Why do we wait until the last minute to do things? Why do we travel to unfamiliar places for adventure? Why do we highlight the drama of our personal lives and talk about the same issue to everyone who will listen?
The reason is this: we thrive on crises.
My brother once found himself in a dating relationship totally obsessed with crisis. If there wasn’t an obvious one, they made one up – fighting about which restaurant to go to or “where this is going”.
There is something about the human spirit that thrives in crisis. It wakes us up to the opportunity and danger of life. It shakes us free from our complacency. It forces us to make hard choices and stand by meaningful decisions.
The Wrong Crisis
Like most people, when I think of crisis, my first thought is danger. That crisis is something I try to avoid at all costs. And that is right to a degree. Obviously I am not running blindfolded into traffic.
But if someone were to take an in-depth inventory of my life, they would see I am actually chasing and creating conflict all the time. In college, I always waited until the last minute to write papers and study for tests. To this day, I work best with a deadline. What I really want is that sweet spot wherein there is crisis enough to spur me into meaningful action but not so much it destroys me.
We don’t really name this, but I think we all recognize this is a widely held practice in our lives. The truth is, we need crises to create meaning. We need the tension. And so, we go looking for it externally. In our jobs and our homes, we need a crisis to prevent us from apathy.
This causes us to jump from one circumstance to the next, one problem to the next, one offense to the next. Constantly manifesting a crisis.
The problem is that we try so hard to create a crisis we can manage, but is also meaningful enough that it stretches us beyond ourselves. And so, we end up filling our lives with superficial crisis or crises not rooted in reality. This allows us to manage and maintain our illusions of control and our expectations, while giving us the “thrill” of living. The result is a lot of superficial, circumstantial, and quasi-effective crises that don’t really do the trick. They are not what we are made for, not how crisis is meant to work in our lives. They are lies or manipulations, shadows of the truth.
The Right Crisis
If we want to live truly meaningful lives, we have to be intentional about creating crises in our lives. You read that right. Come on, you are doing it anyway. You know you are. The key is to do it rightly.
The tension of crisis is created when we hold up a vision against our current reality. Basing that vision on values and truth invites us to fulfill the human need for meaning and creates the crisis necessary to drive our affection and behavior.
It is like a marriage that makes unity the goal rather than one spouse winning over and against the other. When they are in conflict, this couple needs an enemy. And if they are not careful (as in most marriages) the default enemy becomes the physical person you are disagreeing with. If, however, this couple creates a different crisis that is based on falsity (lack of truth) as the enemy rather that the other person, the conflict can lead to healthy and vibrant living. The crisis is between truth and lie; the couple is united in the crisis against a common enemy. They can use communication, perspective, etc. as tools to defeat the enemy, to pacify the crisis.
You chose the crises in your own life. Your circumstances don’t dictate it; you do. Deciding what circumstances to engage with, which to shrug off, and which to be consumed by is a choice. When you make this choice, you commit to a crisis. And that commitment drives purpose (or lack of it) in your life. Choose the right crisis. Be intentional about what you are fighting for and what you are fighting against. The result will be redeeming our obsession with crisis into a tool that initiates peace and joy in our work and our relationships.