Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, walked into the local clothes store to purchase a pair of jeans. Barry is middle-aged, so he was probably already feeling a little out of place.
His discomfort increased when the clerk asked him if he wanted slim fit, easy-fit, or relaxed-fit, regular or faded, stone-washed or acid-washed, button-fly or regular. All he wanted was a pair of jeans!
Standing at the counter at the GAP, Barry concluded that he was spending much longer in the store than he had planned, investing, as he says, “Time, energy and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread.” He finally chose easy-fit. Being an academic, he started to process and evaluate his experience.
His next stop was the supermarket and, now energised, he made a loose inventory: “85 varieties of crackers, 285 of cookies, 230 different soups, 120 pasta sauces and 175 kinds of salad dressing.” He said he began to suspect that at some point, “choice no longer liberates; it might even be said to tyrannize.”
The Problem of Too Many Choices
His book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less has received a lot of attention, with its conclusion that “there are a lot of people walking around, really, really dissatisfied with their lives and unable to put their finger on what it is that’s so troublesome.”
Is it any wonder, with this multiplicity of choices, that so many have so much difficulty in knowing and doing what is good? Living in a complex world, it is no wonder we find it so difficult to see the good, let alone hold fast to the good. The problem is that it has always been difficult to know what is good and to do the good in the real world.
Alvin Tofler is a great secular prophet of our day, but he calls this age ‘The Age of Choice’. He referred to that in his book Future Shock, which was written in 1970 and sold more than 6 million copies. We live in a culture where there are:
- too many desirable activities
- too many important choices to make
- too much information coming at us
- too many voices calling for our attention
- too many things to purchase with a credit card
- too many entertaining entertainments, and
- too many things we need to do and in order to function well.
Therefore, he says we are unable to make commitments, unable to set priorities, unable to relax and experience quiet. We lack contentment and are unable to focus. We zigzag through life at an exhausting pace, exhausting ourselves over less-than-purposeful activities. We have become the antithesis of Psalm 23:
The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted,
It leads me to deep depression, it hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done for my ideal is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand my performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines, my in-basket overflows.
Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.
A Strategy to Fight Frustration
There it is—that word ‘frustration’. Does this describe how you feel? Are you keeping the same pace as our world and culture demands? If so, there could be dangerous signals there. What do we do about this? One popular cliche is Just go with the flow. We are too busy to sit down and rethink what we’re doing. What’s the option? It’s easier to just do what everyone else does.
However, this isn’t working for our culture and it’s not going to work for you. You might end up running around in circles. What is way that God wants us to live? Can I choose to be different? I think some of the things we need to do—and we’ll talk more about this in Part 2—are:
1. Lower your expectations.
What is your expectation for yourself? Most peoples’ frustrations stem from their disappointment of things not working out the way they anticipated. If you are constantly being let down and are becoming frustrated because of it, evaluate how much pressure you put on yourself, on others and on situations in your life.
Heavenly Father, we live in a world of need; we live in a frantic world. And Lord, we know that many people are looking for answers and direction, and just can’t find them. Thank you Lord for your guidance. Help me to be worthy of the name ‘Christian’ as I talk to you now. In Jesus’ name. Amen
(To be continued in Frustrations – Part 2)