When the whole world was on lockdown in April of 2020, I saw a social media post that read something like this, “it’s like everyone in the world is finally getting a chance to be alone with their thoughts and we’ve decided, heck no, I’m gonna learn to make bread from scratch!”
One of the clearest symptoms of a life mired in victim mentality is our constant pursuit of distractions. We want noises to fill the void. We need menial tasks to distract us from the affect of our lack of meaningful ones. We want a temporary change of circumstance to prevent us from having to ponder what we are doing and why.
A couple months ago, I was reading The Count of Monte Cristo. A great book. Early on, when Dantes is in prison, there are a couple chapters about his great suffering. And there is one part that talks about how he longed to be moved to a different cell, even if it was smaller than his current one. Even if it was worse. Because at least it would give him a day or two of distraction, a reprieve from his constant misery.
A Spiral of Distractions
Like Dantes, we often try to escape our miseries by wanting new and different (and maybe worse) miseries. A single person who wants badly to be in love decides to date someone they know is terrible for them. A troubled spouse seeks an extramarital relationship. We do all these things, even when we know they are bad for us, because we are addicted to distractions.
We tell ourselves they will help. But they don’t. Our distractions have consequences and soon we are (once again) hoping to change cells. That bad boyfriend becomes a string of bad boyfriends. That affair turns into a drinking or gambling problem.
We spiral deeper and deeper into the pit of distractions. Further from purpose, peace and joy. Our life becomes a desire to be distracted from our current miseries. In this context, people often lose their ability to assess reality, to discern their circumstances. It almost doesn’t matter to them what is good or bad, right or wrong, wise or foolish. They just need something to “get my mind off of things”.
The Sound of Salvation
In The Count of Monte Cristo, this kind of thinking compounds Dantes’ misery. He is contemplating suicide and starting to lose his grip on reality. Then he hears the faint sound of someone digging. Turns out it is a fellow prisoner and the two begin to plan an escape together/form a life-saving friendship.
Dantes remains in prison for years after this. But he no longer wants a distraction – the thought of being moved now would break his heart. He is no longer contemplating suicide. Why?
Like all of us, what Dantes needed was a sense of purpose. He finds it in his escape plans and his friendship with the man in the cell next to him. It saves Dantes and drives the entire rest of the story.
You don’t need another distraction. You need a purpose you believe in. A real vision you can commit to, one that will invite you into peace and joy. Something that will help you understand you are living your story right where you are.