When we’re born, a soul bursting with potential meets a world eager to mold new life to its ways. Our never-ending challenge from that waking moment is to grow as only we can despite being buried under a complexity of guidelines meant to conform. Somewhere between the rules and the wild resides our sweet spot.
E. E. Cummings wrote of this dilemma, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
The Internal Bent Versus Conditioning
We are wired with an internal bent seeking to flourish not only physically, but mentally, relationally, vocationally, and spiritually. Yet we’re governed by a pliable sponge-like organ absorbing and processing what we’re taught.
Over time, our minds are programmed by well-meaning influencers, our culture, the environment, and the worldviews of those we’re surrounded by. When societal and familial rules and roles are introduced, they sometimes place unnecessary boundaries on that gem of inborn purpose.
Living in an atmosphere that recognizes and helps refine the distinctive wild nature, a child becomes a thriving adult. But when the unique bent is neglected or denied, the gift exclusive to this soul may never be presented to the world. Perhaps it’s the effects of nature versus nurture, but it takes both to maximize our potential.
Nature’s Noticeable Difference
Bright yellow forsythia blossoms are a first sign of spring in Tennessee. As glimpses of color emerge from the branches, it is visibly distinguishable which plants are given the right opportunity to thrive and which ones are prevented from reaching their capacity.
Last spring, as the forsythias came alive, I noticed how some offered only a few sparse blooms while others flourished. At one residence, the plants were shaped into a squared-off, orderly hedge. They were structured, neat, and perfectly mediocre. The well-meaning homeowner cut them too far back in the fall. As a result, the plant produced fewer blooms.
Further down the road, the late afternoon sun hit a line of forsythias growing alongside a black four-board post and rail fence. Wily branches overflowed with yellow blossoms vibrant as neon. The wild forsythia, though manicured, was not impeded. Displayed in its full glory, the sight was nothing short of electrifying.
This is what we are meant to look like: to shine, stand out, and bloom to our greatest potential. Skillful cultivation accelerates and accentuates our best rather than inhibits it.
Channel the Wild, Don’t Tame It
Left to its own devices, the forsythia grows into a matted mess. Yet, conscientious pruning at the right time ensures a healthier, radiant display. The same goes for humans. The wild inner spirit needs order to succeed.
Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.”
When we apply the appropriate structure of discipline to channel our raw brilliance through, the results are more useful and powerful.
We must be careful, though, not to filter the inner call through so many layers of controls that there’s nothing of value left. Otherwise, the spirit ends up tamed and useless.
Living in the Sweet Spot
In that hallowed space where our wild resides, magic awaits. Regardless of the ever-present pressure to conform, it is worth fighting the continuous battle Cummings spoke of.
For rules hold no power over our hearts and souls. It is our wildness that offers a sacred purpose only we can fulfill. Once we reconcile the malleable mind with the inner genius, our lives produce more abundantly.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Just like with the forsythia, the results we experience are electrifying.
What are some ways you have successfully fought the hard battle against conformity? Share in the comments below.
Image: Photo by Crawford Ifland on Unsplash