In East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote:
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
But I think it was Kristen Bell (wife of Rob Bell, not the actress) who said something like:
“I’m tired of being good. Now I just want to be free.”
A thousand times YES!!!!!
A few nights ago I brought my oldest child and his girlfriend to a meeting in a nearby city. On my way back I stopped at Barnes and Noble to checkout a book by Glennon Doyle called Love Warrior. Earlier in the day I had fallen in love with Glennon.
Back in early June, my friend, V, had told me to check Glennon out. I was in the middle of a really heartbreaking situation and V thought Glennnon would provide me some much needed insight and maybe some comfort. I don’t remember if I actually went and listened to or read any of Glennon’s stuff that day. But knowing how much I respect V’s advice, I’m sure I must have checked her out for at least a few minutes. But it was so brief and made such a little impact on me that sitting her now, almost 5 months later, I don’t remember any of it.
So, a couple days ago I checking out Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast called Magic Lessons. I saw that there was one from about a year ago with Glennon Doyle, and I recognized the name so I gave it a listen.
My mind was blown. Glennon was speaking directly to me. The stuff she has to say about pain and resilience made so much sense to me. And when she talked about being honest
It took me about 4 months to be a in place where I was ready to hear what Glennon had to say and for it to actually make an impact on me. But when I listened, I understood and felt everything she was saying. It was amazing.
I went to Barnes and Noble with the intention to just take a look at Love Warrior maybe read the first few pages. So, I was walking around trying to find Glennon’s book and wondering to myself why the hell the categories of each section of books doesn’t make more sense to me, and one of the workers approached me and asked if I was finding everything okay. I told him that actually I was looking for Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle. He said it sounded familiar and went away to look it up. Then he came back and walked with me to a section of book that were like 15 feet away, bent down and pulled out the book, smiled, and said, “Here you go.”
I smiled back and said, “Thank you.”
Off he went and I immediately turned over the book to check the price: $15.99.
That was the price I was more than willing to pay not to look like an asshole. It was the exact cost I was willing to pay for 30 seconds of self-worth.
I’d planned this little side trip to Barnes and Noble all day since I’d first listened to the Podcast, and I drove there with the sole intention of just looking at the book and then maybe buying it in a week or so or just taking it out of my local library.
But now another human being had taken his time and energy to help me find this book. And that one little act – that took a total of no more than 3 minutes – changed my intentions.
Now, I had to buy the book.
I was standing there looking at the book but actually seeing myself walking out of the store empty-handed while the guy who helped me watched and thought of what a jerk I was for wasting his time.
I told this story to V last night and her reply was: “He’s making minimum wage to work there. He doesn’t care if you buy the book.”
That’s absolutely logical and probably 100% correct. V’s right. And I know it. But that’s not the point.
The point is that I didn’t want to look like a jerk so I was going to buy the book. In fact, it’s not even like I would have felt good if I bought it. I wasn’t thinking (or seeing) myself buying the book and feeling good that this guy helped me and it led to a sale so that would make him feel good and I’d get some kind of really cheap (only $15.99 + tax) worth from making him feel good. No. that wasn’t it. I wasn’t after feeling good about myself. I was trying to avoid being BAD.
I was worried about this guy, who I didn’t know at all, seeing me walking out of the store empty-handed and judging me. Somehow, that would have made me bad. I was giving this guy, this absolute stranger, the power to determine my worthiness.
And lets face it: If I’d give the worker at Barnes and Noble that power, then I’ll give anyone that power. And if I’ll spend 16 bucks and some change just to avoid looking bad for 30 seconds (which, when extrapolated out, equals about $1,920.00 an hour), then I’m willing to pay any cost.
And the biggest cost of all, is my own freedom.
Who I was 2 years ago, and probably even who I was even 2 months ago, would have bought that book and walked out of there with my head held high. Then I would have thrown the book in my car and never realized the I just aid $16 dollars for something that wasn’t real.
I would have never realized that I just traded my very freedom for 30 seconds of perceived goodness. I’d just placed the imagined fleeting thoughts of a stranger above myself. If I allowed that to be my barometer of my own self identity then I would allow anything outside of myself to rule me.
How crazy it that?
And that’s the bad news.
The bad news is that I have these thoughts deeply entrenched in me. Please others at all costs. Put yourself behind and below everyone else. Because that makes you good. Trust the thoughts of others more than your own thoughts. Because they are better and smarter and stronger and more worthy.
The good news is that I see it now. I see all that shit that has burrowed so deeply in my heart and mind. And I’m dragging it out into the light. I’m changing the dialogue inside my mind. I’m replacing the darkness inside with light.
And a key step in finally valuing myself and finally understanding I am enough and I am worthy is catching the bullshit before it happens and stopping it.
So, I didn’t buy the book. I put it back on the shelf. And then I turned around, and with my head held high, I walked out of the store empty-handed. And instead of feeling bad about not buying the book.
I felt great about doing what I wanted to do.
I felt good about being free.
And I knew – yes I knew… me – that freedom was good and I was not bad.