My Struggle With Idealism

All I could think about this weekend was the future:  Jobs I need to finish, projects I want to work on, subjects to learn more about, skills to practice and refine, debts to pay, places to go, and dreams to pursue. Combine that with the message from church that the only way to move forward is to remember where you have been, and you have the ingredients for my introspective 4th of July weekend:  two parts excitement and anticipation, one part idealism, and one part melancholy.

After times of deep introspection, I usually feel extra tired, unfocused and a little depressed. I have never known why, until this morning. Why was I feeling down? I have a good number of projects that I am excited to work on, I have dreams for the future, a few vacations being planned, so why the melancholy? Because I had to turn something down that I wanted to do because of my responsibility to finish projects that I am currently working on. I put more emphasis on my needs, not my wants, and the emotional Chris is throwing an internal temper-tantrum.

Thankfully, all of the work that I have been doing to identify and work through my emotions has enabled me to see exactly what needed to be seen this morning:  The truth.

The Truth:  I am idealistic and that’s okay.

My idealism has enabled me to do amazing things. I started my own business doing the things that I love to do, I have freedom in my days and evenings, I have gotten to travel around the world, and I have started several side projects for fun.  But in each of those areas, I have noticed the downside of my idealism:  If I don’t get an immediate return on my idealistic investment, my emotions sabotage my efforts and I delay, drag my feet, becoming ineffective. That ineffectiveness leads to depression because it takes my focus off my future and places it on what I didn’t receive today. A child in many respects.

Emotions are incredibly strong and each of us battle them in different ways. Mine are very short-sighted and often say, “If you can’t have this over here now, there is no sense in trying for it later. If you can’t do what you want now, then what you need to do is going to make you miserable. You don’t need to make sacrifices or to work hard because if you do what you want to do, everything is easier.”

At times, those feelings make me hate the work that I need to do each day, and, interestingly enough, prevent me from pursuing the things that I want to do because I am buried in half-finished projects, too much debt and not enough capital.

I am grateful that I hear the lies that I have been telling myself. I feel a sense of sadness that it has taken this long to identify the truth. But I long to not be controlled by my emotions, and that is the beauty of learning the truth, because now I can begin the process of controlling my emotions and getting my idealism in check.

I end with a moment of reflection courtesy of Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book With Open Hands:

…every prayer is an expression of hope. If you expect nothing from the future, you cannot pray. Then you say with Bertold Brecht:

“As it is, it will stay. What we want will never come.”

If you think this way, life stands still. Spiritually, you are dead. There can be life and movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now but look ahead toward that which has not yet occurred.

  • idealism is a constant struggle for balance. i feel your pain. i get emotionally dissuaded sometimes by the “have-to’s” taken precedence over “really, really want-to’s”. however, the “have-to’s” pay the bills in the short-term. having kids has placed a whole new level of importance on it for me, which has helped me focus. glad to hear you are finding your focus as well.

    • Anonymous

      The “have-to’s” not only pay the short-term bills, but develop the long-term foundation for the “want-to’s”. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

      • i just laughed a little when you referred to me having perspective 😉