HOW IS IT FEBRUARY. HOW. I keep seeing people expressing relief at the end of an interminable month, but frankly, January zoomed by for me. I’m sure it probably helped that I started a new (great!) job and had my in-laws visit for 10 days — lots of good and fun things that made January 2019 unusually enjoyable. But nonetheless, one month down, only 10 more until Christmas season!! (I kid, I kid. Ish…)
Today as I was squatting and deadlifting and grunting, I was thinking of how many things in life are simple but not easy. Going to the gym consistently. Losing weight. Communicating with spouses. Fundraising. Living within a strict budget. Being vulnerable.
Maybe there’s a sense in which the most important things are the simplest, and the simplest things are also the hardest.
Is there something to the idea that we are biologically geared to be selfish, but, due to our deeply relational world, we are forced (in a good way!) to act selflessly, against our nature, so much of the time? It’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world to think and act selfishly. Maybe the heart of relational difficulty is thinking of others and acting as if they are as important to us as we are to ourselves. We have to work at that. For most relationships, that is not a biological imperative.
Compounding the biological difficulty is the empirical difficulty: we just don’t know others like we know ourselves. We can’t experience other’s emotions, see the stream of their thoughts, encounter their memories. As such, we are never really sure that what we’re saying or doing is what they need to understand our intent. We never really know who others are, in a rather profound way. Others are forever out of reach.
And what about the difficulties around the things we want to accomplish for ourselves? It turns out we also have a hard time communicating with ourselves because we have so many conflicting beliefs. We want to lose weight but we also want to eat as much pizza as our tummies can hold. We want to work on our newest writing project, but we also want to rest our brains and watch the new Dumpster Fyre Festival documentary (SEE WHAT I DID THERE). We have all these beliefs about what will make us happiest at any particular moment and we are too limited to do them all. We have to choose. It’s hard to properly order our non-moral desires and drives, to communicate clearly within ourselves in the way necessary to make the best decisions.
With others, we know too little to feel comfortable communicating clearly. With ourselves, we know too much.
Communicating clearly to ourselves and others and properly ordering our desires and motivations is so. freaking. hard. It requires abundant thoughtfulness, humility, and grace, all of which we have to choose because none of them come all that naturally to us. As I write this, I realize those might be my favorite three qualities in a person. I am very fortunate that I happened to marry someone who lives those qualities on the daily.