“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts–then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting other disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too many often betray true self to gain the approval of others.” (Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer, pp. 12)
As I continue to revisit Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer, I was really struck by this quote of his. At the age of 34 I’m just now beginning to realize how much of what I do and have done is driven by the pressure to fit in. By the pressure to please others. By the pressure to perform. By the pressure to climb to the top. A lot of those expectations drove me to do some really great things, but as I reflect more on my life, those great things have not always been congruent with who I am, or what Parker would refer to as one’s true self.
As the son of a pastor I was slotted early on to continue the vocation of ministry. Those were not the expectations of my father or probably most of my family, but those were some of the expectations from those around me, and the unsconscious expectations from myself to veer toward a vocation that would be praised and revered. I think that is what drove me early on to enter into ministry, but that is hopefully what no longer keeps me there.
Confession: It is only after some extensive self-searching, prayer, working with my therapist, spiritual mentors, etc. have I come to embrace my “birthright gifts” and become less concerned with the expectations of others.
What “birthright gifts” do you have that you felt like you have abandoned early on in your life? How did others “disabuse” you of them?
Have you, or are you returning to them? Why? How?