Like anybody else, I love getting my way. I celebrate when circumstances turn out the way I hope they will. I feel safe and secure and happy when reality matches my expectations.
When circumstances are bad, I struggle. I question my existence and the point of it all; I lament and project/inflict my pain onto others. I feel malaise and anger. When things are tough, I am constantly working to make them better (if not constantly on the verge of giving up). When things are the way I want, I feel as though they are how they should be. When things are not as I want, I desire change.
Sometimes when I am in a season of particularly difficult circumstances, I will say “I just need a win”. I don’t think I’ve ever suggested, “I could really benefit from a loss”. The interesting thing is I have thought this about other people. I’ve often looked at someone and thought they could use a kick in the pants or a slap in the face, that they might benefit from being knocked down a peg or two. But, I am too often blind to the need for humility in my own life and the value of sometimes not getting my way.
Pattern of Entitlement
The hard thing about getting your way is that you are biased. Sometimes getting your own way is what you want and what you need. Sometimes it is just one or the other. And we are incredibly adept at self-deception, making hard to truly discern a distinction between what we want and what is best for us.
One of the dangers of getting your way is that it validates your desires. If that happens over and over again, we develop a pattern of entitlement. We start to expect to get our way. It starts to inform the way we see ourselves, the world around us, and the relationship of the two. It becomes difficult to discern how the world really works. The truth gets eclipsed by the swelling accumulation of our own desires and the never-ending desire for MORE.
Growth Through Struggle
The truth is, though we hate to admit it, we grow through our struggles. Those existential questions we face in the midst of pain help to make us better people. They strengthen our character, open our pathways of vulnerability so we can relate better with others, and reveal to us the truth of a complicated and mysterious world we cannot control.
Struggle produces perseverance. And since the human life is fraught with waiting and uncertainty, there is perhaps no moral muscle more important than perseverance.
But this, of course, brings us to a bit of an impasse. If there is value in suffering, should I be looking to suffer? If there is danger in success, should I be trying to fail?
I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to avoid pain and disappointment. What is important is our perspective. Because pain will inevitably find us. Disappointment is unavoidable. We should not go searching for pain, but neither should we be overly afraid of it – to the point our fear steals the valuable opportunity of suffering.
Perhaps the most pervasive danger of always getting our way is that we lose sight of the true path of our lives – to pursue truth, which is bigger and more complex than any one of us.