The Five P's of Infinite Resignation
In our previous blog post, we were introduced to what philosopher Soren Kierkegaard dubbed the “Knight of Infinite Resignation.” Kierkegaard’s use of the metaphor of “knight” implied that reaching the stage in life where we have exhausted our own resources, while it may feel like defeat, is actually the result of a noble and courageous quest for meaning and significance.
Perhaps you’ve been there. I know I have, and at the time I didn’t feel very noble or that I was on the verge of a great discovery. I felt defeated, hopeless, and resigned to a disastrous fate. As Kierkegaard observed, however, this point of “infinite resignation” is the last stage before faith—finding something or someone greater than ourselves—can become real in our lives.
As I hinted before, there are five “keys” to accessing and embracing this new level of life. We must willingly, however reluctantly, lay down our pretenses, our preferences, our prejudices, our prerogatives, and our predictions. Let’s look at these very briefly.
Pretenses: Laying down our pretenses means we cease pretending. We stop trying to fool the world and ourselves into believing we are someone we are not. Until we do, we will never really believe that we are loved because we will always wonder what people would think if they “knew the real me.” Dropping pretense means we let others see us as we really are—“warts and all” as they say.
Preferences: Laying down of preferences means we stop wishing the world was different than it is. In the words of the famous “Serenity Prayer” (see earlier blogs) we “take this world as it is, not as we would have it.” It is a step into reality. It is the truth that sets us free.
Prejudices: To lay down our prejudices means we literally stop pre-judging. We lay aside our preconceptions about other people, about how the world works, about what a person’s appearance, background, demeanor, accent, etc. tells us about them. We open our minds and hearts to new possibilities.
Prerogatives: Laying down one’s prerogatives is perhaps the most counter-cultural of any of these five renunciations. We swim in a society that is very aware of its “rights.” “It’s my right,” or “I’ve earned this” are phrases we hear a great deal. But, to twist the phrase, they are not a “great deal,” they are a bad deal. Keeping our supposed “rights” front and center mitigates against a heart that is thankful, humble, and willing to be pleasantly surprised or delighted. Anything good that comes our way is seen as only what we are due and, conversely, anything bad is seen as unfair and something to be railed against. To focus on our prerogatives makes us quick to judge, quick to sniff out affront—even when none exists, and thankless curmudgeons around whom no one wants to be—even ourselves.
Predictions: Finally, we lay down our predictions. “I know how this is going to turn out.” Well, actually, you probably don’t. You may, of course, be right. But most likely, you’ll be wrong. You’re not that smart, nor do you have access to all the facts or possibilities. Predictions tend to come in two varieties: worry and fantasy. Neither of these are particularly helpful. Worry is borrowing trouble that may not even occur and fantasy is often a set-up for disappointment and a false sense of betrayal. As Jesus said, “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Lay down your predictions and live fully into each day for what it is, the “present,” because it’s a gift.