Some of my favorite people in the world are crass, wildly inappropriate, and slightly neurotic. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because I admire (envy) their defiance of social conventional norms, or because they give me permission to express my own neuroses. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re constantly negative and raging, don’t expect to be invited over for dinner anytime soon; but an edgy personality with a sometimes bad-ass attitude – that’s kinda cool.
*Wait, did I get stuck in a time warp as a teen girl?*
2014 is upon us shortly and resolutions are sure to fill up our news feeds with various formulations of how to “be a better person” in the New Year. I guess it’s time for me to routinely put “be more patient” back on my list. I think I was 0.67% more patient in 2013 than 2012, so that’s, progress? At this rate, according to my rudimentary calculations, by 2050 I should be 27.38% more patient than I was in 2004. I will be slow and steady, always filter my words, and…
totally not myself anymore.
When our resolutions fail year after year, maybe it’s because we were never meant to be the ideals we have set for ourselves.
What happens when my crass friends clean up their language, or the inappropriate ones start acting prim and proper? They become less interesting versions of themselves. Instead of setting unrealistic virtuous goals, maybe we need to start expanding our definition of what makes a better person. I read a paradigm shifting book years ago called “Now, Discover Your Strengths”. The premise of the book is to overturn the common misconception of spotting our weaknesses and improving upon them. Instead, we ought to discover our strengths and spend our time and energy maximizing those areas. In other words, stop trying to be someone you’ll probably never be (i.e. a patient person), but become more fully who you are.
I found this idea not only practically helpful, but also theologically profound. Some of us inside Christian culture have made the mistake of truncating the gospel to a behavior modification system. Jesus is not Santa, constantly checking to see if we’re naughty or nice. He came to pave a way for us to become more complete versions of who God had created us to begin with. As Christians, we believe we are created in the image of God – a God who is kind, gracious, compassionate, and just. But let’s not forget Scriptures also depict a God who is jealous, angry, indecisive, and impatient. We have deemed certain character qualities negative and weak, when all along our perception of God-imaged creatures have been far too narrow. The diversity of human personality and range of emotions ought to be affirmed as good. We don’t only need Nice Christian people in our world – we also need people who are strong willed, quick-witted, creative, cynical, and yes, crass with a bit of a bad ass attitude.
What the gospel does require is for us to capitalize our strengths and orient them towards Truth, Beauty, Justice, and Love. We have been liberated from the behavior modification system in order to live into speaking life, creating beauty, fighting for justice, and loving unconditionally.
This year, don’t resolve to be someone you’re not. Resolve to live more fully into this life.