25 Sep '13
Living an integrated life and saying no to compartmentalization
One of the greatest challenges in life is to live an integrated life where our values, practices, spiritual commitments and convictions are the same in all realms of life. Often this is not the case and it is why many Christ followers seemingly follow one set of rules in the marketplace and another in the church and can excuse behaviors or practices at work that they know do not please God.
Stephen Green, in his book Good Values: Choosing a Better Life in Business puts it succinctly.
“Compartmentalization -– dividing up life into different realms with different ends and subject to different rules –- is a besetting sin of human beings.
"Compartmentalization is a refuge from ambiguity; it enables us to simplify the rules by which we live in our different realms of life, and so avoid – if we are not careful – the moral and spiritual questions. One of the most obvious and commonplace manifestations of the tendency to compartmentalize is seeing our work life as being a neutral realm in which questions of value (other than shareholder value) or of rightness (other than what is lawful) or of wisdom (other than what is practical) need not arise.
"But there are many other ways in which we compartmentalize our lives. Work, family, friends, society – these are different (though often partially overlapping) realms of life, and it is all too easy, in a thousand ways, to play to different rules in each of them.
"These different realms of being also overlap with the inner realm of the self (though none of them completely): by what star does that inner self navigate? And would it even know when it is off course? Compartmentalization helps to shut such questions out"
Compartmentalization creates a divided self because it allows inconsistency within our own lives. A divided self is not a whole or healthy self for it is by definition at odds with itself. That dissonance creates issues of conscience in the short run and a dimmed conscience in the long run. Eventually the dissonance becomes normal and we are no longer sensitive to what is truly right and what is truly wrong.
It is easy to spot compartmentalization in the lives of others. It is harder to spot it in our own and is one of the reasons we need to surround ourselves with others who can and will challenge us to follow Jesus in all areas of life.
Compartmentalization is responsible for giving Jesus a bad name as those who watch us see that our espoused values are not lived out in our lives. One of the best things we can do is to identify a set of values that we believe reflect Jesus well and live them out in every sphere of life. No compartmentalization, no dissonance, just wholeness!