obsessed with the emotional high that we are looking to quit soon after we agree to something. We love the chase. That’s our wheelhouse. But once we catch the thing, once the new thing is grabbed, the decline has already begun and we are looking for a way out.
Commitment and Perseverance
Newness keeps us from commitment because there is always something fresh coming along. And it doesn’t feel like quitting. It feels like upgrading. It feels like something unforeseen has arrived and now we must go in that direction. Follow the shiny orb.
This is why our world is so superficial. We live on the surface. As soon as things start to get deep, we struggle for breath. We call things stale and rigid and suffocating. But is not the thing that is at fault, it is our capacity to cope and commit.
Because perseverance and commitment are what makes things real. And newness is the antidote to commitment. In order for us to experience real intimacy, real relationships, real success, we must go through the pit of despair, commit to the value of the pursuit, and persevere through the difficulty.
We have coaching calls with missionaries around the world a few times a week. Often, we hear them dreaming about what they will do when they get home. They imagine new romantic relationships, jobs, and geography. They seem to have forgotten that, at one time, they were dreaming of traveling the world, they were dreaming of being where they are now. But now that now has arrived and it is difficult, they escape into the world of newness.
And they are not alone. We are obsessed with newness because we are terrified of commitment. We have convinced ourselves that circumstances will fulfill what only the deep work of introspection can achieve, and are looking externally for a solution to what can only be dealt with internally.
The next new thing is just around the corner. The grass is greener on the other side. But so is intimacy. So is the meaningful joy of commitment, perseverance, and thankfulness. Any new product, new relationship, or new world you find yourself in will not eradicate the unavoidable necessity that we need to learn how to commit and find something worth committing to.