Extreme Thinking

A few weeks ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through the multiple facebook status’ on my newsfeed and I came across one that one of my friends posted. It read, “Extremists never have the right answer”.  I totally agree with her on a practical level, but this phrase really stuck with me. I started applying this phrase to all different areas and situations, in relationships, in a moment on anger or emotion and even religion.
In relationships it is so easy to have this idea of what this other person should be or is. It has become so easy for people to find out so much information, draw conclusions, and form opinions about people without actually having a conversation or dare I say it…without even meeting them. With facebook, twitter and/or tumbler you have access to blogs, quotes, pictures, and status’ which allow you little glimpses into this person’s life. By the time you add all of these things together you feel like you know the person on a personal level; in a way you become an extremist. This could be in a positive or negative way, but both are not real. Let us take an example, say I meet a person and have a very brief introduction, I go back home and look them up and start drawing conclusions based on what I read. In this particular situation I form (what I think are) positive opinions. These opinions then turn into expectations for the next time I see this person. What happens when I see them again and they are nothing like I expected? Not only am I caught off guard, but I just put a box around that person that may not have been there if I had no preconceived expectations. What would have happened if I just focused on being myself and gave others the same freedom? I may have found that the little irritations would not have mattered at all. This is the same for new introductions all the way to long-term committed relationships. So often we go into a relationship with expectations of who that person is, should be, or will be. I know I look like I am young and that I have no idea what loss is but I do. It wasn’t until after I loved and lost, that I realized I was in love with the idea of who those people were rather than really seeing them. This sounds like they painted themselves to be something they weren’t; in a way they did, but it was more so my expectations of them and forming them into the position I wanted them to fill. I became an extremist.
My mom and dad have always taught me to not make particular decisions in moments of anger or high emotion. Why? In these moments we are huge extremists. When I get mad I immediately want to react in the way the moment calls for; however, I have found that taking time to wait for a response is more effective and less damaging to me, the situation, or relationship. I am not saying I never show emotion, I often vent in a safe place to clear my head but I choose to find different perspectives, which brings clarity and often peace. It’s so easy in those moments to take your initial reaction, the very thing your mind and feelings are screaming at you, and run with it, but where does that get you? In any relationship there are two sides (really more like 1000 sides) to everything. When you pick one of them and close the door to all other possibilities you instantly limit yourself, the other person involved, and the beautiful potential of that relationship. You inoculate all parties from fully experiencing the joy and realness of what you have in front of you.
I’m sure it’s fairly easy to see how in moments of anger or emotion, that the extremist role would not be the logical role, but what about in religion; particularly Christianity? Ah, this just took a turn for the uncomfortable. If something can be “true” in one area, how can it be false in another? In the past year I have been opened up to a new perspective of Christianity that I had never known before; the religion (working so hard to gain the approval of others and God) side of it. As I was pushed into this situation immediately I felt the glares and judgments from others, and I am not a “rebel child” or “problem causer”. For the most part, I was a good kid but that didn’t matter because there was something about the way I lived that was unfamiliar. I lived with a freedom and grace for myself and others that apparently made others who lived by rules uncomfortable because in their eyes I was “unpredictable”.  The relationships I made quickly began to change me. They formed me into a shadow of myself; limiting me with rules and regulations and making me regret and even at times hate my (wonderful and unhindered) upbringing because it was “wrong”. Were they right? Not at all. Did they know they were wrong? Not at all. They were extremists, they wanted control and their biggest fear was coming into contact with a free spirit who ran things based on love and respect rather than rules and “have-tos”. I let this continue for a while until I became so conflicted it made me physically ill. I was going through life on a daily basis fighting to silence my voice and the passion inside me all while trying to remember all the rules I needed to maintain in order to be accepted by a God that supposedly “loved me as I am”. I would sing songs about Him “taking me as I am” or His “never ending love” but I was constantly wondering when I would reach the point where that would apply to me—when I would make the cut. I was no longer permissioned to think or question, I was just expected to accept what I was told and try to explain the huge contradiction to others and get them to believe it… I didn’t even try. 
Why is it so easy for us to become extremists? It’s a form of control and an excuse to remain close minded.
I have grown up in a church that has taught me the law in the Old Testament but more than that they ALWAYS taught me the reasons behind the law being put into effect. They also taught me the abundance of grace and unconditional love in the New Testament—the heart of God and the reason we live out of a relationship rather than rules. How do you have a true relationship with God? Just like the relationships in your life, you have to be willing to tear down the expectations that you have of God or the false statements that others (maybe even unknowing extremists) have made in the past. When you are in a relationship with someone and you truly love and respect them, your actions show that. You want to spend time with them, get to know them, you want to discover the little things about them, and never…never do you want to hurt them. And as you discover them you discover more about yourself; you change…not because they asked you to but because you want to. Your actions are produced out of the love for that person; not the other way around. And the best part it, it’s individualized. Your relationship will be completely unique; you have total freedom to express it however you want! There is a balance, obviously. There was a lot of truth and validity in the actions of my friends wanting me to live a certain way, honestly they cared for me and my future. But I have come to a place in my life where I am not going to be run by my actions alone. I would rather my heart be right than just follow the rules. Why is this a mind-blowing concept to many religious extremists? Because no one can EVER judge my heart; therefore, no one can have control over me. I instantly become “unpredictable” and “uncontrollable”. I step into a place that requires others to trust me and practice loving me for who I am not for who they want me to be. I will be honest and say that I have lost relationships because of this. But I have also gained real and honest relationships because of this too. I now know what it is like to live under empty rules. It would have been easy to run the other way—to the opposite extreme and refuse to never attend church or enter into anything that had to do with God. But it took more strength to step out of my emotional state and choose to gain a new perspective. I had to open up my mind and more than that, I had to choose to forgive the people that hurt me. Through this, I was able to see them in a whole new light. I saw them as people on the same path of discovery and trying to figure out what is right for them. Talk about a new perspective… 😀

One Comment

  1. Stephanie
    Posted April 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s a “relax and breath(e)” mehod. Thanks.

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Tabitha Summers | Redeeming Hope
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