Jonah’s Importance in the Bible : Anger & Unexpected Outcomes

Jonah’s importance in the bible is well known: in the story, Jonah, tries to run away from God and ends up on a ship in a storm. He is thrown overboard, swallowed by a Whale and cries out to God for help. God answers and the whale spits him back up onto shore. Jonah then goes ahead and delivers the message of God to Nineveh, fulfilling the act he was previously running away from.

Recently, I decided to study Jonah in depth and try to find the importance of Jonah as a biblical text. Looking beyond the ‘children’s version’ that we so often hear, I searched out commentaries and worked my way through the entire book. I began to see Jonah’s importance with new eyes and realised how so often, the ‘whale moment’ takes centre stage; I had missed out on so much of the importance of Jonah in the rest of the story.

Picture of an ocean, with a whale diving into the water

‘This whaley got me!’

Jonah consists of four chapters. The well known story of Jonah’s encounter happens in the first two chapters. In chapter 3, Jonah goes to Ninevah, and in chapter 4, things get a little confusing. Why don’t you take a read?

I recommend you pause to take a look at Jonah in the bible, particular Chapter 4.

I had never even noticed that this part of the story existed. Jonah ends up sitting outside of the city, distressed and angry. We witness Jonah and God converse and see an encounter enfold: Jonah angrily questions why God would forgive the people of Ninevah, and God answers, ‘do you have a right to be angry?’

The passage is full of rhetorical questions as Jonah gets angry, and even says, ‘I wish I were dead!’ The book ends with a similarly strange happening: God makes a plant grow to shade Jonah and then it withers the next day, making Jonah angry again. God answers: ‘You were concerned about this plant even though you didn’t make it grow. Should I not be concerned for Ninevah?’ (Paraphrased.)

And just like that, the book ends! What?! Did the writers just give up and leave it unfinished? Has someone fallen asleep and not recorded a conclusion to the story? And what on earth is that plant section about? Weird!

If you’re just as confused as me, then do not worry. Stick with me, and we can go on a journey together to discover some deeper truths and unpack the meaning of this biblical encounter between Jonah and God.

Unpacking Jonah’s Importance

The book of Jonah makes up part of a collection of Old Testament prophets, all whom deliver a message from God to his people. Uniquely, the book of Jonah tells us more about Jonah’s life and journey in delivering the message, than it does about the actual message. The author evidently felt that the life of Jonah had more importance than the message to the Ninevites: the importance of Jonah as a book, is to tell us about Jonah’s journey and God’s compassion for Ninevah.

We can let Jonah’s life point us to God and teach us some lessons.

A four-chapter account of Jonah’s story ends, as mentioned, in a slightly strange and abrupt set of questions posed by God to Jonah.

The rhetorical ending

Ever posed a rhetorical question? In our literary culture and language, rhetorical questions and writings commonly exist. The art of rhetoric is a clever and well known method of posing questions, not to be answered, but to either make a statement, produce effect or imply an underlying truth. As a collection of God-inspired writings (stories, accounts, poetry…), the bible also uses literary devices and in Jonah, we see rhetoric.

Yes, the book of Jonah really does end abruptly. The important questions that God poses are rhetoric: ‘Do you have the right to be angry at me?’ ‘Should I not have compassion or concern for Ninevah?’ God poses these to imply that He alone is God. They imply that God can do as He likes, and that we really shouldn’t get angry at God. As the book ends on these questions, we as readers become more engaged – the rhetoric goes unanswered, which draws us into the conversation.

God is actively laying the question before us: who do we think God is? We are invited to explore and ponder the deep questions of Jonah for ourselves.

With that in mind, let’s explore more of Jonah’s story…

Patterns of Grace

(Read Jonah 4:1-11 for reference)

When Jonah gets angry, he admits a faulty motive. At the start of chapter 4, Jonah confesses that the reason he ran away in the first place, was because he didn’t want God to forgive Ninevah. Jonah literally decided that they weren’t worthy of grace and intentionally wanted to stop God from being compassionate. This is a huge issue in itself. But even after Jonah survives the whale and decides to go to Ninevah, he gets angry at God.

Jonah doesn’t just overstep, he reveals that all along, his heart was against God’s. He lacks reverence for who God is. More so, he actually says, ‘I wish I were dead,’ without acknowledging that God could take his life away in that moment – be careful what you wish for Jonah! Yet, at every moment, God patiently offers grace. God doesn’t strike Jonah down, or condemn him. God patiently offers gentle rhetorical questions and in the mean time, provides comforting shade from the sun by making a plant grow beside him.

Each time Jonah steps out of line or his motives attempt to care more for his glory than God’s, God simply offers grace. This is the importance of Jonah’s angry encounter: we see a God who is slow to anger, full of grace and patiently loving. Jonah fails, God is gracious.

Fuelled by blessing more than God himself

So Jonah fails, and God graciously offers compassion and rhetorical questions to gently remind him of who He is. God provides a shady plant to comfort him. Jonah is ‘very happy’ about this. Isn’t that lovely?

But, the next day, this plant withers and Jonah gets angry again. The blessing Jonah had has disappeared – so where is God? Why has God given him something and then taken it away again? How is that loving or kind?

I definitely relate to this. I think we all at times in our lives can become angry or frustrated when life seems to be full of blessings which suddenly seem to disappear overnight. It’s so easy to question God and like Jonah, grow angry…

The problem is this: I think Jonah was more fuelled and focused on the blessing, than on God himself. He was more happy about the plant, than about the fact that God was caring for him. The plant was the means of God’s care, not the care itself. The plant withered, but God’s love and faithfulness remained present. Jonah didn’t quite see that, and he got angry.

Jonah’s Importance: the struggle

(You may wish to briefly scan Jonah 2:1-10 to accompany this overview)

Similarly, in Chapter 2, whilst in the whale, Jonah cries out to God in desperation. God miraculously moves and rescues him, causing the whale to spit him out onto dry ground. Jonah comes to realise how greatly God has rescued him, which then propels him to go to Ninevah after all.

In the miraculous whale moment, Jonah realises that he mustn’t turn away from God or seek out his own plans. He makes a vow to follow God. We read of this great salvation moment, when Jonah decides to follow God, because of how He has delivered him! How exciting?!

In chapter 3, Jonah goes to Ninevah and delivers a message of warning, that if the people of Ninevah continue in wickedness, they will experience God’s judgement. But, the Ninevites turn back to God and God is gracious and forgives them, giving compassion in place of judgement.

This throws Jonah. The word that Jonah spoke in faith and in power, is not fulfilled – judgement doesn’t come. God moves in a better way and Jonah doesn’t like it. It’s no longer about Jonah’s message but about God. In fact, Jonah is left looking a little silly and unpopular, so he runs away from the city to the outskirts – to sulk!

When we don’t see the fruit

Jonah doesn’t see the fruit that he expected in his ministry. Suddenly, it’s not about Jonah and his message. Jonah is out of the equation and instead, it’s about God’s grace for Ninevah.

Jonah, who was miraculously caught up in an incredible whale-based encounter with God, had probably expected that this power and miraculous work would continue as he went to Ninevah. Jonah probably believed that God would tangibly work through his message, and perhaps, he would become a ‘feared’ prophet. When God does the unexpected, by deciding not to do what Jonah’s message predicted (in showing compassion instead of judgement), Jonah is confused.

Jonah falls into the temptation of forgetting the real good news in his earlier miraculous whale moment: God’s grace saved him.

Jonah was so focused and propelled by the power, miracle and blessing of his testimony itself, that He forgets to trust in God, just for being God.

Jonah is living fuelled on the blessings of God rather than on God himself. Jonah is more worried about how his ministry turned out for his own glory, than about surrendering to God’s higher and often unexpected ways.

God’s answer in rhetoric could be interpreted as this: ‘Who is God? Me or you?’

Jonah should follow God because He is God – not just because of the blessings he can receive from God. Jonah didn’t quite grasp this when he made his vow after the whale encounter.

Additionally, we see how even Jonah, who experienced God in such a powerful whale moment, still messed up. The story doesn’t end with Jonah on dry land, saved and living obediently as we so often hear when it’s retold. We get to see how Jonah wrestled with questions, with unexpected plans, mistakes, temptations… And we witness God’s incredible grace and compassion. I find that so encouraging! We see what it is to be human in Jonah and how God lovingly corrects and challenges us, in place of condemning.

Heart Check

Jonah’s importance in the bible prompts us to look at our own lives. Jonah needed a heart check, and we to can ask ourselves the hearty questions:

  1. Am I fuelled by the blessings that God graciously provides, or by faith in God himself? Have I become more dependent on prosperity with God, instead of depending on God himself who is faithful and good?
  2. When God doesn’t move in the way that we expect, will we acknowledge that He owns the glory and has determined best?
  3. Have I been angry about a situation in my life? Can I let go, repent and trust in God’s grace again today?

Paths – Fate, feat, or….?

Graduating University throws big decisions at us. How are we to navigate the next path?

How do I know what path to take?

Isaiah 30:21 says, ”Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘this is the way,’ walk in it.”

But is it really that simple?

Fate or Feat?

It seems many sit on one of two sides. A) We have absolutely no control over our path, but rather, fate evolves from sequential circumstances that create our unique paths. B) Our path is ours to choose, whether by actively progressing, making decisions or attempting to control/prevent future disadvantage by our own means.

Neither of those options work. If we have no control, then the sum of our interests, pursuits and efforts is nil. We may as well sit back and truth be told, we become prisoners to a pathway we did not choose. We are unable to ‘opt out’ and find a better, more life-giving career/relationship/venture, unless fate affords the chance. Yet in reverse, when we view our journey as the sum of our making, we instantly come under a huge burden: I must fix my personal life; I must work harder to win my dream job; If life turns sour, I only have myself and my past naive decisions to blame.

Neither option truly grants freedom.

The Dilemma

So, are we simply lost in slavery and floating between two dilemmas? Stuck trying to figure out what to do with our lives? At 23, I Know all too well the reality of half feeling like I must make more of myself, or better decisions, and half wishing for things to fall naturally into place for me.

We can’t win! Perhaps, you also, are being pulled backwards and forwards between the two? Maybe, you’ve never really stopped to think about the path you’re on? Thirdly, you could be confused or curious about how exactly, you can know that the decision you do make is the right one? I am very much a number three!

Finding a Better Way

Fortunately, I have found and I know a better option: to trust in God. God is our Father and creator who is close and interested in our lives. He is not a distant Christmas, bearded figure. For thousands of years, many writings about him have been passed down that are just as true today. This particular one recalls a promise that God spoke:

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God really does have a perfect, unique plan for each one of us! We can step into that, learning to place the control and our path in his hands.

Story Time – My Big Decision

As an illustration, I’ll use my own story. Earlier this year I was faced with a huge decision: stay in Bath with all my friends and study on, or, move to Edinburgh to start completely afresh and study in a new place. How on earth could I decide that alone? How would I ever really know which would really be best and live without the FOMO whenever I looked back on the option I didn’t choose?

In faith I remembered: My God has the perfect plan for me and I can ask him to show me which way to go. As the Isaiah verse says, we can literally look to God, ask him to show us which path to take, and He will answer.

Wait?! God speaks?

God showed me that this time, the path to take was one of uprooting and moving to Edinburgh. Did He come down from the clouds in a booming voice that said, ‘Ye shall move!’? No. God is much more diverse, creative and personal. He speaks in different ways to different people, and gradually, gentle whispers turned into louder prompts and an invitation to trust. I decided to hold my future open handedly, deciding I would trust whichever way God revealed because He knows best.

I began to find that the name, ‘Edinburgh,’ came up in conversation a lot, with many different people. As I read my bible and prayed, things jumped out at me about not staying comfortable and being ready to say, ‘I will go.’ I explored more about the city and felt so excited , really coming alive by my first impression. I applied to the University to test waters and prayed, ‘Ok, if this is right, let it be. If not, God, would you please close the door?’ 6 days later I received an acceptance letter – much earlier than typical waiting times! If that wasn’t enough, from then on, every time I began to doubt, God graciously gave me signs of his provision: A miraculous house find; Financial help to purchase a car; Dreams in which I saw myself living there; Friends and connections beginning to develop before I’d even left Bath…

Coincidental?

