Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: People Who Don't Like The Way They Are

The famous comedian and neurotic film producer, Woody Allen, once said "My only regret in life is that I was not somebody else."

There are people who do not like the way they are. You may be one of them. Something happened, or did not happen, and you have constructed your life in such a way that you live with a high level of dissatisfaction. When you are unhappy with yourself, there is a tendency to make everyone else unhappy in little, and sometimes larger, ways. Every day the burdens grow heavier. Your troubles are not creative challenges.

People who are chronically dissatisfied with themselves are often unsuccessful in dealing creatively with their unhappiness because they assume the cause of their condition is external. Many try to change their unhappy state of mind by changing jobs, spouses, attending a different church, or moving to a new place. It should come as no surprise to any of us that the ghosts and demons in our lives can cross county and state lines. When we run to another spouse, or job, or state, everything that haunts us - all our demons and ghosts and things that go bump in the night - arrives at the same time we do because the crux of our state of being is far more internal than external.

We change doctors, change medications, or go on a diet thinking this might change our state of mind, but it seldom does. Our propensity to think we can find a new medication to make us happy can be seen in the plethora of advertisements for new drugs. I read an interesting newspaper ad recently in a major newspaper. This is an excerpt from the ad:

"Are you depressed, stressed, anxious, and moody? Relax naturally with Euphorium, the all-natural way to balance your emotions. {Don't you just love that name - ‘Euphorium"? Even the name makes you want to go right out and get some of it. But, there is more.} This all-natural supplement is non-habit forming, safe, and you don't need a prescription. It helps to calm your nerves, relieve tension, and reduce mood swings, leaving you at ease, happy, stress-free, and always on task. With Euphorium, you will be clear-headed and revived without an awful hangover or unwanted side-effects. Satisfaction guaranteed! Call now! It will change your life."

I have not called yet, but you can bet your equity in the Alabama River there are many people who don't like the way they are who have.

I am not talking about the occasional and periodic unhappiness that becomes a part of every life at times, nor am I talking about those life-shaking tragedies that come once or twice in a lifetime and nearly unhinge us for weeks or months. These situations usually become manageable - although, at the time we may not think our life will ever be normal again.

I am referring to the chronically unhappy people, whose experience with happiness is marginal. For them unhappiness is the meat and bread of their daily diet. Their condition arises from within, and they cannot seem to get a handle on it. They know they are going to be unhappy when they get up in the morning, and they know that when they come home in the evening it will have been a bad day. Eventually they begin to plan unhappiness into their lives. These chronically unhappy people often twist the words and motives of the people with whom they work and live to make those normal people fit into their own unhappy view of life. Some of these unhappy people deal with their misery by telling everybody how bad things are for them. They become what my father called ‘belly-achers.' They complain and whine to anyone who will listen.

This column has a subtitle. I call it the 11th Commandment - "Thou Shalt Not Whine." There is no way to modulate the human voice to make whining acceptable.

Surely the Bible and our faith have something to say to people who do not like the way they are. Happiness is no laughing matter for people who do not like the way they are.

One of the ever-recurring themes of the Bible is that no person need stay the way he/she is. You can start life all over again if you really want to. The most remarkable thing about Jesus' insistence that we must be "born again" is that he also assures us that we can be born again. The whole New Testament was written about, by, and for people who did not like the way they were. If you are dissatisfied with your life, it has a message for you. For those of you who are perfect - who are just standing around waiting for a vacancy in a stained glass window, who are so good that if you slipped off your shoes you would float off to heaven, the Gospel has very little to offer you. The Gospel cannot help people who already know everything, who have a halo the size of a hula hoop, and a religious ego to match.

The Gospel is for sinners like you and me. It is for people who do not like the way they are. If you are one one of those people who is unhappy with your life, there are many resources available to help you change. However, the process will involve some intentional effort and heavy lifting on your part. You cannot sit on the sidelines of your transformation.

Start now. Find the person, place and/or disciplines that can take you where you want to be. I have heard it said, on good authority, that the Church is a good place to begin.