If Procrastes offers you a meal and a bed for the night, politely but firmly decline.
The bed he offers is one of those metal-framed types, and Procrustes wants his guests to fit the bed perfectly, whether they are too tall for it or too short. So he’ll chop something off his tall guests and stretch his shorter ones – Procrustes means “the Stretcher.”*
Procrustes also goes but the name of Damastes and Polyphemon, so be careful. Procrustes also hides inside religions and institutions and societies that want you to fit in rather than be who you are; he can even influence parents and teachers and peers and friends to think his way. Worst of all, his voice speaks inside our heads.
In the wonderful story of a boy and his tree friend Bertolt the little boy is learning how:
‘The only problem is that when you are different, people can laugh at you, or even worse. Sometime people don’t like what’s different.’**
Anne Lamott offers some hope for letting people be who they are:
‘Kindness towards others and radical kindness towards ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Do you want this, or do you want to be right? Well, can I get back to you on that?’^
I think the kind of kindness Lamott is describing is about noticing the truth about ourselves and others, the good things and bad, helping each other to navigate the messiness of our lives into something beautiful.
We all struggle with this condition of wanting ourselves and others to fit in, to conform, to get in line, and have to catch our breath, and step back from what we were going to say or do, and help people to be themselves.
Erwin McManus confesses:
‘What I learned from twenty years of indecisiveness is that you will either define yourself or be defined by others. You will either choose your life or life a life that was never meant to be yours.’^^
Around thirteen years ago, Erwin offered a bed for a few nights of a stay in Los Angeles. Instead of stretching me or chopping me down, this stay in his home helped me to choose my life in a new way, something I seek to be about every day for myself and others.