Should We Own It?

Name It and Claim It: Just because it has a name, can we own it? Should we own it?

I want to talk about when we claim things in our lives as if they are a possession. Whether it is tangible or emotional or spiritual, how much of it do we grab a hold of and declare, “This is mine?”

This isn’t an exhaustive, philosophical paper on the prosperity gospel so don’t get excited. No, this is to provoke thought about ownership of the actions, thoughts, and emotions that are already part of our lives. Does owning something alter its value, whether it be real or perceived?

Let’s just make a list of the common tangible things that people own. These are the things that we can purchase or in other physical or legal ways, can very much claim to be “mine.”  My house. My car. My chair. Those are very basic possessions but still very much the kinds of things we own. What about things that are already of a part of us like our hair, eyes, etc.? Although not purchased they are inherently ours. Our family, our children our friends: people are obviously not things to be owned but we claim the position they hold in our lives and hearts.

A common quote, although likely inaccurate, is

Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Meaning that when you physically possess something, you have a stronger legal claim to it than someone who just claims ownership. For example, you bought the hammer but I’m holding it, therefore it’s more mine than yours. Are you beginning to get the idea of that laying claim to something becomes how we believe it to be truly our own?

Let’s get a little more abstract because I want to explore the question, just because I claim this thing to be mine, do I own it? More importantly, should I own it? Let’s start by tackling the idea of owning an experience. Both good and bad things happen to us throughout life. Everything from experiencing the joy of watching a beautiful sunset to being abandoned as a child. That is the broadest stroke of the simplest good thing to one of the worst possible experiences ever. But are they ours? Can we claim the sunset as belonging to us? More to the point, is being abandoned ours to own? If we cannot own one experience, then we certainly cannot claim the other. These are events and happenings that may have had an impact on our lives in one way or another, but they are not ours to carry throughout our entire lives. Why would anyone ever want to own and haul around horrible experiences wherever they go? If you’ve ever moved from one house to another, then you know how very difficult it is to pack up and take everything you own. Everything gets scrutinized, carefully packed in tidy boxes, hauled away and then unpacked in the new location and re-displayed in the perfect new spot even though it’s still old stuff. Moving stuff can be heavy and awkward, and it almost always requires help, not to mention paying people in pizza.

If you’ve had an experience that was an offense was made against you, then yes, it is part of what has shaped you. But it is not yours to hold on to and pack up to make sure it’s aways with you, wherever you move to. Every time you claim ownership of it, you have essentially made it a part of your identity, just like your hair or eyes. But it isn’t yours. It happened to you. 

What about an illness or chronic condition? These are not the kinds of things that we can just decide they don’t exist.  They don’t always have a start and stop date but are seemingly ever present. Although just because it has a name, that doesn’t imply that we can own it. Arthritis, Diabetes, Cancer, OCD, Bipolar Disorder; they all have names, but did we purchase it? Can we sell it or trade it or even toss it aside and forget about it? None of these things have value like a treasured possession, whether it be monetary or sentimental. Nobody wants these things so why are we so ready to claim them just because they have a name, and own them as if we chose them like something we intentionally purchased?

When we refer to the things in our lives that we were never intended to own, as “mine” we make it part of our identity in the way that our hair, eye color, or the way we laugh are ours.

We often hear people talk about my anxiety, my disability, my depression, or my abuse, for examples. By denying them doesn’t make them go away. That’s a very ostrich-like approach. If we stick our head in the sand it doesn’t cease to exist. We once had a cat that would play hide and seek by sticking his head behind the curtain as if to say, “If I can’t see you then you can’t see me.” 

Not claiming ownership of something does not make it disappear. Rather, by not identifying these things as ours, as if they belong to us in the same way that our hair or eyes do, we remove them from being our identity.

When the things that we were not created to own become a part of our lives it is then that they becomes part of what influences us. There is no way these very difficult conditions cannot have an impact on our lives! They may create a physical limitation or cause us to look differently at circumstances. Some things may require special compensations or careful navigation to function well daily. 

The thing is:  just because it has a name, doesn’t mean we have to claim it. It certainly does not mean we should own it. 

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