Perhaps, all this may sound like coincidence. But when you are inundated with so many things, then truly, it can only be God! He is orchestrating all things to unfold in his good purposes. It just takes faith and courage to believe and trust. Hear it from me, yes, it is daunting and sad to leave all the good I had in my life in Bath. But, I can freely rest, knowing that I’m in Gods hands – not the hands of fate, or worse, my own hands. I don’t depend on chance or my own, and often, inability to make good decisions.

I am already experiencing the blessings of a new season, because God is so unbelievably good and He will never abandon us!

Will you take fate, feat, or try God?

What path are you on? What decisions are ahead? Try asking God to come alongside you, and to help you recognise his whispers of loving guidance. May you know the God who has a perfect and prosperous plan for your life.

If this is the first time you open up to the possibility of there being a God out there, then, welcome! I pray that you will come to have your eyes opened to the wonders of his love and guidance at work in your life.

Got questions? Send them here and let’s chat!

Want to join the conversation? Post your comments below. How have you noticed God guiding you lately?

Fireworks? Finding faith.

Bonfire night is approaching and I am a lover of fireworks.

Two months ago, I was out walking with my wonderful mentor and church ‘mum.’ I had just moved back to Bath after a wonderful but isolated 7 months living at home. I was thriving, back living with my best friends and being in community. Life was planned out and about to unfold. 

Out on Victoria’s front door step, we began to pray. On the driveway, we surrendered all my dreams and relationships to God, open-handedly. As she prayed, she asked God to ‘take my black and white knowledge of God and transform it into a technicolour season of beholding the glory of the Lord in a new season.’ 

What did I imagine? Fireworks, of course!

Explosion

Little did I know that this ‘technicolour season’ of fireworks would look incredibly like a bomb site for a while. Two weeks later, the guy I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with abruptly walked out of it. Suddenly my hopes and dreams for the future were shaken. I don’t need to share details other than that it was a beautiful relationship and journey I am grateful for.

Besides the grief and heartbreak, I became confused and angry. Somehow, I found the strength to pursue a good closure and to forgive. But, I didn’t understand why God would strip everything away when life had just started to be rose-tinted. It’s still painful and writing this alone requires a shear audacity, but in it, I’ve realised something.

He takes away to establish.

God will never allow any situation to compromise the prosperous plan he has for each one of us. Because he loves us. 

I surrendered all to God open handed and let me tell you, that’s a dangerous prayer. Done that, got the t-shirt – without even noticing there was a t-shirt on offer.

I only see in part right now, but I choose to trust that He is good – and He is! 

I’ve cried and I’ve been comforted. I have been discouraged and I’ve also been carried by my friends in the most incredible way. I’ve had to make decisions about my future during this strange time and God has placed so many great people around me to remind me of who I am; they to call out my gifts and encourage me to dream for God’s plan. 

The season I had was beautiful and the season I am in is also beautiful. 

My life looks completely different today. I could be angry or overwhelmed by this. I may try to fill my life up with one hundred things, complain or go about pretending that life couldn’t be better; I often build a false sense of ownership over my life. But time and time again, I have been reminded, comforted, and humbled by the fact that Jesus did not own his life – he gave it.

The Perfect Plan?

All the stuff we hold onto, is nothing but wooden furniture in the glorious throne room of the creator of the universe. What does it profit to gain the whole world but miss out on the perfectly ordained life Jesus wants to offer you? Believe me – Jesus offers hope in life eternal and fullness of life in this world for today.

Through it all, God has been my deliverer. In it all, God has been my first love and even on stubborn days, He is patient. I am believing and seeing that God’s plan is good and he is faithful.

I’m beginning to see in technicolour. You see, God will never compromise the prosperous and perfect plan that He has for you just so that you can feel comfortable in the present. Fruitful plants must be pruned before they blossom.

