Square Peg: Be who you are and be that very well
Have you ever been a square peg? As I examine my own life, I can see those times when I decided to ignore God’s “round hole” vision for life and force my “square peg” self into God’s plans. It seems, we want to impose our version of reality on God’s version. Of course, God wins in the end, but God allows us the futile effort of pushing with all our might to do, be, and act in a square-peg fashion. It gets down to learning how to be honest with ourselves.
We can see examples of square-peg thinking all around us: a beautiful, sixty-something woman who is lovely in her natural, mature figure, but she aches to be young again and starts dressing like her granddaughter; your neighbor wants to grow tomatoes but plants them in the shade because there are no sunny spots in the yard; a balding man hates his baldness and goes for a comb-over, thinking he looks great; a little boy is pushed by his dad to play sports when all he really wants to do is play the piano and read in his room.
In contrast, round-peg thinking is summarized best by Saint Francis de Sales, “Be who you are and be that very well.” What Saint Francis is driving at is that we need to be content with who we are and be bone honest about it. When we lie to ourselves about our character, our appearance, our gifts, etc., we are living a false reality and blocking the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit wants to form us in God’s particular image of us. That fullness of life cannot happen when we are forcing an alternative version. As hard as it may seem, we need to face the truth that we are a sixty-year-old woman, a bald guy, a kid who loves music and hates sports, and that even God prefers we grow his tomatoes in the sun!
I invite you to take Saint Francis’ guidance to heart. Look at your plans and examine if what you want is in line with what you think God wants. Our first response is often “God loves me and God will want to give me what is pleasing to me.” My experience tells me that is a rationalization. Often we cannot admit to ourselves that what we have in mind will not bring real peace and happiness. We are forcing our contrived square peg into a round hole. Stand back and admit the truth to yourself. If you can quiet yourself to listen for God’s voice, you may hear what he has to say about your plan.
A young woman came to me asking advice about cohabitating before marriage. She justified her decision to buy a house with her fiancé and live there before marriage by saying, “Sex before marriage is a good thing. After all, you try on shoes before you buy them.” She was totally square-pegging it. When we talked through the issue and I explained the truth of chastity before marriage, she saw the round hole for the first time.
While cohabitation is a big issue, there are many smaller life choices that can undo our integrity as well: overworking at the expense of family life, spending too much money, choosing kids’ sports on Sunday morning over Mass, being addicted to social media. Anything ring a bell in your life?
Then, there is the issue of contentment. St. Paul says, “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need” (Philippians 4:12). In essence, he is saying that he has learned the secret of being content in every situation. Learning to accept who we are and working to become the best version of our self is the secret to inner peace. God made us bald, old, musical, and sun-loving. It is all beautiful, all very fine, all in his image.