The Nature Of Our Struggle

  1. Since the dawn of civilization humanity has recognized the struggle with which individuals are faced by virtue of being in their physical forms.  The word “struggle” implies a judgment.  A more descriptive concept would be “a tension.”  This tension in various degrees is found within the process of decision-making.

  2. Within the framework of religious thought, this tension has often been understood as temptation.  However, the tension provides the opportunity to develop or encourage our spiritual growth and does not need to be looked upon as a negative quality of life.  For example, our frustration by the lack of ease in learning a specific task may teach us perseverance.  Another example: people often experience being emotionally hurt by the words of others rather than using the tension to make a more useful interpretation of what was spoken.  Being hurt is a sign of failing at a task and nothing more.  We may fail repeatedly before learning that we are being groomed by such experiences to become the masters of how to interpret more creatively what we hear.  Learning this lesson eventually makes us much more objective in our relationships and allows us to become invulnerable to hurt when hearing the opinions, attitudes and words expressed by others.

  3. Humans are often lured into the belief that they can fix their environment so that it will conform to the values they find most helpful in life.  Some examples: “I want my child to have a specific teacher.  We are leaving the county because we do not care for the school system.  My health insurance company will not treat me this way!  My spouse has lost interest in me.  I helped a person get out of financial debt only to find them in deeper debt at the present time.”  Every mini-drama creates a tension.  If we are using our energy to make others accountable, at what cost is this expenditure to ourselves?  Have we succeeded in “fixing” the world so we are happy?  Or, is our goal one of leadership and instruction because we have uncovered qualities of life that could be more helpful to others when they adopt them?

  4. Study what motivates you. When we find ourselves in the midst of a tension, is our first response to please, to comply, to be liked, to increase our power or to bolster our flagging self-image with arrogance, self-righteousness hostility and frustration?  This tension often comes to us in numerous disguises.  Our response to unrecognized fear and insecurity may supply the reason for our need to buy an expensive car, purchase only name brand clothing, attend the “in” social gatherings, leave a job for one that offers more money, engage in diets or live at the gym.  This tension offers us the opportunity either to develop our own identity or to spend our energy in pursuit of image development with its many masks.  Pretense has replaced the value of evolution and often we are not aware of this shift in consciousness.  This energy pattern produces very predictable results.  The fear that we are not enough remains the driver of our need for “material objects” to support our identity.  We become what we own, our vocational status or our physical attractiveness.

  5. Perhaps the greatest tension comes from the decision not to struggle. Millions of people never ask questions about their spiritual journey.  They have decided on the material world as their playground.  Any fleeting thoughts about matters of spirit are often associated with religious thought, a frame of reference for which they may have little experience or one that they abandoned years ago.  Their lives skim across the surface of the pond never wanting to learn more refined life skills, never asking questions about their identity, purpose and meaning.  They have no curiosity in learning about “abstractions” that will not put an affectionate, passionate body beside them in bed, food on their table and money in their wallets.  The need to work, hormones and the strong desire to have fun drive them.  Life would be wonderful for such people if their experience became like a long pleasure cruise across smooth oceans, having a credit card that allows them to access a vast pool of wealth and having a great looking body that keeps them at the center of everyone’s attention.  Their values are focused on living a life that is very safe, comfortable and fun.  They become like the water bugs that enjoy staying at the bottom of the pond and could not care less about their inheritance as dragonflies.  Such people are not doomed; their lives are only on “hold” since they have selected self-gratification over other values.  They prefer the path of least resistance and would choose to stay as they are if it were not for circumstances that force them to face changes that always arrive, e.g., age, sickness, death and a crowd of admirers that eventually moves on.

  6. Within the tension of living there is a great paradox.  The mind of God dwells in areas that are almost opposite those arenas humanity considers of value.  We move mountains with explosives; God uses a mustard seed.  The most generous of women is the one who put two copper coins into the temple treasury.  The Son of Man had no place to lay his head and he was crucified.  The gospel of success and material bounty may appear as a sign of God’s blessing but God also uses damaged bodies, people espousing a simple faith, children dying of cancer, earthquakes, destructive hurricanes and acts of genocide to fulfill divine will in the lives of people.  Humans will not be successful in second guessing the purposes of God.  To evolve, we must learn to enter chaos with the same spirit of tranquility and trust, as we would by entering circumstances that are far more secure.  To be a light in darkness is our calling.  God does not recognize darkness since that is a judgment we make.  To show up as we are without judgment, this is to be a bristle in the paintbrush of the divine artist.  To do this, we must approach God with a mind that represents an empty bowl.  Jesus once taught, “Unless you enter the Kingdom of God as one of these children, you will not enter it.”  What do children know?  This is a remarkable insight that people can easily miss. 

  7. Within the tension, each of us has the opportunity to live the truth we have learned.  Some of the disciplines are as follows: Do not judge others because they are not living as you are.  How do you know what God is doing in their lives?  Live without investing your energy in expectations.  Give up the need to know why things happen as they do.  Never make the goal of life the end of change or the cessation of chaos.  Learn to embrace your fears.  Stop all self-pity and begin celebrating who you are and where you are.  Gratitude and appreciation are the keys to happiness, a quality of life we often associate with externals such as wealth, fame and recognition.  We must learn to bring wealth to our poverty through our attitudes of abundance.  What Jesus taught is not a system of reward as some people preach; it is a set of skills for negotiating life by radiating only loving energy, a life-style that will serve you well in every conceivable environment including what believers frequently refer to as Hell.