Fireworks

Over the past month, God has opened so many doors. As I’ve put my hope in God, he’s placed new and old dreams on my heart. The future-decisions I’m facing are more exciting, open and promising. New and old friendships have unfolded. Despite my circumstances, I have known unbounding joy (which does not mean I haven’t shed many tears) and Christ’s grace has been sufficient always. In it all, I’ve come back to the heart of God, knowing that I am outrageously loved and that He has so much more for me!

I have learnt that we do not get a guaranteed comfort in life, nor should we expect it. But, we do have a saviour who himself sacrificed his comfort to save us and it is a privilege to be uncomfortable yet comforted by God – to further grasp and understand Jesus in a new light. 

I’m not writing this for my own comfort, or for testimony or affirmation. I’m writing it because I want you to know that God is good. I want you to realise that life with God is the best it can be! I want you to know that God loves you and has a hope and a future for you. Don’t be discouraged just because you can’t see it.

Sometimes we have to let go of our own black and white idea of ‘prosperity,’ face the uncertain or uncomfortable and step into the technicolour life God wants to lead us into. 

Be encouraged

If you’re facing a decision or a new venture that involves leaving a comfort zone, or letting go of something, be encouraged. Run to the God of all comfort. Kneel in the glorious throne room, dearly loved and wonderfully made for more. Just as Jesus openly gave his life for yours, may you trust that your open-handed surrender will be anointed by the God who can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. And may you know that in all things, it is the Lord who completely satisfies our hearts – nothing and no one else but him.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, “Ephesians 3:20

A prayer:

Holy Spirit, help me to trust you. Jesus, thank you that you gave everything so that I may have life and know the outrageous love that God has for me. I’m sorry for when I grip so tightly to my comfort, that I don’t step into your incredible plans. Help me to discern your plans for me and open my eyes to see in technicolour. Amen.

Social Justice – Trendy or True?

Social justice and sustainability have become a modern trend label. However, do we truly know what it means?

Lately I’ve been part of a book club, reading ‘generous justice’ by Tim Keller. It looks at a holistic picture of these global issues and as a group we’ve been discussing, learning and asking questions. Through these conversations I suddenly realised how shallow my view of sustainability had been.

A Limited View

If you think social justice or sustainability is all about reducing your carbon emissions or refusing to buy clothing, then you are on your way. But there is so much more.

Social justice is all about allowing every single person on earth, to live a full life. It’s about generating equality, fairness, freedom and value in all global societies.

Likewise, the UN sustainability goals are not limited to responsible consumption and biodiversity. Others include equality, good education, healthcare, excellent work, economic growth… find the list here.

Go Beyond ‘Charity’ – Holistic ‘Social Justice’

Holistically, social justice views every individual as worthy; it looks beyond charity, restoring dignity and breaking boundaries. It requires us to think selflessly in all areas of life and continually question how we can use the influence we have, to provide (and not exploit) someone else’s stepping stones.

Whilst poverty is a huge issue, it’s more than this – there are rich people today who are outcasted or politically restricted and stripped from a full life. Older generations are increasingly lonely.

Social justice is complex. Encouragingly, we can get actively involved.

What lessons have I learnt lately?

  1. Poverty is complex and systematic. One huge issue is debt and the truth is, debt is a chaotic, overwhelming experience. Giving to charities such as CAP (who free people from debts whilst coaching them to make good financial habits) gives others the chance of a more financially-free life.
  2. In the workplace, justice can be as simple as being a good employer, paying a generous wage or encouraging initiatives that support local groups / schools / charities.
  3. Inclusivity is essential. There should be no social outsiders. Even as children at school, we witness a social ranking that always classes certain individuals as ‘weird’ or outsiders. Whether at school, in the office, or neighbourhood, living for social justice means intentionally conversing, and building life with those who are different. Don’t just give a charitable smile. Befriend them. Invite the person you wouldn’t normally invite to your gathering. Everyone has a right to flourish and be in your community.
  4. Advocacy has power. Those in higher classes or positions can do more than financially exchanging charity. Those with education, power, knowledge, business… should be pressuring officials to make beneficial changes in lower class neighbourhoods. They should be offering apprenticeships to local state school children.
  5. Whatever skill or treasure you have, you can use it to build up a family or community around you.

