Much has been made of the power of vision in creating a motivator for focused living and achievement. Goals certainly sustain effort and intent. The ability to paint a picture of what is not yet seen can harness great human energy and empower large groups of people. But there is an insidious harm imposed on us more than ever before with a certain kind of vision that constricts more than it constrains. It has perhaps become the single greatest contributor to various forms of depression and an imposing thief of our resilience which is so essential to personal wellbeing.
It is the pressure of unreasonable expectation. In a shrinking global world of web connections and electronic communication, we not only see more of what is going on and more often, but in full HD clarity. Being bombarded by vivid impressions of artificial realities and picture-perfect lifestyles, we are easily drawn into perceptions of our own deprivation and need which seem less easily resisted than ever before if we are the centre of our own universe.
“I shouldn’t have to put up with this rubbish” or “This shouldn’t be happening to me” can become internal exasperations, in preference to the kind of self-talk that assesses life more realistically. It is easier to run from confrontation or candour when we feel that others have not met some particular personal standards which are often imposed internally and, at their worst, accompany a narcissistic and stylised form of emotional self-indulgence.
Advertisers and social engineers effortlessly craft our consciousness with consumer-driven values and relationship ideals that are particularly devastating in their impact on young people who lack the filters of realism and discernment due to their developmental stage of life. Compounding the problem can be the breakdown of families or of family isolation, but even the most settled domestic life is sometimes threatened by internal rumblings of personal dissatisfaction imposed by social media and other web-based sources of comparison, exacerbated by tribal loyalties and communal affirmations.
And that is why it is more important than ever before to create family play. Dinner conversations, outdoor pursuits, board games and backyard projects can all provide a context of relational security and safety in which meaningful conversations and objective life assessments will develop. It may take a steady investment of time we think we don’t have, but such oases of grace and joy will help build a momentum of vulnerability, trust and warmth before those closest to us are allowed to reshape some healthy perspectives.
Of course, people of all ages can gain value from lowering the bar of expectation concerning what life ‘should look like’. What may be most useful in achieving this aim is the wise counsel of healthy relational communities and of balanced and godly individuals. In a world that is highly connected, people ironically feel more disconnected than ever, even people of faith who seek alignment to biblical values. This sadly occurs as we rob ourselves of the texture of togetherness in undervaluing the ‘normalness’ of others around us who can help us celebrate the life that is without grasping for what it isn’t and what it may never be.