The Sun Magazine printed an excerpt from Robert Bly’s book, A Little Book on the Human Shadow, this month. Bly describes how when we were young we were balls of energy. Our zest for life exuded from a 360 degree globe of potential.
But one day we noticed that our parents didn’t like certain parts of the ball. They said things like, “Can’t you be still?” Or “Why can’t you be like your sister?” Behind us we had an invisible bag and when we learned of something that our parents didn’t like, we put it in the bag.
When we began school, we would learn of more things that needed to go in the bag. Some of our teachers were sure to help us load it full of stuff. As we entered our teen years, our peers would help us fill our bags. We lied. We wore certain clothes. We listened to the right music. Meanwhile, the truth, the things we really loved, went into the bag. We would rather conform than to be ourselves.
By the time we make it into adulthood the ball of energy is merely a slice of who we really are. We drag a long bag behind us. According to Bly, “We spend our life until we’re twenty deciding what parts of ourself to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again.”
Now, granted, some of the things that were put in the bag need to STAY in the bag! Like when your parents told you not to pick your nose.
But there are many other things that were stuffed in the bag that need to come out. How many 16 year-olds had their dreams squelched when someone told them, “A movie star? That’s impossible.” How many teenage swimmers had their Olympic hopes shot down by a visionless parent? How many struggling high school students were encouraged to learn a trade instead because college would be a “mistake?”
Some people that I met at the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon last year just released a great documentary titled, I’m Fine, Thanks. Here’s their description of the film:
It’s a collection of stories about life, the choices we all make, and the paths we ultimately decide to follow. We examine the factors that motivate and drive our major life choices. And, most importantly, whether or not the path we follow through life – and the habits we form based on that path – are truly connected with who we really are as individuals. This is a movie about the moment people realize the life they’re living is not the life that’s true to their heart… and, as a result, what they decide to do about it!
Because I played a very small part in funding it on Kickstarter, I was able to watch it earlier this week. Look for it soon. I think you’ll enjoy it.
In short, this is a movie about taking things out of the bag. Grant, the host and narrator of the film, got sucked into the American Dream. Before he knew it, many of his hopes and dreams for life had been substituted by a so-so career, a big mortgage, and lots of responsibilities he didn’t see coming until it was too late. I’m Fine, Thanks is one of the things he pulls out of his bag.
As I get older, I find out (sometimes too late) that I had stuffed some things in my bag that never should have been put there. I’m okay with it. I’m not losing any sleep over it. I don’t think I need a therapist. Jesus is my therapist – and He’s free.
But one of the things that I hope I can do as I get a little older and wiser is to encourage people not to put God-given dreams, talents, and abilities into the bag despite what others say or what conventional wisdom says. Conforming with the culture isn’t always the right thing to do.
I dread to think about the good things that my kids may have stuffed into their bags due to my lack of insight, wisdom, and encouragement. Cliff and Bailey, please forgive me.
Now, go and dig them out of your bag.
If you like this, please share it with your friends. Thanks!
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