Dear Pope Francis,
Don’t settle. It’s quite likely that this is the single most annoying piece of advice that I am given. It’s not that I don’t understand it. It’s actually deceptively simple: don’t settle for something less than what you deserve/can accomplish/etc. The sentiment is generally full of care and concern, and sometimes (oftentimes in my case) it does serve as a helpful reality check from an objective third-party.
What gets me about this phrase is that when it’s tossed out as a helpful piece of advice it usually doesn’t give any indication of what ‘not settling’ looks like. Someone tells me not to settle for a guy or a job or anything else, all they have identified is that the option in question is not meeting expectations, but there is no indication of what would meet those expectations. Social movements, like #GIRLBOSS, have developed around empowering people to set their own expectations for their lives so that they don’t settle for something less than satisfactory. While I generally think that we need to have expectations, trying to always set them on our own can become problematic (but more about that in another letter).
Regardless of whose expectations I am trying to live up to, listening and following through on the advice to not settle ultimately requires me to take a leap of faith. I need to believe that there is in fact something better beyond what is right in front of me, and usually there is. That doesn’t change the irritation and confusion of being told ‘don’t settle’ when presented with a really appealing option, or when I want what my friends have.
Taking that leap of faith to not settle requires me to keep searching, praying and probing to see if I really am where God wants me to be. That can be uncomfortable because often it calls for change, growth and uncertainty. It’s those times when it’s more helpful to remember Pope Emeritus Benedict’s line: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Settling brings comfort at the expense of growth. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when I’m feeling good because I’m right where I need to be, and when I’m comfortable because I’m settling. Precisely when I’m caught in a period of settling and thinking things feel easy because I’m where I need to be, is when I need to hear the dreaded reminder all the more: