FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. We don’t want to miss anything. We want it all! And we want it all, NOW! (Well, at least I do. Maybe you’re that rare creature who never resists the the reality that we are finite beings operating within the limits of space and time. If you are that unicorn of self-control, you can quit reading. However, if you, like me, regularly put too much on your calendar, plate, desk and the first flat surface you see when you enter the house, then you’ll want to keep reading.
Important: I’m not a therapist, psychologist, or pastor. So, I can’t offer you that kind of expert counsel. What I can offer you is the fruit of twenty plus years of study, practice, trial and error that empowered me to develop and maintain healthy boundaries and more fulfilling relationships.
The First Experience of FOMO: Adam and Eve
When Adam and Eve surrendered to the fear of missing out on the supposed benefits of the forbidden fruit, they experienced the consequences of their choice. (See Genesis 3.)
What the serpent tempted them with turned out to be a twisted version of God’s reality. The illusion that they could ignore the limits God set for them were just that: an illusion.
You know what else proved to be an illusion? The lie the tempter told them:
You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
Adam and Eve chose to listen to the shrewd snake and doubt the goodness of God in setting the limit. They believed the lie that God was holding out on them by setting the boundary of not eating from that particular tree.
Adam and Eve were the first to surrender to the temptation of FOMO. They used their freedom to fight against God’s reality. Then they fled from that reality as if they could hide from God.
Their choice had consequences that could not be escaped. Our choices do to.
And while God offered them grace to help them endure the consequences, the truth still remained true and the consequences still came to pass.
What happens when I push God’s limits?
I have a tendency to push my limits and think I can handle more than I really was built to balance. An example of this bad habit is my tendency to let more and more stuff pile up on my desk. “Tidy, schmidy. Ain’t nobody got time for that! This mess is not a problem,” I rationalize to myself as I stack another paper or book on the pile of piles.
Then, finally, I reach the point where I can’t find what I need when I need it. I miss deadlines. I run late to meetings. I don’t have any space to work, and it totally stresses me out.
My cluttered physical space causes my thinking to become cluttered and chaotic. When I ignore the obvious need to set reasonable limits on how many things I can work on at one time, I inevitably end up with a desk that looks like this:
And as bad as my office gets, my mind and body are worse! Stress, irritability, over-eating to distract myself from the stress. It’s not pretty!
The fear of missing out on trying to do everything all at once is just one of my FOMO fallout stories. What’s your flak from falling for FOMO?
Maybe you resist limiting the number of commitments you make to help out at church or school.
Maybe you take on too many work assignments?
Maybe you struggle with spending outside the bounds of your budget.
While our capacity to function as God intended is limited, the ways we can rebel against our limits is seemingly limitless.
We stress ourselves out in many different ways but the common underlying cause is resisting our God-given reality that we are finite beings operating in a finite world.
Fight or Flight Aren’t Our Only Options
I can fight the reality of the finite space on my desk and finite focus of my easily-distracted brain. But that only works for so long. Actually, it doesn’t work but I have become really good at convincing myself that my way is working.
But I’m just fooling myself by adding more than the desk or my brain was created to handle. God created us to operate (this side of glory, anyway) within a finite space and time.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who is going to win in a fight between me and God. He and his way wins every time! So that leads me to try my other option.
I flee the reality of the consequences of my fight. Yep, I just pick up my laptop and leave the room. As I close the door on the chaos, I feel a sense of relief. I think this figurative fig leaf is hiding my rebellion quite nicely.
But as soon as I’m downstairs working on the kitchen table, I’ll realize I need something from my disheveled office.
I dread the sight of the piles I will see when I open that door. I convince myself I know exactly where in that clutter the one thing I need at that moment is located.
Twenty minutes of digging through piles of books and papers later and I’m as overwhelmed as my office. My attempt at hiding is as successful as Adam and Eve’s in Eden. (See Genesis 3.)
My flight only temporarily puts off the frustration. The overloaded office (and mind, and calendar, and plate…) is really just a symptom of my real problem: I don’t like living within the limitations God created me to live within.
I convince myself I can keep adding more and more stuff to my space, appointments to my calendar, tasks to my to-do list, and food in my mouth without experiencing the consequences.
Heads or Tails? Our Choices Come with Consequences.
As a team captain, my son would be asked by the referee to call heads or tails before the coin flip. There was no changing his call once the coin was flipped. His decision led to the natural consequences once that coin hit the ground.
Same for us in life. God created us with a free will and the freedom to make choices. But every choice comes with its consequences.
We can fight that reality and/or try to flee the inevitable consequences, but sooner or later the coin hits the turf and we have to face the fallout. There are inevitably real consequences whenever we pay no mind to our limits.
The better choice: Surrender to God’s Reality
When I surrender to God’s reality—to the limitations he has set and operate within those boundaries—I find peace, order, and joy.
I can stop adding to the clutter. I can make time to clear out the non-essentials and accept I can’t do it all right now.
Yes, I will miss out on the illusion of being more productive. But that’s all it is: an illusion.
And I can make peace with the fact that I will have to say no to some opportunities. But the reward of living within my limits is worth the cost of missing out on some lower priority activities.
I can either surrender to the temptation of the FOMO and reap the consequences of overwhelm and stress. Or I can surrender to the Creator’s design of 24 hours in each day, only so many square inches of desk space, and only so much capacity for focus and reap the reward of peace and order.
Let’s Learn from Adam and Eve
If only Adam and Eve had chosen to live within the limits God gave them. If only I will choose to trust that my Creator has my good and the good of all of us in mind when he decided to create us with limits.
So, I’ll keep reminding myself that the temptation to surrender to the FOMO will never pay the dividends of surrendering to God’s good limits. I pray you will experience the peace, order, and joy of doing so as well.
What situations trigger your FOMO? How do you make peace with your limits? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Stay Tuned for BOUNDARY BASICS #3
In [BOUNDARY BASICS #3] we will learn from the apostle Paul how to recognize when we’ve got a boundary problem. The principle Paul shared with the Galatians is generally the big “ah-ha” moment for my boundary students. So be sure you open and read every word of that one!