Don't Settle for Anything Less than Shalom

Shalom-life.jpg

Don't Settle for Anything Less than Shalom

Photo by Vladimir Kudinov

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. While this word obviously refers to the absence of strife, it also has a deeper meaning. The word shalom is a derivative of the word shaleim, which means completion and wholeness. As such, the Biblical and Jewish understanding of shalom is not merely the "peace" found in comfort or freedom from unrest, but it is the deeper peace that results from purposeful wholeness. An injured person can find peace in a hospital bed, but true shalom requires full healing.

Throughout the Bible, we're taught to be "whole-hearted." For the writers of the Bible, the heart was representative of much more than just one's emotions and greatly surpassed the trite scope of our modern symbolism. Biblically, the heart is the source of one's life, thoughts, will, and decisions — not just their feelings. A "whole-hearted" person is one who has achieved shalom for the wholeness of who they are; body, mind, and spirit. 

We should resist the urge to divide or compartmentalize our lives. Who you are, what you do, and what you want are all equally important parts of your identity. Your sense of wholeness — unity of body, mind, and spirit; personality and behavior; faith and works; values and decisions — is essential to your sense of self-worth, value to others, and wellbeing. Shalom requires wholeness across all aspects of our lives. You can't be complete if part of you remains incomplete.

Everything in life can be viewed as either contributing to or taking away from shalom. Our careers, hobbies, homes, habits, children, diets, churches, and everything else are either making you whole or dividing you. We should strive to engineer our lives so that the factors within our control and influence are moving us toward completeness.

I'm sure most people are on-board with everything I've written up to this point. It sounds great. It's what we think we want. So why then is shalom so rare? Why are divorce, war, suicide, poverty, anxiety, and other troubles always so persistent? I believe there are many factors, such as the marketing value of dissatisfaction, the human inclination toward sin, physical and mental limitations, etc. Those are all at play and talked about often. Fortunately, to the extent that we can become conscious of them, we can limit their impact on our lives. But I believe there's another, less talked about factor at play: The lies we tell ourselves about our lives.

The stories, theories, and "rules" in our heads often limit our ability to fully comprehend our circumstances. When we can't understand our own lives, we are not able to think through our problems. Babies and young children have the wonderful absence of many of the false narratives that accumulate over a lifetime. As such, they often have a refreshing sense of wholeness. Infants are generally whole in their identity, behaviors, and aspirations. They're whole-hearted in everything they do. They have shalom. They're living proof that shalom is rooted in wholeness — not achievement nor circumstance.   

So what are some of the false beliefs that we hold? For what "reasons" are we limiting our shalom? What stands between us and wholeness of being? The answers to those questions will be different for each of us. As we wrestle with our answers, we should seek the truth regardless of our preferences. To get your mind going, here are a few truths that often go ignored:

Your behaviors are choices.

Sane people have the ability to control their behavior. That's what makes them sane. Every behavior, from praying to drug abuse, is a choice. What you do is the result of your choosing. If the behaviors you choose aren't aligned with your values and goals, you'll never find shalom.

You don't need a job to make money.

Making money comes from your productivity and capacity to add value to others — not a job. Many financially successful people don't get W-2s or 1099s. If your 8-to-5 employment is undermining your shalom, quit. (Just remember that shalom isn't found in laziness.) If you need help making the jump to vocational shalom, read Josh Tolley's Evangelpreneur.

If you aren't growing, you're dying.

Increase is the natural outcome of healthy life. Your financial stability, marital success, spiritual growth, local economy, and everything else all require sustained growth over time. Always evaluate your growth. The sustainability of your shalom depends on it.

Choosing the status quo is still choosing.

Waiting is a choice. If you're unhappy with your career, relationships, addictions, finances, spirituality, sex life, health, or anything else, but you don't make any changes, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you lack shalom, you won't find it by maintaining the status quo.

What got you here may not get you there.

Previous success won't necessarily result in continued success. The skills that earned your income in the '90s may not sustain your income in the years to come. The things that your spouse valued in you when you were newlyweds may not be as valuable later in your marriage. Focus on what's needed for the future — not what's worked in the past.

Sunk costs are irrelevant.

Whether in your personal finances, business, career, or any other aspect of your life, don't let your judgement be clouded by your previous investments. Just because you spent seven years in school doesn't mean that you should remain in your current career path. Don't let what you paid for your home determine whether or not you move. Don't hang on to toxic friendships because of the years invested. Your future shalom isn't dependent on your past. You can't find shalom in the past.

All that remains of your life is before you.

It's never too late to decide how you will live the remainder of your life. You will never have more opportunity than you do today. Whether you're 18 or 81, now is the best possible time to make the changes necessary to achieve shalom.

Integrity is the key.

Shalom, wholeness of being, requires integrity. Who you are, what you do, and what you want must all be aligned. This alignment is your integrity. You can't reach shalom while living in contradiction to who you are. If you're married, integrity requires you to work to remain true to your vows. The mission of your employer or customers must align with your personal values. The habits of your behavior must lead to your goals. Shalom isn't possible when the integrity of who you are is compromised.

— John

John DiffenderferComment