I’d shake your hand, but mine is full with all these little gods.

They weren’t so big when they first caught my eye. They weren’t so ugly either. No, they were pretty, when we first met, these little gods and I. And they fit so comfortably to the shape of my hand, so smoothly in my grasp, it was as though I was meeting a dear old friend.

Thus I put them on, like rings, just to enjoy for a little while, but they are rather reluctant to leave. So my hands are heavy, but aren’t they beautiful, with all these little gods?

My Little Gods

The sense of Entitlement—my oldest friend. He came first, in robes of scarlet splendor. He put his arm around me, and whispered in my ear a world of things that I need, that I deserve. To travel, to explore, to have plenty to eat—they were necessities for happiness, he told me, common sense. No matter there are countries of people who don’t live like this, he said. Go visit them if you feel guilty. So I did, never noticing the privilege of flying, or that this right to travel was something these people I was kind enough to help might never enjoy. And in this benefiting, this well-wishing, as I hopped from plane to plane with iPhone and camera in hand, as I took photos of destitution for a slideshow back home, it never crossed my mind that they might pity me.

The desire for Wealth—he came next, once Entitlement had sunk its roots. This was, after all the road to attaining all that I deserved. Wealth—that was power, I knew it to my core. With wealth came choice, came influence, came comfort, all of which Entitlement taught me was my birthright. He was so smooth, that wealth, so sly and sweet. He appealed to the altruistic part of me yet uncorrupted, and told me wealth was needed to make any impact, even a good one.

Once Wealth had me mesmerized, Anger set in, and with it, quite a storm. Wealth made me dream, made me envy, made me long, and then put me right back where I was. In his wake, I noticed, all seemed dim. My things, once treasured, now lacked their luster. What had once brought me joy was now hideous. Anger baptized me in the bitterness of lacking, a poison that ran deep in my veins. I held onto the anger because I felt Entitlement’s indigence, and thus put on another ring.

Beauty—oh, that one surprised me at first. She was a painter, with quite the eye. She unveiled a canvas of a woman, bones jutting out at every angle, a jaunt, pulled face, hollow eyes, and she said, isn’t she lovely? She wore clothes and chemicals I hated but felt compelled to clone, because that’s what it takes to be loved, she said. And so I wear this ring, but she is so heavy, and comes with Entitlement and Anger at the necessity of Wealth, and the nagging whisper that I won’t quite measure up.

Guilt, he is the most burdensome and the hardest to shake. I first put him on because he seemed to echo the sentiments of my soul. The sentiments that maybe, just maybe, Entitlement and Wealth and Anger and Beauty are rings that are worthless in the end. Heavy and solid, but made of lead, not givers of joy but of grief. But these rings are so shiny, I can’t give them up, and so Guilt has joined their number, causing my hands to drag on the ground.

Better God

I’ve heard somewhere of an upside-down kingdom, of a God who sees not currency but hearts. I’ve heard of a river that satisfies so deeply, that those with nothing still have enough. Where gratitude’s garden grows higher and richer than the barren weeds of bitterness, where no loss, no lacking, no pain on earth can dry up its healing rains. Of a place where none is entitled, but all have been given, and dance with free hands lifted high. I’ve heard of a King who shines so brightly, who makes all these rings seem small.

Of a King who is strong enough to pry my hands loose of all these little gods.

Editors’ note: 

A version of this article appeared at Steeped In Thought.