Summary: First in a series on dealing with popular illusions. I can deal with not getting everybody to like me if I will live in integrity, love intentionally, let go of negative feelings, and leave it finally to God.
More energy has been spent on this one thing than on building the Panama Canal, constructing the Great Pyramids, or creating the Interstate Highway system. More energy!
More tears have been shed on this one item than on the depredations of poverty, the destruction wrought by great storms, or a thousand afternoon soap opera tragedies. More tears!
More anxiety has been generated by this one issue than by being afraid of the dark, more than by getting scared that you might run out of money before you run out of month, more even than by being afraid of what she will say the first time you ask her out on a date. More anxiety!
I am talking about one central issue: DO THEY LIKE ME? Do they like me? Down deep, I suspect, every one of us more bothered by that one thing than anything else. Does the crowd I run with really like me? Or do they just say things in order not to hurt my feelings? Oh, I know I have some friends, but are they real friends? What do they say when my back is turned? What do they think when they think of me? Oh, I want everybody to like me!
Isn’t that right? Isn’t that pretty much what we are all worried about?
I know our young people feel this. Our children just have to have the right stuff to fit in, so that they will be liked. It has to be the right color and the right brand and the whole thing. You say, "I am not paying a hundred dollars for a pair of smelly old shoes." And they say, "Mom, if I don’t get those shoes I will just die, because everybody has them and if you don’t have them, the cool kids won’t like you."
Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about a boy who had to go to school every day carrying the wrong stuff. In his school it wasn’t clothes or shoes, but it was lunches. How did you carry your lunch? May not sound like much, but, let me tell you, it was a very big deal.
The thing was, someone somewhere somehow had decreed that the cool thing was to bring your lunch in a canvas tote bag. Not a brown bag and not a plastic bag, but a canvas tote bag. Nor could it be a lunch box. Lunch boxes were for little kids, but this boy was in junior high school, so no lunch boxes, unless maybe, maybe possibly, a workman’s type pail. But cartoon characters? Brightly decorated lunch boxes with funny faces on them? No way! But this boy’s mother had said, "The lunch box you carried back in the fifth and sixth grades is perfectly all right, and you will carry Mickey Mouse to school every day."
(You understand this was back before the Baptists decreed that we should boycott all things Disney!). And so off to school he went, each day, trying to hide that lunch box behind his books, stuffing that lunch box in his locker, going to the cafeteria with the stupid thing tucked away down under the chair, convinced, absolutely convinced that "they" didn’t like him, all because of that lunch box.
You say, "How ridiculous! Let them think what they want to about lunch boxes. I know I’m okay." Yes, you say that now, but I’ll bet you had a lunch box issue today. I’ll bet you had, no, I’ll bet you have, now, something going on in your life that you think keeps everybody from liking you, and you are trying to hide it. It may not be a Mickey Mouse lunch box, but it is something equally Mickey Mouse, something equally insignificant, but it has taken on enormous proportions, and you think, you just know, it keeps everybody from liking you.