This I Believe

Tom - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on April 19, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the importance of framing, telling, and living my own personal story. In setting a consistent life direction, I have secured my story’s frame. The telling and living of my story–its public expression and movement in my chosen direction–remain individual challenges and social improbabilities.

About twenty years ago, several awkward encounters with the world of spin and personal politics brought uninvited influences into my affairs that still burden me today. So-called professional people commodified my story into a reputation advanced by obscenely extensive networking, a lie that continues to destroy potential relationships. Since then, whatever I knew about myself invariably conflicted with others’ expectations and behaviors toward me.

This surreal situation festered not only because controlling people projected outsized desires onto me. I also enabled their agendas in many unwitting ways, particularly with a naiveté about power that clung to youthful idealism. I partly spiritualized my troubles during five years of Christian seminary, propelled by idealism about peace and social justice.

Yet other ideals began to frame a genuine personal story in those years. Discarding dominant cultural ideals related to truth, belonging, and success, I came to believe in therapy-shaken authenticity, intentional community, and faithfulness to a god who roots my integrity solely in divine gift. I held these ideals high in the sure hope that something meaningful emerges from pursuing them.

I’ve stayed this course despite many disappointments, including inevitable personal shortcomings in living my ideals and the continuing absence of family and friends from my story. The politically correct censorship of my ideals and story in the seminaries and churches I have attended represent for me how routinely even religious leaders self-preserve by conforming to social convention. In this regard, my faith in God to provide personal integrity seems matchless, if socially unrewarding and disconnecting.

I now self-inventory capacities unnoticed before my extraordinary experiences with other people’s politics. I’ve confirmed improvements in openmindedness, ego suppression, self-esteem with humility (if not conceit), and multidimensional awareness of reality. As Robert Frost might say, these gains make all the difference in my road less traveled, in my story so difficult to tell and to live.

Five years beyond seminary I formalized my story in a forty page autobiography. Today I know much about avoiding pitfalls others dig for me, without much obvious space to maneuver around them in my chosen direction. My ideals and story remain as isolated from social interaction and acceptance as ever.

Nevertheless, I believe that the truth about my story really does set me free, to exercise what almost all people, what most Christians do not understand to be great freedom in Jesus. With only God’s help I managed to frame my story. Although mountains loom ahead, I’ll need no other assistance to tell and to live that story–to overcome, someday.