By Daniel L
Putting his beer down, my mentor changed his tone to something a little more serious.
“Corporate loves guys like you; young, ambitious, driven, and…. impressionable. They pull you in and place the whole world on front of you. You don’t realize this yet, but it becomes a shackle, a sort of ball and chain”
He brought his hands up to my neckline and closed an imaginary shackle around my throat. I looked down and envisioned an iron chain that connected to a small cannon ball on the floor.
“As time goes on they throw in some nice promotions, pay increases, bonuses. You feel good and you want more. So they give it to you. Soon, you’re married and have kids so you need to throw that into the mix as well. You have obligations, responsibility and it begins to weigh heavy on your shoulders. You don’t notice it at first, but your ball and chain begins to grow…
It gets bigger (wow, I can afford that BMW I’ve always wanted)…
and bigger (my wife wants to move into a five bedroom house)…
and bigger (the VP position is open and they’re considering me!)…
Before you know it you’re grasping with your arms and legs, you’re holding onto this gigantic ball for dear life, and you’re praying to god no one takes it away from you.”
Driving home I began looking back on my life. I knew I grew up with popularity issues. A character flaw that had me climbing up the ladder, reaching a certain point, and finding myself wanting more. It was a vicious cycle of favoritism. There was this desire in me to be viewed as one of the few on the inside with everyone on the outside looking in. I spent money on things I didn’t need to impress people I didn’t even like.
In the corporate world there are multiple ladders and inner circles. As you work your way into one inner ring you find that it’s in fact the fringe of something even bigger, something even better, and you want in. I realized this was my reality. The pursuit of wealth and power was not specifically for those things, but how it played into the bigger picture. The chain that was slowly wrapping itself around my neck was a mindset that I had been suffering from since middle school.
In his Memorial Lecture at King’s College, C.S. Lewis described this as the phenomenon of the inner ring.
To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of Insides, full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching. As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left.
The things we pursue in life shape the world around us. To a certain extent, the desires we choose will determine if our time on earth transforms into a region in Hell or becomes a reflection of Heaven itself. The focus of my desires was creating a sort of “hell on earth” within me. I was constantly envious and never satisfied. My mind was spiraling down a mental gauntlet that obstructed me from fully engaging in relationships and appreciating life as it is.
Realizing where my heart truly was, I began the painful struggle of letting go of my ambitions and my pride. I began a slow evolution. I was now looking towards and pursuing a God with plans to prosper me, not to harm me, plans that gave me hope and a future. In many ways, it was a great divorce of some sort… But, it has been in this new pursuit that I’ve begun to see God changing something within me and opening my eyes to a world that I know He truly intended.
“I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.” – C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce