Years ago, I read an article about poverty-stricken people who live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was surprised to learn that many teenagers and young adults who were born into poverty stay there because of family pressure. Why? Wouldn’t parents want their children to have a better life? Wouldn’t young adults desire that for themselves? The answer is obviously yes, but only to a point. As a person attempts to work his or her way out of poverty, family members often react negatively. Parents, siblings, or relatives accuse the person of becoming “uppity,” or arrogant, or no longer “one of us.” (Come to think of it, I’ve seen this attitude in some of my husband’s relatives when he decided to leave his roots in rural Idaho and settle in suburban California.) Additionally, individuals born into poverty have a difficult time seeing themselves (let alone actually living) in a different perspective. The sad result: many poverty stricken people stay put–no matter how miserable their lifestyle.
Most of these interactions are subconscious. How many of us (including our family and friends) realize or admit to sabotaging our own (and each other’s) success? We don’t. We justify and make excuses for our present circumstance. And we stay stuck. This concept transcends economics and also applies to our emotional and spiritual progression. In the words of preacher T.D. Jakes, “When tapping into our own greatness, we have to learn to see ourselves differently. We’re afraid of our greatness.”
Long ago, I was discussing spiritual growth with another woman. She expressed her fear of spiritual growth by saying, “I’m afraid it would change me too much.” Yes, progression and success are scary. So is accumulating power, and authority. Why? Because with those elements come their difficult counterparts: accountability, responsibility, stewardship, influence, rejection, and criticism. Our fear of success can be especially driven by the inevitable rejection and criticism from others. T.D. Jakes further elaborates:
Be aware that we live in “cubicles” we’ve been assigned to. We were pushed into functioning that is not our highest and best because somebody needed us to be what we were not created to be. It is not our calling. Don’t spend your life trying to be who you are not. We can get by on fragments so we settle. We’re closing ourselves down to opportunity for growth.
Our “assigned cubicles” always entail expectations from family members, society, religion, and, eventually, friends and adversaries. Dr. Jakes illustrated this “cubicle concept” during Oprah’s Master Class. Jakes strolled over to a large sound speaker and sat on top of it. While sitting there, he said, “This speaker isn’t designed to be a chair. It can function as one, but it’s not what it was created to be. Somebody (meaning Dr. Jakes) needs it to be a chair.” We, too, are pushed into functioning at less capacity often because someone needs us to be who we are not meant to be. Thus to overcome opposition, Dr. Jakes suggests that we live “on purpose.” We can’t turn away from our own greatness. He says,
To live on purpose you have to make an emotional investment and risk rejection. But if you make the investment upfront, you’ll eventually get the dividends. You can’t reap a dividend when you haven’t invested. Sow first and reap later. Greatness is contagious. You’ll catch it if you’re around it enough.
What kinds of investments are we making toward developing our own greatness? Like the three men in Christ’s parable of the talents, we too, are either investing in and reaping from our greatness (talents), minimally investing and thus simply functioning, or ignoring, sabotaging, or burying our greatness.
Isn’t it wonderful that we are already born with a degree of greatness? Even better…we can increase it!
Here’s to gratefully greatness!