A dictionary defines the word sabotage as to “deliberately destroy, damage or obstruct something”. The German government used sabotage during World War I in an attempt to thwart U.S. trade with Europe. They targeted factories and plants that manufactured goods destined to be shipped to help the Allied troops on the battlefields of Europe. They accomplished this by setting explosive devices near the targeted business which, when detonated, would cause massive fires, destroying not only the goods being made, but in many cases, the entire factory. Those who carried out the commands of the German government were actually operating on U.S. soil. Obviously, these agents did not brazenly walk to an area near the factory and start setting up explosive devices. The operation needed to be carried out in secret if it was going to effectively cripple the manufacturing process.
That’s one thing about sabotage: it is unexpected and often unpreventable. It is only in looking back on the event that officials suddenly see how the sabotage was able to be carried out. Going forward, new policies are put into place to try to prevent a reoccurrence. The formation of the Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, took place is a good example of the attempt to prevent a repeat performance of an undesired action.
The government, private and public businesses, and the military all have to be on guard against sabotage, whether that action would come from secret agents sent to harm or, sometimes, from their own people working against them from the inside.
What about individual people? What does sabotage look like in my life or in yours? Who is responsible when it takes place? Why does it take place?
While it is true that sometimes people are the object of another’s schemes, I have been noticing lately, at least in my own life, that most of the sabotage taking place is self inflicted. You may wonder, “What? Why would anyone intentionally try to deliberately destroy her own life?” I have asked myself that same question over the last week. I have not come up with an answer, but in all my reflecting, I have begun to see patterns of when and how this sabotage takes place. I’m sure it is different for different people. Just as there are people who love vegetables (my future daughter-in-law comes to mind), there are others who will not put them in their mouths for any reason (this describes me). Some people love the heat of summer (I don’t understand these people) while a small minority of us love the cold of winter (me again). How one goes about self-sabotaging varies, and maybe for some this isn’t even an issue, but for me, it has and continues to be a struggle.
One way I self-sabotage is letting my thoughts run free. Don’t get me wrong–there’s nothing wrong with being a free thinker in a general sense. Many people enjoy daydreaming about vacations or a favorite place or a happy memory. They allow their mind to experience the joy those thoughts bring to them and then they go on with the duties of life at hand. Maybe it is just me, but for the most part, I am unable to do this. Instead of thinking about a walk through a quiet wooded area, I began to obsess about why I can’t walk through a quiet wooded area. Instead of dreaming about a life in the country, away from noise and traffic and people, I began to hate the fact that I am constantly around noise and traffic and people. Discontentment sets in, quickly followed by bitterness.
By far, the biggest way I self-sabotage is by comparing myself and my life to those around me. Comparison is a no win game. One person can never attain what all other people around have attained. It doesn’t even make sense to want that, yet that is exactly what I find myself doing. I look at a friend who is in great shape–thin, pretty, youthful–and I began to hate myself for not being those things. I look at someone else who is optimistic and I start to hate the pessimism that permeates my life, which just makes me even more pessimistic. Another has what seems like the perfect family–generations of family together for holidays, birthdays or for no special reason except they enjoy being with each other. My family? Yeah, if we tried that, there may just be jail time involved for several.
How do all these things manifest themselves? This is the crux of my thoughts (and again, I can only speak for myself here): social media. Every day I log into Facebook and am greeted by pictures of people I know enjoying vacation, celebrating with family, moving to a new home, listing an accomplishment, whether it be a personal one such as weight loss or a familial one like the accomplishment of a child. Maybe a picture is posted that has somewhere around 87 “likes” and I think to myself, “I barely have that many Facebook friends!” Whatever the case, for me at least, social media has been and continues to be a very negative thing in my battle against self sabotaging thoughts.
Of course, there are some good sides to social media. A few months ago, after a string of very rough days and nights, and stress over what the outcome of a potentially serious situation might be, I was at the end of my rope. I had tied all the knots I had room to tie and had held on as long as I possibly could. My arms were tired and I just wanted to let go of the rope and be done with it all. I turned to a special community that I had become a part of on Facebook. I had not–nor have I still–met any of these women in person. They were scattered around the country in several states spanning from east to west, yet in one secret Facebook group, we all met and knew it was a safe place to ask for help. If judgment would come, at least I wouldn’t have to look at it face to face. Online anonymity is sometimes the saving grace in tough times. I poured out my heart in that space and was quickly encouraged by women who cared. Some had even been where I was and had experienced some of the exact same issues. Social media has, on more than one occasion, played a positive role in my life.
As I have reflected the last week or so, though, I have sensed a growing problem between me and social media. That problem, as I stated already, is that it feeds the comparison game that goes on in my head. I know there are things I can do to be in better shape. Do I do them? No. Instead, I complain that someone else has the motivation to do them and get results. I know there are things I can do to change my constant pessimism, or at least ease up on it. Do I do that? No. Instead I say, “This is how I’ve always been. It is who I am.” My family? Well, I can’t change that, but I can let go of it. I can give the hurts caused by the situations to God and allow Him to deal with it. I don’t have to let what happened to me define my life. I am reminded of a passage in the Book of Romans where Paul says, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”
My pattern of self sabotage can only end when I submit completely to what God wants from me. I have sensed for some time now that God is asking me, for a time, to surrender my “addiction” to Facebook. Yes, it is an addiction for me. And, as I wrote in a prior post, any addiction, anything I HAVE to have that isn’t God, is an addiction–an idol. False idols abound in this world. Yesterday I visited a church while traveling with my husband. The person speaking (not the regular pastor) gave four ways to uncover false gods in our lives:
1. What am I most fearful of losing?
2. How do I describe myself? (do I start with “child of God” or “mom of ______ or CEO of ____)
3. Where are my time, talents, and treasure going? (Look at the checkbook. It tells you.)
4. Where do I find my joy? (What is exciting to me? Vacation? Church? Sunday kickoff?)
I left that auditorium with an OUCH feeling. Had it been my own church, I may have, for the first time, gone down and asked for someone to pray with me about these things. It wasn’t though, so I left knowing that I had much to think about. That’s what all these paragraphs are helping me do…sort through all I have to think about and figure out so I can stop self sabotaging my life–my physical life and my spiritual life.
There are some tough decisions to make as well as some changes that need to occur. Change is never easy but is, sometimes, very necessary. And it is always scary.