The Virtue Trap

This is a hard one. I’m going to say it right up front.

You see these words “virtue” and “trap” and already you are suspicious, right? It’s ok. I was too. I was also a bit intrigued.

The idea of The Virtue Trap comes out of the book “The Artist’s Way.” If you’ve been around me for a while, you’ll hear me talk about this resource … a lot!

I have been facilitating Artist’s Way Groups for over a year now and I find it to be one of the most amazing tools to rethink what creativity can look like in your life and how God may be more for your creative dreams than you’ve allowed yourself to believe.

In the book, Julia Cameron writes this about The Virtue Trap: “You do not have to be good.”

Yikes! What do you feel when you read that?

Does something inside flare up?

Anger, maybe? Disgust? Dismissal?

I get it. I really do.

When I first read the section on The Virtue Trap, I thought, “Wait a minute! I’m a Christian and Scripture tells me to ‘lay down my life’ for others. This includes my family, my community and even strangers.”

But let’s back up and take a thousand foot view here.

What Cameron is saying is not “don’t care for others” but rather “don’t be so concerned about looking good, people pleasing and saying ‘yes’ to everything that this desire to be virtuous–to be seen as good–becomes a block, causing you to not show up for the creative, God-given purpose you were meant to accomplish.”

This was so revolutionary for me!

It was a call to put up some boundaries I had previously seen as being selfish.

And when I began to do this, the first wall of the Virtue Trap began to crumble.

I stopped blaming the dear people in my world for being the reason why I wasn’t creating.

You see, I had begun to play the victim.

My husband was the reason I wasn’t creating. He needed me to be available.

My kids demanded too much of me.

My community needed me.

Do you see the keyword here? “ME.”

I had constructed elaborate narratives around this idea of being needed, but it was really just about feeling like I was ok; that I was of value to others. And then (and here’s the real kicker) all those people who needed me were also keeping me from creating. How is that for a turnaround!

Suddenly, I was a victim being trapped by my various roles. Mom. Wife. Friend. Community member.

And do you know what happens when we become the victim? Someone else has to be to blame!

Did my husband or children or friends sign up for that role? For the role of the oppressor? Nope!

So how do we break the cycle?

Beautifully, we stop believing our goodness depends on what we do for others or how we look to others and we begin to put some boundaries around our creative time and energy.

It may be hard at first.

People may wonder why you’ve stopped volunteering for everything, why you don’t answer the phone on the first ring, why you sometimes say “no” to invitations to babysit/housesit/spend hours talking.

People might not see you as being quite so “good.” But in reality, you are becoming something better than good. You are becoming authentic.

And when you do this, you can say “yes” to things with confidence and clarity because you are saying yes to the right things instead of all the things.

This isn’t an easy process. In fact, it’s rather grueling. But is it worth it? YES!

If you’d like to learn more about The Virtue Trap, grab a copy of “The Artist’s Way.” It’s an amazing tool to unblock your creativity and grow!

And if you want to go a step further, check out the link for my “Artist’s Way Groups” and come do the work in a supportive and safe group of women!

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