It’s not enough to know what you don’t want to be. You must decide also what you want to be. This is not just a writer’s fancy twist of a phrase. As a youth I knew I did not want to be a playboy or the guy that parties all night. I eschewed the image of the cool guy too. I was far from popular in my high school. It didn’t bother me. Though I knew I wanted to be different from the in-crowd or the party crowd I still had a hard time defining what I wanted to be.
Most kids hear lots of voices telling them, yelling at or whispering to them, “Be this!” or “Be that!” Maybe like me you tried some of their suggestions before discovering they really didn’t fit! The danger to listening to the voices is accepting the limiting narrative that says you are how others see you or say you are! Any identity or label that fits you poorly will only bring confusion if you wear it too long.
Knowing and deciding on what you want to be is essential to living with purpose and on purpose. Recently I was told that my life was so meaningful and I humbly said, “But yours is too!” He replied, “But not like yours!” What does one say after that? I’m blessed I know! But I also have tried my best to live ‘on purpose.’
I was just 14 years old when I cast my lot in with Christianity. Can 14 year olds make decisions like that? Of course they can. For me it began with an experience of being overwhelmed with love, wave after wave of it! I never experienced this feeling before, like God was enveloping me and saying, “Peter, I’m right here, and I love you!” I’ve stuck with it now for all of my life even though my understandings of God may have changed, or shall i say deepened. Today I recognize that much of who I am and still am becoming is a result of the many choices made over the years, including today’s choices.
Let me also add that I’ve made some poor choices in my life too. Who hasn’t? Those choices have always led to regret. Though regret doesn’t change people much, recognizing those moments when we are untrue to ourselves can. It’s like salt that has lost its savour, it’s identity has been compromised. Compromise leads to self-doubt, questioning and a lack of confidence. That’s when you must again shake yourself and ask, “Is this who I want to be?”
Lately I’ve fallen in love with the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world!” I think it was Gandhi who coined that phrase. It begs the question,”Do I want to live in a world where people are treated fairly, the weak are helped, respect is given, and gentleness is dominant?” Then be that! Be generous. Be involved. Be creative. Be joyful. Be there for others. Sometimes you can choose to be these good things.
Choose to be the one you know you want to be, your authentic self. It will lead you to a new freedom and that freedom will give you an ease. It brings you confidence and best of all it gives you the capacity to love. Get quiet enough and often enough to listen to the inner voice. Stay deaf to the voices vying for your attention trying to take you down the wrong identity path. It takes some aging and experience to learn how to reject the labels others stick on us and it requires some good timing to know when to play deaf to alternate voices. So know who you want to be my friends… Be! Be the man or woman who stands up with dignity, lives out life with gentleness, passion and confidence, uniqueness and love.