Local social justice can be simple

Social justice is often viewed on a global scale. Globally we can have a huge impact yes, but God is also in the details. Our holistic sustainability starts in the small everyday. We make 35,000 decisions everyday. What if we challenged ourselves to make more selfless decisions today than we did yesterday?

Locally, we can:

  • Grab coffee from an independent business, supporting a local individual in place of a multi-million corporate chain.
  • Buy an additional healthy meal for the food bank because no one in your town should be going hungry
  • Consider how our political decisions can promote beneficial change in struggling neighbourhoods and schools
  • Talk to our neighbours – you never know who may be lonely, feeling overwhelmed or in need of a non-financial helping hand.
  • Take interest in how our banks invest money; move to good banks that support rather than exploit. It’s free and good to view society interest and not just your own 0.23%.
  • See an issue? Write to your MP or local council. Or, get your community together to take action.
  • Education is vital, and we can do this from a mobile phone! Last year, BLM protests sparked a new trend on social media. People were educated, and others shared infographics on social media to challenge us to rethink, sign petitions and better understand various issues. Let’s keep doing this!

Sustainability & Excellent Work

Finally, I want to highlight one of the UN goals: excellent work. Our vocation is one of the biggest influences we have. If we work excellently, to high standards and whilst considering others, we can see social justice.

I’m working in the field of architecture. Working excellently means always ensuring that wheelchair users, children, elderly, blind, deaf and many other ‘forgotten’ people can joyfully experience it. Working excellently means ensuring buildings are fire safe – avoiding a repeat of Grenfell. It’s designing good quality social housing that promotes good well being and values it’s users over the profits. Working excellently is encouraging clients to contribute to good public space, improving street safety and providing a place for communities to flourish.

What resource do you have? Can you make a non-financial exchange for someone’s life? What does excellent work look like for you?

Reality of Humanity

We desire social justice but sadly cannot see that 100% fulfilled. We are human. Humans make mistakes. I fail. There is grace and that grace should encourage us to try again. Try to selflessly use our generosity and caring capacity, to consider others in as many decisions as we possibly can.

You will make 35,000 decisions today. Let some of those be intentional decisions to give others a fair, full and free life. Aim to make more good decisions today.

Disclaimer: I’m far from many of these goals myself but I hope to try!

For more on social justice, click here.

Minimalism?

Minimalism has become a ‘buzz word’ often linked to sustainability. The minimalist lifestyle is based around the philosophy that ‘less is more’ and freeing yourself from unnecessary possessions, purchases and utilities will allow you to live happier. Less cluttered lives apparently allow for life to be rich in experiences.

How does minimalism link to sustainability? Should we be adopting the principles?

picture of white table from above. An alarm clock lies facing upwards, with the time reading 12:10. The the right is a credit card sized hair comb with the words, 'thrive in the urban jungle.' In the top right corner you can also see the green base of a desk lamp.

Minimalist Lifestyle

Adopting a lifestyle that intentionally minimises possessions will naturally reduce consumption. Minimalism is more than decluttering. It is intentionally choosing to live without certain items. For example, minimalists will not buy new clothes or even purchase ‘party clothing,’ instead borrowing, or hiring dresses for those occasional weddings; the modern day world wrongly requires a brand new outfit.

Starting to list examples opens a can of worms. The list goes on and you can find some very interesting You Tube videos to get a clearer picture of: ‘things I don’t buy as a minimalist.’

Reduced Consumption

Essentially, minimalism is about gradually reconsidering everything that you buy or consume, whether daily or occasionally.

  • Do you really need them?
  • Could you purchase something once, that would replace all those multiple purchases?
  • Do you buy something because you always have, or because everyone else does?
  • Can you live without a new arm chair?
  • Could you reward your kids with experiences, rather than cheap collectable cars and toys they’ll grow out of?

Minimalism definitely reduces consumption which blesses both the environment and the bank. One of the biggest causes of waste is the idea that it’s good to renew items we own, leaving perfectly good ones redundant. Simultaneously, our consumption of disposable items is filling landfills daily. Buying loads of new toys for our children may seem kind but when they grow old, what happens to the heap of plastic? I know when I grew up, many of my toys were second hand but now consumerism has changed this.

