Is there room for each of us to contribute and thrive? What are the messages we consume about the need to be smarter, better, more successful, more popular than everybody else? Here, Matthias Roberts, a second-year MA in Theology & Culture and MA in Counseling Psychology student at The Seattle School, writes about learning to replace a scarcity mindset with one of spaciousness and invitation. This post originally appeared at matthiasroberts.com.
There are days when I scroll through my Facebook and Twitter feeds and feel anxiety and desperation and jealousy and anger rising from my stomach and into my chest.
Oh, look what so-and-so wrote. Oh, that person’s post is going viral. Oh, someone else came out and is starting a blog.
I clutch in, territorialism rising. This is my space. Oh, well, that person only has a few followers, ha.
Or. I can’t believe that leader said that. I could say it so much better.
I’m constantly measuring. Where am I compared to them? Am I rising? Falling? Who else is trying to get in? How are they doing? Who is getting the attention and why is it not on me when I’ve been doing this longer?
I was walking to get coffee this morning as these thoughts were flooding me. I was feeling good because I had just had a wonderful conversation with someone “important”—external validation that was quickly crumbling into judgment and fear of others.
There’s a word for this. It’s called scarcity.
In a scarcity mindset, there is only so much room. Only a little bit of space. And there’s never enough. We naturally tend to operate out of it; the world around us relies on it. Advertising uses it against us. We never get enough sleep, we are never busy enough, we aren’t attractive enough, our blog posts aren’t getting enough hits. Never enough.
Scarcity also creates hierarchy. We rate and place ourselves within the ratings. Climbing, clutching, scratching, trying to get further up and flashing smiles at those beneath us. The top is a pinhead, tiny, one person and I’m going to get there no matter what. We displace and belittle and project our insecurities onto the people above in order to feel better about taking their places.
As I was walking and passing by the changing colors of the trees, my mind went to a quote that I’m going to paraphrase because I can’t fully remember it: “There is no competition in this space, there is room for us all.”
When I read that quote several days ago, I felt my breath release and the invitation of spaciousness. There is room. In that brief moment, what was constriction became a wide open space. Hierarchy dissolved. Room, for everyone, working toward a common goal.
Of course, that utopian ideal didn’t last for long in my head, it never does. (Let’s add in “utopian ideals” to the “never enough” list). But, it stuck with me, like it did the time that I heard it before, and before that. It’s not a new idea. Ancient wisdom teachings have been trying to get this point across to us for thousands of years.
We don’t have to live in scarcity.
While looking my bathroom mirror I exclaimed rather loudly: “There is no scarcity, there is no scarcity, there is no scarcity!” This has been happening a lot in the past couple weeks. I’m sure my neighbors are wondering who Scarcity is and why he doesn’t exist. No scarcity in my life would mean that there is room for me to appreciate all the people around me who are furthering the work that I’m also trying to do. It means not judging those around me because they’re getting more attention than me. It means resting simply in an idea that I have written on the same mirror: “It is my job to write, that’s it.” Response, success, failure, attention—they all fall outside of my job. They are dependent upon me doing my job, but they are not the ideal.
It all sounds so idealistic, doesn’t it?
It goes against so much of ourselves. We want scarcity. We want to restrict. We want to be at the top with everyone underneath us.
I think about the wide open spaces of scarcity-less-ness when I’m listening to nature sounds and burning incense in my living room, but the moment I walk outside, pull out my phone, and start reading my Twitter feed, I’m right back at it. (Note: reading Twitter while walking is not always the best idea).
Yet, as Christians, we have an example of what this looks like in the Triune being that we worship. Jesus came to earth with the message of there is room for everyone. There is no scarcity. Even within the Trinity, the Godhead, there is no scarcity. There is no hierarchy. There is only perfect mutuality, relationship, room. And we are invited into this. Everyone.
“Even within the Trinity, the Godhead, there is no scarcity. There is no hierarchy.”
There is room for us all.
Wide, open spaciousness.
There is no scarcity to the love that surrounds us.
May we be people who work to bring that spaciousness into our own lives so that we extend the invitation to others.