Warning: Listmaking May Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health

I love to make lists.  I’m a list maker. You know, one of those people who write “make a list” at the top of their list so that they can have the pleasure of crossing something off right away.  Yep, that’s me.  I love the feeling of order (real or imagined) and the sense of accomplishment (real or imagined) that I get from writing a to-do list and attacking one item at a time until it’s been whittled away to nothing. Recently though, I’ve noticed a dark side to my list making. It usually reveals itself when I’m listing either my accomplishments or my struggles.

Let’s say I’ve got a speaking engagement and need to send a bio for the introduction, or maybe I’m updating my resume.  When I sit down to make a list of my accomplishments it’s easy to look at the things I’ve achieved and feel a sense of pride.  After all, I’ve worked hard.  And as my grandfather used to say, “He that tooteth not his own horn, the same it shall not be tooted.” But that healthy sense of confidence that comes from looking at that list can quickly turn on me and blossom into full-blown pride.  My inner voice begins to say things like, “Man, I’m awesome! Look at all I’ve done!”  If I’m lucky that inner voice will be quickly silenced by the greater awesomeness of someone else.  If I’m unlucky, it will be silenced by an awesome failure on my part.  Either way, the voice does get silenced but often not as soon as it should.

But it can go the other way too.  Let’s say that things have been stressful in my life; that I’ve really been struggling with things in my personal, professional, or spiritual life.  That’s when I’ll often start another kind of list.  This one isn’t quite as nice as the last one though.  This is the woe-is-me list that I make in my head. This list is the one where I rattle off all the “horrible” things in my life that can range anywhere from health problems to running out of milk.They all get equal treatment.  My stubbed toe will get put on the same list as a family conflict or lost job.  It doesn’t matter at that moment that my toe is a very minor blip on the timeline of my life.  It gets equal billing with “major life crises.” The danger of this kind of list making is that it makes everything sound worse than it really is.  Heck, when faced with a list like that most of us just want to curl up into a fetal position and suck our thumb!

My point is this-the truth about my awesomeness or my trials is somewhere in between pride and despair.  There are a lot of details missing from both-like the time it took me to accomplish all of those awesome things. (Awesomeness doesn’t happen overnight!) Or the fleeting moments of joy I’ve experienced or lessons I’ve learned amidst the struggles.

So, heed my advice and beware of lists.  They may help you get things done but they could also be your undoing.

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S.

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