I first heard about the idea of disordered attachment from the founder of the Jesuit Monastic order, Ignatius of Loyola. Disordered attachment is the idea that the dysfunction in our lives stems from the wrong ways we prioritize people and things. When we prioritize lessor things over more important things, we not only de-elevate what's important, we also de-elevate ourselves. As Jesus once said, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21 NIV).
What do you value? We can often pay lip service to what we value. But the real evidence is revealed by how we spend our time and money. In what are we investing our most important resources the most.
I notice this sometimes with how my wife and I parent. We have three kids. We run our own construction company. And, for the last five years we've been constantly remodeling the two homes we've lived in. There are just times when our lives are very full, and seasons when we are overly busy. In those times, I notice that sometimes we're managing our kids, instead of living life with them.
There are lots of things we need to manage well in life. We should be good stewards of our time, money, and resources. But we don't manage people. We manage things for the sake of people. We don't manage people for the sake of things. Another way this is often said is, "work to live, don't live to work."
The reason my wife and I run our business, organize and maintain our home, and manage our time and resources is so that we can enjoy life with family and friends. But, in our American-minded society, producivity can often be prioritized over people. It's easy in an overly consumerized culture to treat people like a commodity as well. People can be a means to an end, instead of the end goal of all we do.
The core question for each of us is, "what is life about?".
Are we success driven? Are we more focused on goals, agenda's, achievements, entertainment, technology, possessions, or security than building and maintaining relationships? Are we success driven in our relationships as much or more than in all the other areas and arenas of our lives?
The dark side of humanity is always revealed when we prioritize our personal pleasure and pursuits over people. Slavery, human-trafficking, and the sex-industry are some of the most dire results of that philosophy taken to its fullest end. Using people as if they were objects for the pursuit of my own personal enjoyment and agenda is dehumanizing. And, the Western, industrialized world has this ideal deeply ingrained in it. The Western world was built largely on the back of slaves, following the influence of the last most civilized society before it, Rome. Sometimes great progress requires disposable people. Doesn't seem so great when we think of it in that way.
Though we have learned the dark lessons of slavery, we are still committing a form of slavery today, when the powerful in government and industry capitalize and monetize the lives of the poor and middle-class for the sake of building their empires.
This is a far more diabolical form of slavery, because it is one with which we often willingly participate. If you have to ask permission from your employer to take a vacation, to go to the doctor, or take time off to see your kid's convocation at school, then are you any more free? For the sake of security we can end up sacrificing a lot. So much in Western society is organized around the productivity of the factory and the consumption of products. Sometimes, even our religious environments can become just another commodity we consume, prepackaged and delivered to us so as not to conflict with the real gods of our world, money, possessions and productivity.
I've heard it said by those from other cultures, "American's wear their god on their wrist," referring to how much we schedule and conform our lives to the ticking clock. Kronos, a Greek word meaning "time", was actually the Father of all the Greek gods. Interesting. Perhaps we, like the Greeks, still worship this god today.
The question for you is, how do you prioritize your time? Time is money. But as James Taylor put it, "Time may be money, but your money won't buy time."
Are you too busy to stop and help a stranger? Are you so busy that you get angry when people slow you down and get in your way at the grocery store or on the road? Are you too busy to stop and dance with your daughter, or jump on the trampoline with your son? How often do you get together with your friends, your family, or your pastor? How often is your pastor available to get together with you? All of these things are symptoms of a much bigger problem.
The real problem is that we've forgotten how to live life, and what life is for. The real problem is that we've gotten so busy working to live, we've forgotten what we're working for. That's when work becomes our life, and non-work time is spent trying to recapture a few moments of pleasure before we have to go back to the daily grind.
When life becomes a blur. When we've become numb to the meaning and purpose of life, we need to slow down enough to start to ask ourselves the question, "what is life about?"
It's funny; sometimes I can feel so content and at peace just sitting folding laundry. When there's nothing much to do, and no rush to do anything, I love the action of doing simple tasks. I love the joy of taking time to clean, cut, and prepare raw vegetables for homemade soup. I love the quiet, calm interaction of putting my kids to bed, catching up on their day, and praying peace, blessing, and sweet dreams over them as they settle into sleep. I love talking with my wife in the morning about our daily agendas and our long-term dreams. I love taking my dog for a walk in the morning, or getting up while everyone else is still asleep and sneaking out to watch the stars. I love walking in the woods, and seeing nothing but the green goodness of what God has made. I love watching the flash and earth-shaking power of a lighting-storm. I love sitting outside in the evenings, smoking a pipe and listening to the earth-songs of birds, frogs, crickets and cicada.
Sometimes our lives can become so cluttered with the noise of too much activity. Sometimes, we need to slow down and consider what our life has become, and if we're really living our lives at all.
The idea of disordered attachment should lead us to consider the order of our attachments, and, perhaps, the need to re-order our attachments in a better way.