Throughout our lives, we all struggle or wrestle with various issues from time to time. Maybe it’s a belief about God or religion that you were taught as a young person, but something about it doesn’t make sense to you now. Perhaps you are feeling called to a career change, or to serve in some way, but you aren’t sure it’s the right move. Maybe you are dealing with an issue in your family or friendships, and it isn’t easy to figure out the right direction to go.
These struggles are pretty common to our experience as human beings. And although our struggles might differ in terms of the content or specific issue we are dealing with, I think there are probably some similarities to all our struggles.
One thing I’ve noticed is that most struggles involve a process that takes time. Usually when we are struggling with an issue in our lives, it doesn’t resolve itself right away. It may take weeks, or months, or even years for us to get to a place where we feel comfortable with how the issue looks in our lives.
One thing that has been true for me (and I wonder if it is true for you as well), is that when I’m struggling or wrestling with an issue in my life, I want to get it all worked out before I tell people about it. I want to get to the resolution before I share my experience. That way, I can say, “I used to struggle with this, but… now I don’t.” Or, “I used to struggle with this, but… these are all the great lessons I’ve learned.” I like to have an issue all wrapped up before I open up to people. I don’t like to let people in on my process along the way. It feels too messy.
But there are problems with this way of doing life. It makes intimacy difficult, because I’m not letting people see my true self very often. It makes resolving my struggles more difficult, because letting people into my life could provide me with support and an opportunity to discuss the things I am wrestling with. It makes it more difficult to accept myself and my struggles, because in a way I’m hiding a part of myself. And it sets a bad example—everyone struggles and wrestles with issues, but if they don’t see people like me being open with my process, they are less likely to let people in on their process.
Let me give you an example from my own life. Over the past several years, I have struggled (and continue to struggle) to bring together my identity as a Christian with my identity as a Counseling Psychologist. Sometimes they fit together okay, but sometimes they conflict with each other. Sometimes I feel like I’m part of two communities that will always be in ideological conflict with each other.
I grew up in a more conservative Christian environment, and as I developed my professional identity as a Counseling Psychologist, I started to develop values related to social justice that were incompatible with some of the views I grew up with. I wrestled with changing my mind on issues such as gay marriage, and wondered if that was okay. But I didn’t let too many people in on my process. I wanted to get to the point where I had ‘figured it all out’ before I shared my experiences.
This strategy wasn’t too helpful. Isolating myself didn’t help me figure out the issues I was wrestling with. It didn’t help me become more accepting of myself and my conflict. And it didn’t provide a good example for how to struggle and wrestle with difficult issues. Moving forward, I want to be more authentic and let people in on my process.
Discussion: What do you think about letting people in on your process, and not waiting until you have it all figured out?