Time to Grow Up?: on idealism and maturity

(A few lesser loved idealists: Lenin, Stalin, & Hitler)

As many do, I grew up an idealist. It’s a natural part of child development, to see everything “black & white” – a phase we, for the most part, grow out of.

First, a few questions:

1.) In your head you picture a perfect world.  Is that perfect world…
A.) Genuinely the way life should be for ALL, down to the T, whether they agree with you or not – don’t worry, one day they’ll see the light and see that you’re right? 

B.) My idea of what I’d like the world to be, but not being God I can’t know every detail so as to get it all perfect.
C.) One of many individual’s ideas of a “perfect world”, no better than and no worse than any other person’s concept?

2.) You own a business, and prior to starting read a few books about business and came up with an idea that you think is the best model for doing business.  However, your product is simply NOT selling – in fact, you are losing money by the hour.  Do you…
A.) Hammer on ahead, knowing that you’ve done your homework, and believing that things will eventually all pan out.
B.)  Go back to the drawing board, re-evaluating how you might subtly add-to or adapt your marketing approach in hopes of swinging the pendulum the other way.
C.) Scratch the whole model, and restart at square one.

3.) Your wife is pregnant, due in about 2 months.  As a citizen of the USA, and a Christian, you like to obey the law of the land.  While on your way to a family gathering – at least 30 minutes from the hospital – your wife’s water breaks, meaning that your child is coming prematurely.  Do you…
A.) Go the speed limit all the way to the hospital, and risk damage to your wife and child – it is the law, anyway.
B.) Speed like mad – the law is for our protection, and this is a clear issue of danger to one’s life, justifying speeding.

If you answered A to all three of the above, you are a full-blown idealist, and if you answered C to question #2, you at least have idealist tendencies.

My battle with idealism has played itself out in a couple ways.  When I first became a Christian I also became a Socialist.  Yeah – I’ll leave that one alone.  For a time I was convinced that hymns were the only genuine way to worship God – hard to believe, looking back on these past few years as a VERY contemporary worship leader, but it is true.  I elevated good doctrine/theology (MY idea of “good doctrine/theology”, of course) to the level of being the sole standard by which to judge whether or not a song was worth singing to God.  Most people didn’t understand the words – that wasn’t my fault – they should be REAL Christians and real more theology.  I may not have always said it (but sometimes I did), but that was what continually bubbled to the surface of my heart, especially in “dumbed down” contemporary/charismatic worship settings.

However, when I left that “ideal” behind, I didn’t leave my idealism: I recall one of the first times I led worship in a truly “free” environment – I dove in, proverbally, head-first – leaving the whole congregation far behind.  I was there to worship God – so, so be it – I was going to be able to stand before God and say that, even if no one else followed me, I worshiped Him.  I wasn’t so much a worship leader, or even a lead worshiper – I was a guy worshiping, devoid on context, unaware of responsibility to engage/minister to others, who happened to have a microphone in front of me and be standing on a stage.

And I remember on numerous occasions clinging so tightly to the minor dots and tittles of my theological convictions that I would find myself in an almost constant attempt to find inconsistencies in others’ belief systems, point them out, and correct them – it didn’t matter WHO that person was.  I could find problems with every church/ministry I took part in.  Relationships with others didn’t really matter: only the TRUTH.  Truth in love?  What’s that?

A few days ago I was out driving, and I don’t know why it hit me so hard: I looked back on my life and wonder how many bridges I may have burned by clinging so tightly to my ideals – the imperfect, fallen, perspective lacking ideals of a this one guys, namely ME – that I didn’t see the PERSON in front of me.  I tweeted, “The longer I live the more convinced I become that ‘idealist’ is simply another word for ‘ignorant’ and ‘inexperienced’.”  Strong words – directed at my own folly.

I lead worship – now, aware of who is in the room, and with a mind to bring them with me.  Sometimes that may mean I don’t go “as deep” myself, and that’s okay.  It’s not all about me and my ideals.  When I pick song, or even write them, I do consider the truth or what I’m writing, but I also keep in mind: “Would anyone WANT to sing this?” – pragmatism, or at least realism – considering not only what is TRUE, but what is practical, and might actually REACH someone – in reality, considering OTHERS as greater than myself – has led to a shift in how I think and act on my ideals.

I pray this means that I am one step further on my way to maturity.

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  1. What a very insightful and transparent post. Thanks so much, Shannon!!

  2. Fred McKinnon
    Twitter: fmckinnon

    That blows my mind. HAHA. Once again, I need someone to tell me “what I am”! (I said C to #2, so yeah, I’ve GOTTA to have some strong idealist tendencies – and based on the definition in the dictionary, that’s why I replied the way I did the other day …
    Fred McKinnon recently posted..Is God Unfair to Women

  3. Fred McKinnon
    Twitter: fmckinnon

    PS: although I would probably attempt #2b first, before going to C
    Fred McKinnon recently posted..Is God Unfair to Women

  4. That IS funny (Those personality tests were helpful, too – I don’t deny it)…

    …I still think you don’t give yourself enough credit, though: you are VERY pragmatic and practical in so many ways. When I think of people who barrel through something because it’s got to be a certain way, you are no where near the top of people who would come to mind!

  5. By the way, thanks for the comment/reply, Fred & Randy! Glad you stopped by.

  6. Greene says

    Food for thought

    I pose that any man with a true conviction or belief IS idealistic. Many people have ideals that are destructive, this however does not mean that Idealism is the error. For quick reference consider Paul, can we honestly read his writings and not here the passion of his belief, the ideals he believes? Can we with the same voice say that healing’s, prosperity and “life more abundantly” are the desire of God, and that this belief is not idealism? The very act of truly following Christ is a constant pursuit of Idealism…being like Christ. Is not Faith in something idealism? We must believe in something that is not seen and strive for it so we can see it join to our reality, because we believe it to be so. Grace is given so we may seek and find, getting it wrong but in the love of God continuing to pursue the truth He reveals…from glory to glory.

    The problem is most Idealist believe in the wrong ideals, denominationalism, socialism, religion being salvation(context). Do we tell our children to have integrity “most” of the time? To be moral “most” of the time?
    While I understand why most people fear idealism, for it can be so destructive (much of my life is a testament to that), ultimately the question to ask ourselves with honestly is “If I do not believe in something to its fullest(ideal), what do I believe? Where do I draw the line? Why the need for a truth or conviction(%100 truth = ideal) if there is no truth”

  7. I see your point, Mr. Greene, but I do believe I disagree. I am full of conviction – convinced of truth – but I believe that “Idealism” and being an “Idealist” is different than believing something to be true – it’s much more the ATTITUDE with which you believe. For instance, I believe what I believe with full conviction, but to acknowledge that I could be wrong about certain details, and always have more to learn/grow and could adapt and change. If Hitler, for instance, were not an Idealist, he could’ve been reasoned with, and WWII may have never happened. Likewise, FOLLOWING Christ is not idealism – the crusades – insisting, and even forcing others to follow him, or else – were.

  8. The struggle with idealism (without losing all of it) is the biggest, but most necessary, parts of growing up. I’m struggling right along with you.
    Jeff Goins recently posted..The 21st Century Guide to Winning Friends &amp Influencing People