Facing Facts

I read a quote on someone’s Facebook page today that was a good reminder to me. I thought I’d write something here now as a way of reminding in the future.

“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”
Soren Kierkegaard

When I was a struggling Philosophy major in college, Kierkegaard was always a favorite, if for no other reason than his writing made some sense to me. The same rings true today. I do happen to understand a few other philosophers better in my later 40s than I did in my late teens and early 20s, but he is still often the clearest.

I’ve been having a difficult time at work over the past couple of months, much of it involving a sense of feeling misunderstood. After a sit-down with my library director earlier this week, I’ve started thinking a bit differently about why and where those feelings come from. Maybe it’s part of facing the facts of being who and what I am.

Following college, feeling a sense of calling to the ministry, I went to seminary. I’ve always associated this call with a vocation. I’ve always associated the concept of a “calling” with vocation, in general. But lately, I’m revisiting that belief. Maybe what we’re really called to is to be ourselves.

I think there are many different ways of looking at and approaching the world, but two strike me most lately. There are many people who look at the world and see its obstacles and its challenges and its facts, and they sit down and plan how best to maneuver within and around those obstacles so that they can get to the place they want to be. This, to them, is achievement. There are others, though, who look at the world and see its obstacles and challenges and facts, and they say, “Something is wrong here. Something needs to be done to change these things.” I don’t judge either one of these as better than the other, I just see them as two different possibilities.

I am of the latter type and the more I think of that calling to what I believed was a vocation, now I think it was more a recognition of that fact. I see the world, I see my work, and I see my community as something with a bunch of things that need to be changed. I see myself in the same way. I am constantly in need of change. To paraphrase that theologian who made sense to me, too, you figure out what you can change and you change it (Reinhold Niebuhr). You accept a lot of things in life, but for those that you believe you can change, you try to do just that.

So now I’m thinking about myself and my work. I’m thinking about facing the fact that my calling isn’t necessarily about a job or a career, but it is about being someone who will always be drawn to the need to speak up and do something about those things that are unjust or unfair or simply don’t fit into my understanding of a just and fair world. And now that I’ve begun to face that fact, maybe I’m better equipped to make some decisions and to accept the changes that these facts mean for me.

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