These days, our culture seems inundated with the message that we need to find our ‘brand’. Ways to define ourselves so that our following and influence grows.
In fact, we’re all encouraged to do it in one way or another. We look for ways to be provocative and pithy. A great deal of time and effort is spent on trying to make the most memorable impact with the least amount of words. But reduction comes at a cost. Sadly, we’re losing the important art of intentional communication in the process.
We forget (because I refuse to believe it’s that we don’t care) that words have meaning and we need sufficient context to understand the true depth of the content.
This is important because the more we say certain words to ourselves and others, the more impactful the become.
You’ve heard it said (perhaps you’ve said it yourself) that today’s mode of communication is more of memes and soundbites.
Of clever one liners and slogans.
At times it feels like we’re all attempting to reduce the meaning of life to one or two lines that will fit over a beautiful picture of nature or whatever photo suits the theme.
While it’s true that memes are a quick way to share what’s on our minds and hearts, sometimes the brevity does more harm than good.
Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying (huh?).
I LOVE memes.
I love to make memes (but you probably already knew that).
I love inspiration. I enjoy punny perspectives. I love when people can laugh at themselves and help us to do the same.
It’s incredibly validating to read something in my feed that makes me say “Whew! I’m not the only one!” or “YES! I can do this!”
And full disclosure, I love pithy.
I’d like to think that occasionally I too am pithy.
I even like to say pithy.
But sometimes in our efforts to be clever, we unintentionally spew what we think is innocuous, only to find at deeper consideration it borders on toxic when ingested deeply into our philosophy of life.
And one such saying, that at first glance feels inspiring, is making its rounds.
Be Yourself. The world will adjust.
Will it really?
Do we really believe this? Is this really what we want to predicate our attempts to be authentically ourselves on?
I don’t know about you, but I can say with a great deal of certainty that “the world” has never adjusted simply because I decided to “be me”. What’s more is that had I dared to step into the waters of authenticity and vulnerability with that expectation, had I predicated "my tries" on this idea, I might have found myself curled up in the corner crying in a traumatized heap.
No, the world on its own will push us to comparison until there is no originality left and our authentic-self is shamed into hiding.
It is each of us who must impact the world in a way that make it a safer place for people to be who they are created to be.
Every day we either choose to shine light and love into this world because of the One who put that light and love in us or we will reflect darkness and create harm, making the world less hospitable to those who dare to make a difference.
With all respect to the originator of our “meme in question”, the world adjusting can’t be the expectation.
Please understand this is in no way an attempt to get you to be less you-y. Or to instill fear and apprehension into your hearts.
What I hope to encourage you to do is consider 'adjusting' (see what I did there?) your battle cry to something along the lines of:
“I will be me, and I will put something into the world that makes it a better place; a safer place for others.”
(I know it isn't pithy and probably doesn’t fit on a meme. But bear with me here.)
What I’m trying to say is that I do not believe “the world” will adjust on its own. Adjusting requires a change agent.
And that’s you.
Want to ‘adjust’ the climate of hate in the world? Be you in such a way as to promote health, love and acceptance.
Want to ‘adjust’ the climate of poverty in the world? Donate your time and talents to those in need.
Want to ‘adjust’ the climate of addiction and brokenness in the world? Reach out to the hurting. Get involved. Get educated.
Pass that stuff on.
By now, you probably get my point.
I hope I haven’t totally bummed you out or thrown off your groove.
I assure you that wasn’t my intention.
While you may not know me, if you’ve been anywhere near anything I’ve ever written or said (yes, including memes), then you already know I’m the first one to encourage you to “figure out the healthiest you” and live that out loud in this needing world.
I would never want or expect you to play small or hide your light.
Shine it up like a Bat signal in the sky.
But, if you do know me at all, you also know that the last thing I would want is to see people hurting because they held an unrealistic expectation that the world will simply and kindly adjust and it will be a smooth and seamless journey.
Being authentic is hard.
I don’t mean Facebook authentic. I mean “Jesus-Rosa Parks-Susan B. Anthony-foster parent-food pantry worker-insert favorite world changer here” authentic.
The world didn’t simply adjust for any of them.
Oh! But by being themselves? They were powerful agents for adjusting this world.
Their impact and inspiration lives on to this day.
So, by all means, you be you. The biggest, best version of you that you can be.
Even when the resistance seems strong.
Even when (especially when) the world doesn’t seem to want to adjust.
Fight for authenticity, vulnerability, justice, whatever being you means you must fight for. Do it for yourself and for those who need to see your example and feel the impact of your presence.
Let go of the expectation that the world will adjust
Instead, Let’s be agents of change that set the ’adjusting’ in motion.