Background; a shackle … wield it wisely
A little introspection is most times all we need to truly understand the profound impact that friendships and associations have on us. A favourite phrase of mine is “Character ought to be a controlled model of dynamism”, which is probably a fancy recital of Prov 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” however, for me it’s just a reminder that our character and the very definition of who are can be sporadic and random. If we are not careful and vigilant as the bible warns us, we wake up and find we’ve lost ourselves, for some others… we just need to meet up with old time friends as we recount and the uncontrolled changes are confirmed.
In my humble opinion, I think our individual background is one of, if not thee most potent, single influence upon our character. Our background is where most of us spend the majority of our years. It’s where we gain our primary influences, morals and standards… it’s where we spend our formative years. It’s not something that can be denied, whether we spent these years at different places, with different people or even without people, the sum total of all our experiences and the people we have interacted with constitutes what I call background, and it is a shackle.
A shackle, by definition obviously restricts. If we think of incarceration, it’s almost like onomatopoeia. We understand a shackle as a restrictive, preventative force or mechanism. Rather than consider shackle in the context of a force however, I define a shackle as a tool; a formative and influential tool.
Firstly, we must be shackled by our background to preserve who we truly are. The world is full of so many influences that would attempt to augment, substitute or alter our definition of self. We will meet persons that are maniacally manipulative and those on the other end of the spectrum whose friendships and associations yield a subtle manipulative force that changes us. By beholding the world around us, truly we become changed and our background often times must be our shackle that will hold us and our definitions steadfast, firm and rooted. Our shackles are our anchor.
Through introspection and self evaluations, we have to confidently affirm who we are and aim to grow our concept of self in a shackled way that ensures this growth is controlled. We have to stay true to the positives that we have been taught, we must preserve what has made us who we are and what will continue to keep us that way. We will change… growing older is compulsory, growing up is a choice. As we grow older, we must use the shackles of our background to keep our growth within a context that is acceptable and desirable.
Secondly, we must understand that we mustn’t let our background shackle our growth. Many times it is our definition of who we are that restricts improvement, it’s our perception of our own height that prevents us from growing. I can’t overemphasize the importance of this. I’ve had the chance to meet the family of a few friends and its amazing to see the picture perfect replicas of aspects of a persons’ character when you meet their family. You see the origin of traits, however good, desirable or unbearable and you understand why some habits are so deeply entrenched.
We must come to the point where we understand fully that we are not our backgrounds, we may be what they have made us. However, our backgrounds are not self definitions, they have only pushed us so far in the journey of life. I dare say, every step we take today is a more potent impact on our tomorrow… a greater force than the shackles of our background. It is in our todays that we contextualize the impact and define the roles our shackles play in our lives.
Our background will never define who we will be, yet it may be the greatest tool we use to preserve who we are. If it does define us, then we must understand that is a conscious choice or in other cases, a choice we never made. Our background is a powerful tool God has given us. None of us are better off if we believe our God ever gives us more than we can bear. Your shackles are a gift, understand it and wield it well.