The Four Stages of Life

Life has four stages.

We’re born into Stage 1. We can’t walk. We can’t talk. In fact, we can’t really do anything on purpose. What happens just happens.

Meanwhile, perfectly capable adults all but turn themselves inside-out with silly efforts to make us “smile.” And they talk gibberish with delight, thinking we have clue about what’s going on.

And if our parents (et al) are worth a plugged nickel, not too far down the road, the light dawns, and we do get a clue: We are wonderful. A treasure. A delight.

We navigate our toddler years swaddled in love and confidence. Even if an adult or two gets unhappy with us from time to time, we remain persuaded of our love-worthiness.

When you tell a member of Stage 1 that they look beautiful (or handsome, as the case may be), you’ll know they’re at the head of the class when they respond, “I know,” shyly, but with pleasure.

Stage 1 is fabulous.

But around kindergarten, reality strikes, forcing us to Stage 2, and Stage 2 is as dreadful as Stage 1 was wonderful. Realizing that not everybody loves us, we wonder if anybody does.

All of sudden, we can’t do anything right. We lose confidence, not only in ourselves, but in the certainty that we’re worth something.

We don’t try because we don’t want to fail–which we’re convinced will be the outcome of any attempt at accomplishment.

Stage 2 is a very bad, no good time of life. Most of us–almost all of us, in fact–move on quickly to the new season of life, Stage 3.

You’ve met people who never grew out of Stage 2–unhappy souls who see nothing good in anybody because they see nothing good in themselves. Not that it’s not there. Just that they don’t see it.

Stage 3 presents us with the assurance that we can do some things well. We’re not at all sure that others don’t do them better than we can, but at least we’re no longer wrong all the time.

And we’re can believe that at least some people will like us, maybe even love us. Not confident enough to do the warts-and-all thing, though, so we show only our “good” side to others.

What we seem to be may not be what we are, but we reason if people really knew us, they might not like us. So we live “shiny side out.”

This is an excellent way to complicate life. Others think they’re having a relationship with you, but it’s not real, just the shiny part. And you want to be loved for who you are, but nobody knows who that is. Maybe not even you.

Meanwhile, they’re doing the same thing.

But we soldier on. Enjoying our accomplishments, buffing up our shiny side to better present ourselves.

We get used to living in Stage 3. In fact, it’s what we call normal.

Most people never get past the insecurities of Stage 3.

They don’t know there’s a Stage 4 just waiting for them, and if they did, they might be scared out of their socks to even think about it.

Stage 4 revisits Stage 1, but with a terrific twist. Once again you know for a fact that you’re wonderful, but it’s a humble thought because you realize that wonderful is everybody’s birthright–if they choose to claim it.

And you realize that wonderful doesn’t mean perfect, so you let others see all of you, not just the shiny side. Perhaps even better, you accept others on that same basis, and they feel loved and accepted, too. Perhaps only when you’re around, but that’s better than nothing.

People call it confidence. Everybody yearns for confidence, but few actually experience it.

In my experience, real confidence comes from studying enough and learning enough to see ourselves through God’s eyes. Realizing that he loves us. And won’t stop loving us. We’re the apple of his eye.

We once again have a big, strong daddy who teaches us that life is good, and he’ll walk through it with us. It’s not about being rich or famous, but about love, peace, contentment and joy–whether we’re rich or poor, famous or unknown.

No wonder the Bible calls God our father.

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