Being Precedes Doing

Do you ever think about why you do what you do? Most of us work to pay the bills, eat in order to survive, and spend time with people because we love them. Yet if we’re honest, and if we take the time to look deeper, other motivations are often at work. Not only do I work to pay the bills, but I also work to gain a sense of identity, to prove I am enough. Not only do I eat to survive but also to comfort myself and distract myself from life’s trouble and pain. Not only do I spend time with people because I love them but also because I need their affection and approval, and I sometimes need to try to control them.

I want to believe and live as though being precedes doing. The problem is that most of the time I think that all my doing constitutes my being. I think I am a somebody because of all I produce. Smart people call a “false self” all the layers of frenetic activity that we think make us who we are. The problem (or maybe the blessing) is that life throws curve balls. And when we hit those junctures where we are forced to have all the activity cease – when we hit those times of trouble or transition or turmoil that pull the rug out from under us – we can be left feeling completely lost. Without all the compulsive activity, when all we can do is just be, we are compelled to see our true selves. This is when we need God desperately because His love quiets us. (*See excerpt from author Henri Nouwen below.)

As an ENTJ on the Myers Briggs assessment, “being” is especially hard for me. But I want to increasingly value the inner-life work of being, of trusting God’s love for me apart from my activity and production, and of letting God change me from the inside out. I want to tend the garden of my soul – where my truest self resides and where God can produce the kind of fruit that no one besides Jesus sees or measures.

“Claiming the Sacredness of Our Being”
Are we friends with ourselves? Do we love who we are? These are important questions because we cannot develop good friendships with others unless we have befriended ourselves. How then do we befriend ourselves? We have to start by acknowledging the truth of ourselves. We are beautiful but also limited, rich but also poor, generous but also worried about our security. Yet beyond all that we are people with souls, sparks of the divine. To acknowledge the truth of ourselves is to claim the sacredness of our being, without fully understanding it. Our deepest being escapes our own mental or emotional grasp. But when we trust that our souls are embraced by a loving God, we can befriend ourselves and reach out to others in loving relationships. -Henri J. M. Nouwen

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