“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another” ~ Thomas Merton.
Have you ever solicited feedback from others about how you’re doing in life?
For instance, asking your children “How am I doing as a parent on a scale of 1 to 10?”
Or, “How am I doing as a co-worker?” Or a boss, a son or daughter?
In our individualistic culture, we tend to think that we can get by just fine without this kind of feedback. Many of us desperately want to live by the phrase “I don’t care what they think of me.”
But let’s be honest, you do care. That’s why you’ve probably never asked all the closest people in your life to rate how you’re doing in your various roles. It’s the reason why I haven’t.
The age of self-empowerment
For much of the modern era, we’ve been living in the age of self-empowerment. Collectively, we’ve gradually woken up to the truth that we create our own realities. And if we can claim this truth, we can regain much control over our emotions and feelings. We can reframe experiences and create our own meaning.
We can take charge of our lives.
I am a firm believer in the idea of self-empowerment. But I also believe that pushing this idea too far can lead us toward isolation. If I can create my own meaning, I need not bother with how others are experiencing me.
I need not bother with the opinions of others, especially if they get too close to exposing my blind spots or shortcomings. We hide most of our fears under the guise of exercising our right to privacy.
If we don’t allow those we love and respect most to speak into our lives, we miss out on the full richness of who we are.
No one has meaning alone
The writer David Dark cuts through the illusions we have about our self-contained empowerment with this sentence:
“I’m not, as it turns out, the best or final authority concerning my own meaning.”
Think about this for a second. This goes against much of what we stand for in the age of self-empowerment. It might even seem unreasonable or even downright illogical.
How can it be that I am not the “best” or “final” authority about how I experience my own life?
“Everyone needs at least one or two people asking them – sometimes begging them – to tell them specifically how they’re doing in this unfolding tale of trying to be true….
We get to put the request to folks every so often: ‘Tell me how I’m doing. Tell me the truth about where you think I am.’”
Hearing the truth
Most of us don’t have the stamina to hear the truth. We’re terrified of it.
But there is nothing more self-empowering than being humble enough to hear the truth about how we’re doing.
Because in the end, to use the words of David Dark, no one has meaning alone.