There are times in which we find our lives busy and cluttered. During those times, my desk looks like a bomb went off and my office is so jammed with donations and ministry material that I can barely open the door.
While busyness and clutter go hand in hand, there are different kinds of clutter? Some clutter is comprised of the things we need. It is necessary stuff that just needs to be organized. There is another category of clutter that is stuff we don’t need but we want. This stuff needs to be either discarded or put in a place that is not taking up the area of the things we need. The third pile of clutter includes the things we neither want or need. This stuff just needs to be shoveled into the debris pile and out of the house.
As difficult as it is to deal with these categories of clutter, there are even worse types of clutter. Clutter that we almost always avoid dealing with.
There are people in our lives that fit into one of the same three categories. People we need. People we want. And people that we neither need nor want. All of us have people in all three categories. While no one wants to be human clutter we also all fit into one of these categories in other people’s lives.
In the first category are people we need. These include those who perform a function in our lives. As children the most obvious people here are parents, teachers, and family. When people in this category let us down, we grow up with a distorted view of relationships and love. As adults, people in this category include employers, encouragers, spouses, and people who love us. Perhaps because of our need for these people or because of the people who do not need us being in this category, this one is full of tricky relationships.
The next category, people we want, is a more fun one with less dire consequences if people do not reciprocate the same level of relationship. These are associates and friends outside our inner circle. They may be people with which we play, work, or worship. They make life fun but are not crucial to us. Sometimes there is confusion in this category when we elevate these people into our inner circle, or they elevate us into their inner circle. Or worse when we place them into the third category.
Being placed into the category of being neither needed nor wanted is a devaluing experience. There are times that the same person can be in all three categories although rarely at the same time. An example is an ex-spouse. At first, we want them so we marry them. Then we need them. Then we can’t stand them, so we neither need them nor want them. Other people in this category include strangers, annoying co-workers, and others who seek to harm us in some way. People in this category often do not intentionally hurt us and usually it is just a matter of incompatibility rather than malice. We just don’t feel good around them.
The biggest issues arise when the people we place in these categories feel they ought to be in another category. We love someone and want them but they don’t love us. We need someone who doesn’t need us. We neither want nor need someone who insists that we are soul mates. And there are times we are the ones on the outside looking in. We wish we were the ones being needed or wanted and we refuse to accept that we are neither.
It is when we can not or do not accept where other’s place us in these categories that we can actually become human clutter. We become someone they just don’t know what to do with and we just don’t know when to leave.
No matter where we find ourselves or where we place others, the solution is the same. Don’t base who you are by the opinions of those around you. Relationship confusion can be cleared up best by basing who we are on the One who always wants us and loves us. In Christ, there is no confusion about where you stand in his eyes.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.