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“The quality of your life is rooted in the decisions your make.”

This is one version of a meme that drives me a bit batty. It isn’t completely untrue, certainly making a lot of poor choices can be a problem, but it makes me crazy because it denies one very important truth.

The quality of your life is rooted in the quality of the people who surround you.

That’s a bit disconcerting because it speaks to having a certain vulnerability, a lack of control, a dependence on the influences and actions of others. I would far more prefer the empowering and self-reliant meme, “you are captain of your soul charting your own destiny.”

Ironically the guy who used to say that to me a lot was a late stage, chronic alcoholic, very charming and wise, but charting a course for himself that was more like just ramming the entire ship upon the rocks. He challenged me to rethink the wisdom of that meme, to ask if perhaps declaring ourselves to be Captains of our own souls was not such a good idea.

The truth of the matter is that you can make every good decision known to man, but the quality of your life is still going to be directly tied to the quality of the people around you. I suppose we could say, chosing your friends wisely is a good decision, which is also true, except it does not take into account that we don’t always get to choose our parents, our families, our neighborhoods, nor the culture around us.

My alcoholic friend was actually a victim of his own meme. He could not relinquish enough of his need for control to admit that we are dependent on one another and that what we crave more than anything else is relationship and connection, certainly with God, but also with one another. He couldn’t accept that so he just poured alcohol into the wound in his soul, day after day.

He also used to say, people speak a lot more honestly to drunks than they do to pastors. Isn’t that the darn truth? Somewhat funny too, because I have spent a great deal of time speaking honestly and openly about life, love, spiritual matters…..with drunks.

Back to my correction of this meme however, “The quality of your life is rooted in the quality of the people who surround you,” I mean that not just in a spiritual context, but a literal and practical one, too. Our relationships lead to education, housing, jobs, opportunities, connections, social status, all things that have a  huge impact on our quality of life.

Some people don’t have that. At all. They’ve never even seen it. They have no idea how it even works. Some people come from so much dysfunction they have no concept of relationships as an asset. Still others have had everything handed to them and they falsely believe that is somehow directly related to their own merit.

Both of these groups will look down on others and deliver these unhelpful memes, like, “The quality of your life is rooted in the decisions your make,” as if to say, yep, all your struggles come from your poor choices. Just make better choices like I did.

If you really want to help people, teach them, “The quality of your life is rooted in the quality of the people who surround you. ”  Then take responsibility for the fact that you are one of those people surrounding them and show them why relationship and connection really matters.

memes

 

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