Strive or Strife?

There are plenty of things I want in this world. There are the more noble things, good friends, good relationships, healthy children–but lets talk about the more worldly things. Nice stuff. An easy path. Money. My dream body. Pretty basic, huh? A lofty goal would be to escape these desires, to rise above these base thoughts and seek the Greater Good. But I’m not there yet. If you are, this post isn’t for you. (and please leave How To comments!)

How do I live with these common wants? Must I wrestle my whole life trying to deny that I love a nice Coach purse? I am of the opinion that wanting nice things (as we each define them) is not inherently bad. As I began this journey–wanting a more fit, healthy and yes, beautiful form–I reconciled the fact that this want isn’t a bad thing. I think we can decompose many of our more worldly wants and find underneath them an honest desire for that greater good. But don’t fool yourself, underneath some of mine I have also found some pretty ugly motivations (greed, jealousy…need I go on). With self-exploration, the division becomes obvious though. I do wrestle with the ugly things in my life, and have had some victories too. But it is in those wants that can be noble or worldly that I have met with striving and strife.

Working towards something that can migrate to worldly (again, not talking “good relationships” here, but more like beautiful form or financial prosperity) requires the utmost attention–I knew that going in, but I need to remind myself today, and most days. I am dancing through a mine field full of lovely traps set by the world. At least they look lovely until you step on one. Boom! But I have developed a great mine-detector, strive or strife. When I work towards something, and my motivations are on track, I feel like I am striving. Whether it is for a healthier HDL count or that unnecessarily expensive Coach purse, I’m learning, working, trying, failing, getting back up. I am striving towards a finish line, a goal, a reward. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a great way to learn what you’re made of. It’s good way to gain wisdom about yourself, your life, where you go for comfort when you fail, Who you call on.

But at any moment during one of these chases, I can cross over into strife. And as the years have gone on, I recognize it even more quickly now. Anger, depression, hopelessness, guilt (not the good kind, see 2 Cor 7), frustration. These emotions rarely lead me into positive action. Instead, they feed off of each other in a quickly tightening spiral. Are you also on this journey towards a fitter, healthier you? Or towards something else that can easily become a worldly pursuit? Then you need to sharpen your mine-detector too.

  • Examine your deep motivations for this want. There may be many. Can you separate out the more lowly motivation and build up the more noble? Or should you abandon this one altogether? You may need to ask a trusted friend to help you with this self-examination.
  • Note the times you were in this pursuit and joyful, content, focused, learning, problem solving, failures and recoveries–this is striving.
  • Note the times you were in this pursuit and you were frustrated, defeated, angry, depressed –this is strife
  • More strife than striving? Perhaps now is not the time for you to tackle this one then. Let it go for now. There are probably other things going on in your life that need attention before it is safe to wander into this mine field
  • More striving than strife? Go for it! Keep that strife at bay. Strive to recognize the signs of strife (see how that works). As you near your immediate goal, you will also move closer to self-revelation about how to stay in the hunt and keep away from destructive emotional patterns in that dangerous spiral.

Have you detected a mine, and avoided it? How? What is your tell sign that you are in strife? Have you ever left a journey because it was filled with strife? Were you able to return to it? Or was abandonment the better way to go?

Wow, at this point I think I should remind you that I am just a journeyman, like you. In no way a professional. When I use the words depression, anger, and hopelessness I admit I do not fully understand them in the clinical sense. And these are serious and very real emotions that cannot be wished away through sheer willpower and self-revelation. If these very real feelings seem ever-present or overwhelming for you, seek help, real, professional help from those who are learned. And I hope this brief article has helped you move towards a healthier you.

Photo by Martin Wyall on Unsplash

One thought on “Strive or Strife?

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  1. Your words provoke thought! I was reminded at any phase of life the strive or strife is dynamic in that it’s a changing thing… being mindful of that can be difficult but being ACCEPTING of that can be even more difficult! Love this


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