Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflection: Spending Yourself

There is something marvelous about feeling utterly spent.

It is the satisfaction that comes with knowing you have given your all.  It is the joy of accomplishment that mingles with the pain of exertion.  It is a sort of consummation, a reaching of a goal that, once reached, penetrates you and transforms you in a profound way.  It is a bit like being in love.

But it is different from the tide of sentiment that we call being in love in an important way.  The feeling of love comes and goes, as feelings do.  The satisfaction of giving one's all comes from knowledge, not emotion.  It is more certain.  If one knows one's limits, and then reaches (and perhaps surpasses) them in an all-consuming effort, one will be satisfied in this way.

Thus, one must possess accurate self-knowledge before one makes any great attempts.  Only when we learn our limits can we exceed them.  Yet, how can we learn our limits if we do not first make a great attempt and fail?  How can we gain knowledge about ourselves if we remain untested?  It seems that we have to simultaneously learn and do.  We must gain wisdom so as to live our lives well, but we must live our lives well so as to gain wisdom.  The learning must be ever swifter, for the doing seems to happen more frantically every day.  Hopefully the pace of our lives will not be our undoing.

So it would seem that gaining self-knowledge is no certain thing.  But it can be gained, and when the process of revelation is complete, one can then truly spend oneself.  It is a little like being in love, yes, but it is a lot like unconditional love.  That love will motivate a man to spend his very life for those he loves.  It will turn a man into a perpetual sacrifice that pours blessings into the lives of those around him.

To live in this way, in the habit of perpetual sacrifice, is to live a life of deep love.  It is to continually spend yourself in that love, to truly be in love itself, to lavish love on others.  It is to be transformed wholly into a creature of love.

There are two questions we must face:

      Are we truly spending ourselves, or are we keeping something back?
      If we are spending ourselves, on what are we spending ourselves?

Those things that a man totally spend himself on without losing his honor are few, but they are real.  I often wonder if I have found them.  Have you?

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