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« Writing Your Own Script | Main | When Will the Healing Start? »

Ripping the Script

Have you ever read a book and didn’t like the ending?  You may have been so disappointed in the way it turned out that you wish you had never started it in the first place.  Like, why didn’t the author make the girl fall in love with the rugged, steady ranch hand in North Dakota instead of the empty suit in New York?  Why did the handsome young corporal have to die from a stray bullet two minutes before he was about to win the battle?  There is really no good answer as to why something did or didn’t happen, but the inexorable truth is that the entirety of ending was in the control of the script writer.  The hero or heroine had no choice in the matter; he or she was scripted to life or death, happiness or despair, triumph or loss. 

You are writing your life’s script.  Of course, I grant that much of whom and what you are at present were simply handed to you.  You didn’t choose your parents, your DNA, or many of the circumstances of your beginnings—place of birth, school, relatives, race, status, station in life or your basic personality, etc.  But these hard-wired circumstances may be only as limiting or liberating as you deem them to be.  Most of us cede far too much power to life’s givens, and the pay-off is considerable.  We exempt ourselves from responsibility for our status, plus we comfort ourselves with the convenient excuse that we couldn’t help it.  

Not so fast.  You are not boxed in nearly as much as you think you are.  A diverse panoply of possibilities, choices, options and decisions spread out before you.  Your courses of action are nearly limitless, each one with the potential of injecting your life with meaning and excitement that you think only works for other people.  For starters, you choose the words you speak, the books you read, the clothes you wear, the places you go, the music you listen to, the food you eat, the friends you have, the hobbies you enjoy, your leisure activities, your place of residence and the stuff you buy.  Going further, you choose your spouse, your job, your church, your associations, your commercial investments, the stores you where shop, your barber, manicurist, doctor, dentist, lawyer, painter, pet—or you may choose not to engage any of these people or make these any of commitments.  Nearly every reality in your life today has accrued to you by the choices you have made.  And, these are only the superficialities of life. 

A deeper pool of prerogatives exist that I call super choices.  They represent the true core, the control panel, the black box of your quality of existence, the strings that attached to your marionette manipulator.  Many mistakenly think that the forces that determine the results spelled out in the preceding paragraph are also hard-wired.  When you cut to the nitty-gritty, however, you will see your own fingerprints on their controls!  Whether or not you understand how they work or have taken advantage of them, these choices belong to you.  You choose your attitudes, your moods, your beliefs, your tastes, your preferences, your convictions, your likes, your dislikes, your reactions and responses to life.  Your confidence level, your self-esteem, your determination, your perseverance qualities, your adversity quotient, your desires, lusts and motivations have handles on them that you may never have fully grasped.  The essential person you are today is a result of selections you have made out of all the possibilities that were within your reach.  You wrote the script.  If you are not happy with the outcome, the good news is that the final chapter has not yet been written.  Things can still be different. 

Why are you here? 


Before we move on, however, you still need to understand why you are where you are today in your journey.  There are three primary causes for your present status.  First, you may have been oblivious.  You had no idea that your tomorrows were going to be the sum total of your todays.  You have just proceeded through life without a plan, without a purpose, much as a rudderless ship gets pushed and tossed wherever the wind and currents will it to go.  Things just happened and you reacted spontaneously to forces and events with the best decisions you thought you could make at the time. Immaturity, debilitating hubris and intellectual dishonesty contribute to an oblivious state as well.  In Greek tragedy, hubris leads to conflict, if not punishment or death.  The Greek myth about Narcissus, who stared at his reflection in a pool until he wasted away and died, introduced us to the term narcissism. “I am self-absorbed, self-centered, grandiose and god-like, and you are nothing. I am good, and you are bad. The most extreme form of a narcissist is a psychopath, who has no conscience, no guilt, and sees everyone as a thing. When serial killers (who are psychopaths) are interviewed about killing and mutilating people, they answer, ‘It’s like working on a doll.’” 

