In a previous post I talked a little bit about sacrifice. What I failed to address is the danger of settling. Sometimes there is a fine line between sacrificing and settling. In both something is surrendered. Both can involve giving up resources or privileges. With sacrifice, this surrender is for a greater cause; it is a rallying call for a better way of life. Sacrifice is never demeaning and never compromises self-worth. Settling, however, usually also involves the surrender of values. With settling, this surrender might be performed simply because the person believes he or she does not deserve better. Settling is never uplifting and never empowering. Settling is admitting defeat before a worthy battle is ever fought. Settling is giving up.
I went to high school with a girl whom I will call Mara. Mara was quiet–almost painfully shy–but she had good friends and seemed to be happy. During her senior year she began to date a boy, and not long after graduating from high school she and this boy planned to get married. Shortly after getting engaged Mara wrote a note on facebook describing how he had proposed, what their plans were, etc. In this note she mentioned more than once her surprise in how everything was turning out. She said she never would have thought she’d get married. Essentially, she implied that she believed she would never get another opportunity to get married and thus was happy to snatch up this opportunity.
Mara’s parents had several concerns when it came to this boy. They saw more than one red flag. But Mara was not swayed. She married him anyway. Not long after their wedding, problems began to surface. Mara’s husband was controlling and abusive. He isolated her from the world. Her facebook profile disappeared and contact with her family was limited. Her parents attempted to intervene and get her out of the marriage. At first Mara was willing, but then she changed her mind and insisted on staying with him. The last I heard, Mara had fled with her husband to Mexico. I’m not sure if her family has heard much from her since.
I’m certainly not an expert, but I think Mara married this boy because she believed that she could not do better. I think she hung on to her unhealthy marriage because she believed it was all she deserved. I think she felt like she couldn’t leave him because she’d lost the hope that anybody could truly love and accept her. I think she felt that wrestling the ghosts of her marriage on a daily basis was less frightening than trying to run away from them. Regardless of her reasoning, Mara surrendered a lot of things she once valued–her family, friends, religion, and education. She settled.
Although I have ideas on what might motivate a person to settle, I am at a complete loss as to what causes this change of thinking. At what point does surrendering even your own soul become a feasible option?
Several weeks ago I spent some time in a kindergarten classroom teaching about body safety. The curriculum emphasizes that each child know that he or she is special, and thus several times throughout my presentations I ask the children to raise their hands if they are special. Each time I asked, all the children eagerly raised their hands except for two boys. The other children murmured the boys’ names as if to encourage them to raise their hands as well, but the two boys still refused. I attempted to make eye contact with the boy closest to me and emphatically exclaimed, “You! Are! Special!” He looked at his feet shyly. He wouldn’t even offer a smile.
This concerns me. I pray that their teacher noted their reactions. I pray that she finds a way to make them believe they really are special. Gone unchallenged, a child’s belief that he or she is not special could have devastating results. That belief alone may very well be the one thing that makes settling so appealing.
Whatever your life situation is right now, always remember this: YOU ARE SPECIAL. You always have been and you always will be. Never forget it. And never settle on something that makes you feel anything less than special. You can sacrifice all you own and all the privileges you hold dear, but never ever surrender your values. Fight with all your might to keep your precious soul intact, even if it means fighting until the day you die.