Thursday, April 30, 2009

Three Lives of the Common Human Being

To most who read the title of this article, it makes no sense. One life, yes… two lives perhaps if you’re a spiritual person, believing in the life hereafter i.e. heaven and hell… but three lives? Stay with me.

We all have three very unique parts to our lives. There’s the public life, the personal life, and the private life. I want to particularly focus on the private life or world of each of us. But first, let’s get the private life in context with the other two.

The Public Life

The public life is obviously the life that everyone can see. It’s who we are to others in the world, generally. It’s what we say and do, and our own perception of same, together with others’ perceptions of who we are. Our public relationships are, by our own choice, kept largely at a “safe distance.”[1]

The Personal Life

The personal life is hidden to a large extent, and only our family and close friends get to see this part of our life. “In such settings, we are more relaxed and vulnerable.”[2] Every now and then, however, there are times we don’t shield our personal time enough from work colleagues and the like, and they’re able to peer in for perhaps unwelcome, albeit unavoidable, ‘glimpes.’ This can cause some mild to moderate embarrassment. (Know what I mean?)

The Private Life

Now for the nexus of life itself! Gordon Macdonald’s book, Ordering Your Private World has revolutionised the spiritual life of many a “called” person. This below is an excerpt from John Mark Ministries, by Thomas Scarborough, on maximizing the private life:

[The book] proposes a wheel of balance with five segments: motivation, use of time, wisdom and knowledge, spiritual strength, and restoration. At the same time, the book has a sound emphasis on one’s calling… the five segments of the “wheel of balance,” [are:]

* Motivation -- don’t be driven, but listen for the call of Christ

* Time -- it is God’s gift, use it carefully, allocate it in terms of giftedness

* Wisdom and knowledge -- grow in wisdom and knowledge, and put these to use

* Spiritual strength -- enlarge the spiritual centre of your life

* Restoration -- press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of life[3]
Clearly this ‘private life’ is a place where we ought to have maximum personal influence and it is the place where all our secrets find a welcome (or not so welcome) home. When we’re able to ‘order our private world’s’ we can finally become more the person God designed us to be, and this is toward the realisation of our God-purposed destiny.

Bringing the Three Together

Integrating the public and personal lives such that both are common to each other in the majority is a wise move. We are then able to remove duplicity and hypocrisy due to our more inherent honesty and integrity. There is better alignment.

The private life always stays quite private, until we die that is, or when one of those ‘secrets’ is let out of the bag (adding credence to the Sy Rogers’ truth: ‘You tell on the sin or it will tell on you’); at times then, it can come out--the sort of person we may have revealed ourselves to be. Adding congruence from the other two is hence a good idea.

Each of our private lives is sacrosanct. When we earn the right to be let into the private life of someone… a son or daughter, or a wife or husband, it bodes us to respect this space of theirs, entering carefully and cautiously and being very careful not to move the ‘furniture of their feelings’ around too much.[4]

Acknowledgement to Growing Kids God’s Way material from the Ezzo’s (cited) for the ‘three life’ structure which I have embellished in a different direction.
[1] Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God’s Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002), p. 74.
[2] Ezzo, Ibid, p. 74.
[3] Source: (Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World (Glasgow, Scotland: Highland Books, 1984 (reprinted 2000)).
[4] Ezzo, Op Cit, p. 74-75.


vanoudt said...

Hi Steve.Good Post. You speak of "integrating" the personal and public lives, and adding congruence to the private life. Yet surely the three are per definition integrated? That is, the private life informs the personal life which in turn informs the public life. Which is where you're quote from Sy Rogers comes in - ‘You tell on the sin or it will tell on you’. The sin in the "private" life all too often leaches through to the public life.

You're right, our private lives are sacrosanct. But surely integrity demands congruity across all three levels. There are "Three Lives of the Common Human Being" - but they all add up to "one life"

Just a thought...

I agree that the private life is "sacrosanct"

S.J. Wickham said...

Hi Nick, you've taken my thoughts further and I wholeheartedly agree; I'm a big believer in congruence... hence, one life, as you suggest.

I love how you've described how sin 'leaches' through into the public life.

Thanks for insightful comments.