Securing an illustration of an oblivious person turns out to be elusive precisely because a person like this seldom does anything noteworthy enough to attract attention.  A television show named “Oblivious” aired in the early 2000’s featuring a host who asked questions of unwitting people, trying to get them to give correct answers.  It was billed as the “game show you didn’t even know you were on.”  Its short run suggests that being oblivious ranks near the bottom of entertainment choices.  Solomon’s proverbs use the term fool to describe the oblivious person.  “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” Proverbs 18:2 (NKJV) 


Second, you were uninformed.  You had poor or even disastrous ideas about the nature of your choices.  Miscalculation, mis-information, incomplete processing, maybe a little stupidity as an ingredient in the process, have produced the outcome that you have on your hands today.  (Black swans, or totally unpredictable occurrences may also have come into play, but don’t assign too much blame to them because many people have negotiated better outcomes out of far worse situations.  Sorry!)  Too many people are ignorant and proud of it!  

Jesus expounded on this aspect of following the wrong script: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”  Luke 14:28-33 (NKJV).  This is not a reference to the victim of a lie.  This depicts that lazy, indolent or reckless person who doesn’t have a clue about reality. 


Last, you were co-opted.  Someone else has been writing the script for your life.  You have stood by helplessly (or so it seemed) while a parent, a brother, a coach, a teacher or a counselor mapped out for you the kind of life he or she thought was best.  Like a docile lamb, you have tried to follow through with what you thought they wanted, but having no true control over your own decisions.  Your mistakes were actually their mistakes, but you got the blame for them. By the same token, your successes have actually been their successes, but, in a predictable twist of irony, they took the credit for them.  You have been co-opted, not always by direct action, but also by indirectly or unwittingly assuming another person’s set of values.  He didn’t like seafood, so even the smell of it makes you sick.  She didn’t like mingling in crowds, so you believe yourself to be a loner.  He hated to read, so you just know you don’t like books either.  You have internalized your scriptwriter’s soul. 

A small disclaimer is in order here.  You can look to others for inspiration, affirmation, confirmation and example.  Role models have a vital place in the way society works, and all of us know outstanding persons to whom we are indebted for their leadership in our individual fields.  The widely acclaimed song written by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley captures the essence of this sentiment: 

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

This hero crosses the line, however, when his or her influence translates into control.  Much of this involves the intentionality of the role model (the purpose for creating the inspiration) and the locus of decision-making.  Whenever you let someone else make critical decisions for you, you are in a dysfunctional relationship.   It’s best when the situation reflects the first verse of the Silbar and Henley song: 

You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.

You may recall in the story of David and Goliath, that David begged King Saul for permission to face down the giant.  (1 Samuel 17:31-53)  Saul said yes, but immediately put his armor on the youth—his helmet, coat of mail and sword.  Saul’s perspective as a man of war triggered a response straight out of his military training.  The script called for outfitting David with the proper gear for soldiering.  But David knew he could not reach into Saul’s background and assume an unfamiliar, awkward role that belonged to the king.  Instead, he strode confidently into the battle with his own script, one that he developed on his own while fighting off bears and lions, guarding his father’s sheep.  (One must also wonder that, if Saul’s script was so good, why didn’t he answer Goliath’s taunts?)  But, come on; a sling, five stones, no sword and no armor?  Insane.  The remarkable truth is this: no one else would have or could have possibly written the script that David actually used in his triumph over the profane Philistine.   

Reclaiming the Script 

The scripted pattern of your life, however it may have been written, will force you along the same behavioral routines unless you dismantle it line by line.  Breaking out of the routine demands a new and fresh understanding of who you are and what you are made of, and it will take a death-defying boldness that will undoubtedly make waves in your world.  What we’re talking about here may not be an extreme makeover.  It may not take a radical change of direction in your faith or convictions.  It may simply mean elevating yourself to the next level in efficiency or effectiveness.  Whatever it means, it should represent an emergence of a person who is not oblivious to the forces of life, not uninformed of the nature of the forces, and, above all, not co-opted by someone else in executing the business of life in your name.  

So, let’s concern ourselves with our true prerogatives, a range of activities and behaviors much broader than we realize.  We often find that a relatively small group of traits often transfer across the borders and boxes of life, so if you determine that you have an unsatisfactory outcome in one area, you may find the reason for that influences outcomes in other areas as well.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile, calls this tendency domain independence.  He posits that the phenomena that drive research, discovery and innovation in the medical field, for example, also show up in investment banking, automobile manufacturing or geophysical sciences.  Fear, hesitancy, affection and other basic motivations show up across an entire range of personal behaviors, not specific to one realm.  Addressing that one trait, therefore, can produce exponential benefits when considering all the possible applications, even in the context of a single life.  

It is time to write your own script.  Next, that’s exactly where we’ll go. 

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