The Frustrated Idealist
Updated: Mar 19
I know a young woman who has the most beautiful way about her. She is thoughtful and honest, smart, likable, and hardworking. She notices every detail. A deep thinker and an old soul, she can see the cracks in human behavior with ease. And she also has an innate sense of how they might be healed. Does she struggle? Yes. Why? She's a frustrated idealist.
Do you know someone like this? Many of us have at least a few idealistic features, but not all are so deeply ensconced in high values from every angle. If you're like my friend - deeply dedicated to altruistic matters - you may feel crushed when people behave in ways you view as selfish or unethical. For my friend, it is hard not to take the foibles of others personally. And sometimes, the friends and family who love my friend struggle to make sure she feels appreciated for her lofty standards.
There's an old French saying, "A clear conscience is a good pillow." While my young friend can look in the mirror and feel a sense of pride in her actions most days, she still loses sleep when others make what she perceives as missteps. Even though people like my friend rarely stumble when it comes to how they treat people around them, that good pillow is sometimes unattainable because they expect the same behavior from others and are saddened when they don't rise. My friend may be young, but she's wise enough to acknowledge the imperfections of human nature. However, I don't imagine she will ever cease hoping they figure it out and do the right thing.
We all admire people like my friend. And we value their vision, but other than thanking them for their relational qualities, how can we help these idealistic friends when they struggle?
I am learning we should ask her or him for help and guidance. Their love language is showing others how to exist in the kind of society we all dream of. One swathed in respect and dignity, kindness and grace. When we are faced with moral or ethical dilemmas, our own or others, the "utopians" in our lives are the guides to go to. The other thing we can do? Put their advice into action, and tell them about it.
Lastly, thank them for the grace they extend to all of us who hope to walk along their well-lit path. Imagine the ripple ...
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved, as to love; For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.
- The Prayer of St. Francis