The Freedom of Having Nothing to Lose

“Nothing to lose” is a phrase I’ve had on my mind lately.  Mostly, I’ve thought about it because of my dawning willingness to stand up for what I believe is right, which coincides with a departing willingness to accept the status quo.  For me, this “nothing to lose” mentality is specifically connected to the realization that loss is not just a possibility, it’s a guarantee.  As sobering as that thought is, it’s also incredibly freeing.  As you read my thoughts below, I invite you to consider what would change if you lived as though you had nothing to lose.

There are various interpretations and applications of the phrase “nothing to lose.”  Out of curiosity, before I started writing this post, I googled it.  In my brief glance at the results, I found movies about people who seems to have lost it all in life and do something drastic… and songs ranging from country love songs to profanity-laced rap about inner-city violence.  I even found a message board arguing about whether “nothing to lose” means you have hit rock bottom and have literally nothing left to lose or whether it simply means that making a specific choice can’t have any negative consequences.

I could probably apply both usages to my current thinking.  However, for this entry, I want to focus on the feeling of having nothing to lose that stems from loss and suffering.  Personally, this feeling came to a head when I lost my dad to cancer about a year ago.  Losing a parent at a young age is devastating in its own right.  For me, it followed what seemed like cascades of instability and turbulence in my life.  My life had broken down to the point of my worst nightmare coming true, and it didn’t seem to me as though I could possibly hurt more than I did.

Tragedy has an excruciating way of throwing the rest of life into perspective.  There are many paths this realization can lead you towards, some of them more dangerous than others.  There’s the danger of apathy.  There’s the danger of abandoning life (literally or figuratively).  There’s the danger of dwelling in the half-truth of how inevitably painful life will continue to be.

But then, there’s also the path you can take that implements your new-found big-picture realization of what matters and what really, really doesn’t.  For starters, what really matters is honoring God and honoring other people.  What really doesn’t matter is people getting mad or uncomfortable when you start thinking or living differently than they do… which sometimes happens when you’re trying to honor God and other people.  This isn’t to say that you won’t be affected by other people’s reactions, or, for that matter, that you’ll even successfully recognize what is and isn’t important most of the time.  That’s not the point.  I believe that if you truly open your heart, mind, and soul (and hands) to the wrongs around you, people’s reactions will become easier to bear and your discernment more practiced.

As I contemplated this post today, I was encouraged by a thought that Don Miller shared on his facebook page… “How can the suffering you’ve experienced become an unintended blessing?  What’s good about the pain you’ve known?  Steal your life back.”  At the beginning of this post, I asked you to think about what would change if you lived as though you had nothing to lose.  I didn’t say what would change if you had nothing to lose, because the truth is, you already have nothing to lose.  You will, at some point, lose everything that earthly life has to offer.  The question is whether you’re willing to acknowledge and live in that reality.  What’s the worst that can happen?

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