Facing the Scarcity Dilemma

Deep inside many of us, there is a scarcity—a lack—an insufficiency that gnaws away within us. It begins within us due to something we missed and would be better off if we had gotten. Like our thirst for water when we're really needing a drink, we know that it is the water that will satisfy us. Nothing else will do but water. There is another scarcity however that concerns me for all of us.When we go through our lives sensing an inner absence; a starkness to how we were raised and how we were loved, we set out on a pilgrimage to fill his hole and fill this shortage.This is how the country song writer said it best, we “look for love in all the wrong places. We look for love in too many faces.”  This song has become the National Anthem of so many of us who live with an inner scarcity--an inner need for love.In hearing the stories of men and women and in research now available to us, we can clearly see what this scarcity is all about and what we need to begin to do to move towards not only our healing but also to experience the life Jesus described as a more “abundant life.”Our inner abundance is formed early in our lives by three shaping influences. I call these the Trinity of Selfhood and this Trinity of Selfhood forms the base for a rich and satisfying life—one that is lived without nagging inner turmoil and perpetual desolation. We know about the Trinity about God. But do we know about the Trinity of ourselves? Let me explain.First, every living soul needs self-esteem. Self-esteem is the sense that I matter. It is the confidence in one’s own worth and dignity. Early in life, we are signaled about our own worth through the eyes of our parents. If a baby sees their mother’s eyes, the father’s interest in giving them attention, their self esteem is birthed right there. In the profound book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van de Kolk, MD , we read the evidence of how the scarcity of self-esteem in a baby’s life is so formative right from the beginning. If a mom is busy on her social media while she also is breast feeding her baby, the baby is simply not getting the mother’s eyes—the mother’s delight—the mother’s focus of attention.  The constant and repetitive distraction; the emotional absence; the starkness of some of our formations have left us with an inner scarcity--an inner thirst for what only love will satisfy. The baby senses this and somehow knows that “I am not the delight of their attention.” This is where the scarcity dilemma begins and then continues a long, long journey of trying to be delighted in by someone, something or anything that will tell me that “I matter.”In ancient Egyptian art, the eyes were always portrayed as large—the largest facial feature on the face. This is because they believed that the eyes are the windows into the soul.  Come to find out, they were right. Through the eyes, we learn if we matter or not. We see through the pupil of someone to discern if we are a bother; if we are being tolerated or if we really are being delighted in.Second, our self-concept forms which tells us who we are to others. Our self-concept is how we construct how others view us and regard us. Self-esteem is how I view myself. Self-concept is how I believe others view me. Some of us grew up and now live as adults believing lies about ourselves. These lies were information we gathered from our earliest days about ourselves, other people and whether people and God were both good and safe or dangerous and not to be trusted. The spiritual writer and priest, Henri Nouwen has said, “ First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am a chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”Here I confess that I, too, hear those lies every day about myself. Don’t you? Don’t we all hear the voices around us and within us re-enforcing what is not really true about us? These are the lies that need to be de-bunked and exposed. These are the lies I can hear when I am working; with my friends, at church and alone. These are the lies that tell us stuff that is not true about ourselves and how life and God really do work.  These are the lies that must be dismantled until we find our core truth—that we are the Beloved of God and his eyes are upon us and that God is truly delighted in each one of us as his child. He told Jesus his core truth. God told Jesus that Jesus was the Beloved of God and since we are his own sons and daughters, we need to hear this message for ourselves. Until we do, we will live in this scarcity dilemma.Self-Efficacy forms the third shaping member of our own trinity of understanding ourselves. Self-efficacy is about our competence, our ability and our confidence in ourselves. This is the fruit of healthy self-esteem and a self-concept that is rooted in reality and love. Our self-efficacy is the galvanizing within us that we have what it takes to not only live but to make a difference.I see Jesus offering these three important ingredients--this important "Trinity of Self-hood" to everyone he touched. He offered dignity to the woman at the well. He offered a redefining of the self-concept of Zaccheus as a “wee little man” and showed him that he mattered. He called up Peter as a generic fisherman to a new self-understanding of being the anchor to his teachings and the pioneer of the Christian church. When you see the life of Jesus in action and read his own words, you can see, how his modus operandi was to give love and dignity to people who were enslaved to the yoke of religion without any regard to their inner life—their own scarcity of abundance. This is why, I believe, the message of Jesus really is good news…a new so deep and so revolutionary that we need to revisit his teachings regularly because if we don’t we really have no other choice than to believe the lies the world is telling us.How do we go about dealing with this inner scarcity if we are wakening up an inner sense of lack? Here are five considerations:

  1. We must anchor ourselves in the core truth of our true identity as God’s beloved. This is a daily work and not a one-time fixes all sort of thing. Reading, Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” David Benner’s “The Gift of Being Yourself” are the two “go-to” books I read and re-read often.
  2. Do the inner work you need to dismantle the lies about yourself. This may involve talking with a trusted friend, working with a counselor and having a spiritual director you can process with. Processing your own lies with and listening to some feedback from a wise source is essential. Having someone who can mirror back to you your own lies and help you embrace the truth about yourself no matter who wonderful it really is--is just crucial. Read my last sentence again... "no matter how wonderful" you really are....Be courageous and begin or continue this good work.
  3. Attend a church that not only helps you know God but will help you know yourself. John Calvin, the reformer of the church in the 16th century said in is famous “Institutes,” that “the greatest way to know God is to know yourself and the greatest way to know yourself is to know God.” A church that is committed to both self-knowledge and God knowledge is a church that is committed to real health and true health and growth.
  4. Consider using the new online and DVD resource we produced, "Soul Care 101". Here's the link to the 8 DVD versionHere's the link to the Streaming Version available world wide and right now!  In this 8 session study, Gwen and I expound on the core need of every soul to be loved, to feel safe and to belong. It's important teaching and material that you can explore in a group or with a friend.
  5. The journey of becoming our true self is a journey of being and becoming. We realize that we are loved--but because of the fact of so many and redundant lies, we are always on the journey of becoming the beloved. Both aspects of this journey are important.