Section 2: INCREASING THE GOODNESS IN OUR LIVES
OUR INSIDE VS. OUR OUTSIDE
This lesson focuses on one of our major controlling factors…the opinions of others. Those opinions influence such things as the clothes we wear, the home we have or want to have, and even what we believe. Clearly, we must choose to free ourselves from this influence if we are going to become the unique and special individual we are intended to be.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
When you stop and think about it, we are really two people in one. The world sees our outside while much of our living and who we really are takes place on the inside. In effect, we have an exterior life that others encounter and an interior life where we stop and think, love someone dearly, feel concern for someone in need, learn important things, and make life-defining choices. It’s easy to see which of these two is the most important . . . in fact, it’s no contest. But in spite of the importance of our inside life, many of us focus almost entirely on the outside one.
Why do we get this backwards?
The answer is pretty simple: We want to be accepted by others. We want others to approve of us and to think we are okay or even special in some way. As a result, we select clothes that reflect what others around us are wearing. We want the latest cell phone or the hottest gaming system so others will like us. If we’re honest, we even hope that people, now and then, are jealous of us for something that we have. No question, we will go to great lengths to receive the stamp of approval from those around us. Benjamin Franklin, one of this country’s founding fathers, described the condition this way:
The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us.
If all but myself were blind,
I would want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.
There Are Two of Us
Other Opinions vs. Our Own
For some reason, we make the mistake of believing that what others think of us is more important than what we think of ourselves. We base our feeling of worth on our idea of peer popularity. We think we will be happy if others include us in their circles, and we are often willing to change who we are in order to “fit into” them. When we do this, we diminish the unique individual that we are and take on the looks and actions of those around us. To some extent, we seem to be willing to give up our own inside identity to have a life on the outside that meets the approval of others.
So how can we become more focused on who we are on the inside? Here are three things that you can think about as you work to appreciate and possibly improve the focus on your inside life:
Understand that you are unique for a reason
Each of us has interests, abilities, feelings, and ways of doing things that point our lives in a certain direction. We have been given these qualities for a reason. In other words, there is an intended purpose for our lives—something good and important just waiting for us to do. But because it’s not exactly spelled out for us, it requires careful thought and self-study. We have to look inside ourselves and think carefully about where these interests, abilities, and feelings are leading us. If we are overly concerned about what others think, it’s more difficult—often, close to impossible—to determine what our life is calling us to do.
Be willing to work to determine your intended purpose
Finding your own identity requires time and effort. You have to be willing to work at it. At times, you will find that you have to restart the process because you read your “life signals” wrong, or you may encounter unexpected difficulties along the way. But, like any great athlete working to develop a skill or any dedicated doctor working to find a much-needed cure, you have to be willing to work to find and claim your intended purpose in life. Letting other people’s opinions and “approvals” distract you from this work can lead you astray or, in some cases, to miss finding your purpose completely.
Remember, life’s not about what you get, but what you give
As we have pointed our many times in the lessons in this library, if there is a secret to living life, it has to have something to do with helping others and with making your community, and possibly the world, a better place to live for everyone. So, as you focus on what’s going on inside of you, think how you might use your life to help others . . . to make someone else’s life better. Don’t be distracted by outside opinions; think instead about who you are and what you can give to others as a result of the interests, abilities, and feelings you have.
Don’t miss the opportunity to focus your time and efforts on what your life is saying to you, and what you can accomplish with the gifts you have been given. Regardless of your age or circumstances, you can do something special with your life. But you have to look inside yourself to determine what it is.
You are born to be real, not to be perfect.
You are here to be you, not to live someone else’s life.
What do you consider to be your main strength?
How do you or could you use this strength to help others?
Have you ever followed your friends down a road that you wish you had never traveled?
How did you correct your mistake and get back on track?
Are there things you have changed about yourself just to please others?