Reaching for the Top Branches

Reaching for the Top Branches April 13, 2021

We have a tendency to reach for the lowest hanging fruit. Whatever is easiest, serves us the quickest, or gratifies instantaneously. Shortcuts. Ease. Comfort. Familiarity.

This isn’t all bad. We have a limited amount of energy, so following patterns often makes sense. We are built for efficiency. Which is why you can tie your shoe or drive to a frequently-visited location “without even thinking about it”. We develop patterns of speech, behavior, and thought to keep from having to spend exhaustive amounts of energy on menial tasks.

But this tendency can also get in our way. Sometimes we are too efficient for our own good. Our patterns are rooted in our design for effectiveness but they can grow weeds of bias and predisposition. We can form unhealthy habits alongside our menial ones. And, when we do, it often becomes a real challenge to cipher which patterns are fine and which are destructive. Or to discern we have patterns at all.


The Easy Way

When our brains reach an obstacle, our initial reaction is trepidation. Defense. What is this new thing? How can we get rid of it?

Conversely, when we meet something comfortable, easy, fun-looking, our first instinct is to grab it and possess it.

So, it is no surprise we find ourselves lurching and settling for the lowest hanging fruit.

Ad companies, political campaigns, and even faith-based institutions prey upon this. They may not even be doing it on purpose, just a pattern they have developed themselves.

And the result is that we are all obsessed with the easy way and weary of anything that requires effort or perseverance. The “progress” of humanity has worked hard to make us safe and comfortable. To make life easy and convenient and superfluous. And boy have we succeeded. Superficial has become the headline of our patterns. Instant gratification has become the standard.


The Right Way

So, what do we leave behind with all of this? We often exchange the right way for the easy way. We do not question ourselves enough. We do not ask if what we are doing is true; if it really matters. Our obsession with easy and comfortable has eclipsed our ability to discern the meaningful.


The top branches, all too often, remain untouched. The branches that are really about unity with others. The ones that have to do with fruitful relationships that serve each participant but also synergize to express something greater than the sum of its parts.

In short, it is what we value that we all too often ignore. We talk to our college students about naming their values and so many of them do not know what really matters to them. They do not really know where to start! Think about that for a minute. We are walking around making our choices based on… what? What feels good or sounds fun?

Our shortcuts and patterned thinking are designed to save time and keep us safe. When that is established (and the key here is that we are weary to admit when this is in fact established), we are designed to move on to more meaningful considerations. But we constantly adopt the narrative that we are in mortal danger, that there are a million things to be afraid of, that we are under attack when someone disagrees or does not like our fashion choices. 

All the while, our values wait on the top branches, soaking up sun and waiting for us to visit. 

If we want to live a victorious life, a transformed life, we have to stop settling for the low branches and begin to expend our time, energy, and resources to truly contemplate what it means to reach higher.

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