This follows up on yesterday’s Words that Haunt us and looks at harm we may not even see. One of the best descriptions of this I have ever seen comes from Peter Scazzero’s excellent book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life In Christ.
The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are. We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least someone else’s expectations for us. This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others. (p. 66)
I know a man now in his mid-50’s who took over his father’s very successful business. Worked his way up with dad slowly handing over more and more until the son was doing it all. That’s fine, but I happen to know the son never wanted to work in, much less own the business. I also know the father would have been fine with him following another career. However, the wife/mother of the two felt their son had a responsibility to follow dad and one day take over the company. The son bought into this and followed a course he has never liked. Sure, he makes good money and enjoys the nice things it buys him, but he would have been far happier in a job he enjoyed making a fraction as much. He’s not really happy, his wife is not really happy, and I bet his employees are not as happy or functional as they could be. The only “winner” in this is the mom, who got what she thought was right. I am all for honouring your mother, but not at the cost of “doing violence” to yourself and others.
I see many people who are trying to be something they’re not because someone told them it’s who they are or who they should be. I see others running from who they really are because they don’t want to give satisfaction to someone who said they should be a certain way. Others are living a lie because they’re scared of what people would think if they lived who God made them to be. In some cases, a man is living a lie because he knows or fears his wife wouldn’t be happy with the real him.
I understand why people live someone else’s life, but as Scazzero warns, it is a very bad plan. We hurt ourselves, we hurt our relationship with God, and we hurt those around us. We do it to avoid problems, but we cause problems. We do it to make others happy, and we end up hurting others.
If you have been living someone else’s life, are you ready to say “NO MORE!” and start living the life God called you to live? It won’t be easy, but it will be deeply satisfying and much healthier.
By the way, if you want some help with this, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is an excellent book. It is painfully challenging but also powerfully liberating.