The phrase “preaching to the choir” has been uttered through my lips so many times it has begun to sound like the word spoon does when spoken repetitively — meaningless, void of any substance and flippant.
The phrase “practice what you preach” has similarly gotten some good use over the past 28 years. It is what one silently utters to a friend who has given hypocritical advice, what a parent tells you while editing your second year philosophy paper on mandatory vegetarianism, it is what the government says when we all nod our heads in agreement to the implementation of green bins.
But never has that phrase felt so poisonous to my tongue as when I literally have to preach.
Last month, to a group of about 50 youth and young adults, I led a worship service focused on how we can live a life filled with passion and with joy, even when the going gets rough. I spoke, fervidly, to the reality of life — worry, fear, pain, loneliness — and to all the things we can do to pierce through the darkness when it encompasses us. I preached the heck out of that message and I believed every single word of it.
Which is why, as I sat huddled in the corner of my couch with the New Yorker article on the Cascadia-subduction-zone-impending-collision-of-doom pressed up against my nose, I hated myself.
No need to be afraid, I said to myself, fear does nothing good, nothing productive.
Yet, I was rattled.
I was rattled that I read the latest Vancouver Magazine article that quoted the New Yorker article that basically told me everyone I care about was going to rattle to death and, if not, they would drown. I was rattled that I was rattled by something I was already conscious of. I was rattled that I made the choice to live in a building that was built pre-1994 and, more than anything I was rattled I couldn’t shake it off.
Who was I to tell people to battle their demons with confidence when I couldn’t even get over the most general underlying fear of the Pacific Northwest? I was a phony. Those who can’t do, teach — or in this case, preach.
The Very Big One and my moment of weakness aside, intentional living has been on my mind a lot lately. What does it mean to practice what we preach and do good people actually do that, all the time? What could I have done, in my couch fort of fear, to be authentic to my word? Are authentic people truly authentic if they have to be intentional? Why does it matter?
Call it a weakness, but the desire I have to live up to myself is a heavy burden to bear some times. We are reminded, on a daily basis, of all the things we are not. We are not [all] the fittest. We are not the smartest. We are not the richest. We are not the most famous. We are not content with what we have. We are not good at self-care. We are not ready for The Big One.
We are not enough.
However, to live intentionally — to take care of one's words, one's actions, one's thoughts — and to practice what we preach, I would hazard a guess we must let go of that notion.
We need to be reminded that we are allowed to have the answers and we are allowed to get them wrong. We are entitled to our honest emotions. We are entitled to our mistakes, to our oxymorons and to our anxieties.
We are entirely enough, despite all of these things — and in accepting that, perhaps we can also accept the incongruity of our authenticity. In a world where it is inevitable we will slip up, perhaps practicing what we preach is simply being a witness to the times when we fail to do so. Practise, after all, doesn’t mean perfect.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.