A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. The word literally means a conflict of expectation. Jesus’ teaching flourished in paradox, because God’s kingdom is by nature paradoxical from our world. He taught things like, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12) and “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matthew 19:30).
I realized a paradox in our relationship experience. When I was young, I tried very hard to impress people by projecting an image of what I thought they wanted me to be that was not genuinely who I was. I thought that this would draw people to me and increase my popularity. But instead, over time, it repelled them. In disappointment with this failed strategy, I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to be pleased with me regardless of what others thought. Through my spiritual life, I discovered that my acceptance from God superseded people’s opinions. So I didn’t need their applause to be content in myself.
Paradoxically, when I finally came to this level of contentment and didn’t need people’s approval, people were far more pleased with me and attracted to me. Today, in my contentment, people seem more drawn to the real me than they ever were to the false, projected, “popular” me.
Jesus said it best, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)