Embracing the Gray
Society constantly pushes us to simplify life down to black and white terms. But I’ve found that the much of the beauty of life is discovered in the gray areas.
Those areas that teach us, refine us and reveal who we really are. It’s where we find our character and what we’re made of. It’s where we’re challenged and shattered and overjoyed. There is pain and weeping, as well as indescribable joy.
People are often under the delusion that a happy life implies simplicity and ease. However, I believe it is the struggles, the challenges and gray areas that afford us true, deep happiness. It’s a happiness and peace that stands strong in times of heartache and loss.
I decided long ago to embrace the gray, where things aren’t so simple. It’s like that here in Africa. That’s part of why so much traditional aid that may work well in the developed world, continues to fail. This is not a black and white zone. 1 + 2 doesn’t always = 3. And for some people, that’s a deal breaker. For me, I appreciate how that constant dynamic affects my character and fortitude.
In School, we learn about a simple little world encapsulated within the pages a curriculum. But when we experience outside of the classroom, things don’t add up. We’re hit with conflicts that do not fit into that black and white world. We run from the gray because we were taught that it is wrong, irresponsible, or even sinful.
But I love the gray. That’s where I find the most interesting people and most extraordinary things. It’s in those moments that I’m most challenged to broaden my perspective and study emotions and feelings I don’t understand. This is where I learn and grow.
My willingness to value, embrace and listen to the gray has afforded me endless opportunities to experience extraordinary relationships and boundless beauty. I am grateful for the gray.
I’ve never heard it put that way, “embrace the gray”. This reminds me of a saying:
“High risk, high reward. You may fail but you’ll never get bored”. When I was really on the ropes in life I remember waking up and thinking, “I have no idea what will happen today. What an adventure!”
I’m not always that way so I appreciate your perspective. Decisions that work out on paper end up in failure and loss sometimes. It’s baffling but the only way to avoid it is to do nothing and avoid life. I’m going to try and remember that those gray areas are filled with opportunities (for solutions), new relationships, growth and adventure.
Thanks for the fresh perspective!
Thanks Sutton. I’ve always appreciated your commitment to going your own way, not conforming, and finding peace and inspiration through a lifestyle quite different from most (and quite similar to mine in many ways). Godspeed!
Wonderful post Jared. Often I get too caught up in the “everything has to go right mentality.” It’s the control freak in me. Having lived among the people in the Philippines for 2 years, I really experienced that “life is raw” as you write about in Wisdom Meets Passion. Such great perspective.
Thanks for the inspiration,
Thanks Jeff. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I’m certainly bent toward OCD behaviors. However, Africa life has taught me a lot. Not just African culture, but also the many other cultures and perspectives (from other countries) that I experience here through friends, none of which are American. Through all of that, I’ve come out the other side really appreciating the gray areas of life, and coming to peace with a lot of things that used to drive me nuts. It’s an ongoing journey, but one I have grown to love and appreciate.
I hear this recently and immediately found the source and put it in my quotations list:
“The essence of Christian maturity is to have a high tolerance for ambiguity.” – Steve Brown
Excellent! I’ll definitely add that to my list as well. The Sunday School version of Christianity has no room for ambiguity. However, our Christian heroes have always embraced it as a path to understanding and enlightenment.
Brother…it’s been a long journey…still is, to break me from the the desire for black and white. I desire it. I wish it were so. But as you say, it is just NOT. So I’m with you for the most part. The only thing I can’t attest to…is loving the gray. I’m learning to accept and revere it. But not sure I really ‘like’ it at this point.
I’m with you brother. It’s been a long journey for me as well. As you know, I have what I would call…”zealot tendencies”. It’s really difficult to be a zealot when you realize that the the beauty of our Creator is most often found in the gray, and not in the black and white. Bummer.
I have a lot more to say about the gray, and will likely continue to say it here. But it is a journey for sure.
Your words are always so thought-provoking.
Seems like the gray is where truth & grace meet…the tension between faith & works, the space between regret & repentance.
Not sure there is ever fullness-of-life to be found in the absolute black or white, but only in the tension between the two.
Well said Teri. I agree, it’s “the tension between the two” where we find our way. When it’s black and white, we tend to stop searching.