Downfalls of Minimalism

However, as I’ve researched minimalism and begun to adopt some of the principles, I do have some disagreements. Whilst I support the refusal to consume, with minimalism comes a ‘declutter’ movement. To become a minimalist, we have to rid of a lot of possessions. Marie Kondo is famous for her decluttering programs on Netflix. Her ethos embodies the minimalist principles, stating that we must get rid of whatever doesn’t, ‘spark joy,’ – decluttering will make you happier.

Here’s the problem: we pull out all of our possessions and start to realise that 80% of what we own, is meaningless to us or completely useless. We feel guilty and decide to live without them. Where do these objects go?

Please don’t say, ‘the charity shops,’ because whilst charity shops are great for sustainability, if we as society continue to inundate them, without adopting the principles of actually buying things second hand, these shops will become land fills themselves. We can’t expect charity shops to just shift our junk for us. Give to charity by all means, but also consider other uses.

Selfish Minimalism?

Perhaps, the process of becoming minimalist is a selfish one. We selfishly feel guilty about the items in our possession, and instantly ‘get rid.’ It would be much harder to accept that you have more than enough; living responsibly should mean intentionally deciding to keep, reuse or up cycle the objects we aquire.

I would also argue that minimalism doesn’t allow you to possess occasional use items which I massively struggle with. For example, I recently went completely paperless now doing everything (including reading books and digitalising all notebooks) on an iPad but I still enjoy painting. I don’t need to paint – I could do a Digital painting. But I occasionally feel like pulling out a sketchbook and painting. Why should I get rid of the drawer filled with artist materials?

I have 6 dearly loved children’s novels on my bookshelf that I will probably never read again. But in the future (if I have children) I’d love to share these and I feel its more responsible to clutter my own life by keeping hold of them, than give them away and later repurchase them.

A hand is holding a pair of grey and white tortoise shell glasses. The lighting casts a shadow against a wall behind which is full, giving the illusion of being cast by a pair of sunglasses.

The Truth About Minimalist Philosophy

Besides sustainability, I also want to warn you about the philosophy of minimalism. Yes in theory, having less does allow you to be more grateful and able to control finances. But as with anything, having less stuff can not make us happy forever – just as consuming more can’t. Long term happiness is not dependent on adopting a set of rules about what we own. Minimalism even bans sentimental objects which I would argue to some degree is healthy – those who have boxes and boxes of things they have attachment to, really should part with some of it. But to not keep anything, would also be a little sad. Memories are life-giving!

What then, should we adopt?

In conclusion, as I’ve attempted to do my research and adopt some minimalist principles, I think that looking ahead, a minimalist attitude towards consumption is incredibly beneficial. However, the process of decluttering can be dangerous unless we responsibly rehome what we remove.

Kickstarting the Goal

In my own life over the years I have made conscious resolutions and I’ll list some of these for you. I hope to continue to build on this and reduce consumption. The goal is to not buy anything new for a very long time (hopefully for 2021 but I don’t want to pressure myself to keep this).

I do this reasonably, not to feel ‘happy,’ and without feeling pressured. Some of these are things I have succeeded in, whilst others are aims I hope to adopt from now on.

  • Clothes* – I rarely buy clothes. I store ones I’m not loving and bring them out again a season or two later. Those that I don’t love, I sell or put away for when I get that ‘I want new clothes’ feeling. I do give some to the occasional charity shop and I also buy from charity shops or swap things with friends. I have now got way too many clothes and so have told myself that I will not be adding anything until at least 2022. From then on it will be one in one out, when things wear out.
  • Feminine Hygiene – I haven’t bought a tampon in almost 4 years. Menstrual cups are the way forward people – cleaner, zero waste and it saves you £25 a month.
  • Disposable cloths – no kitchen roll, dish sponges or cleaning cloths. I bought 2 reusable dish clothes and 3 cleaning cloths. I wash them and reuse. Easy.
  • Notebooks – just no. I don’t need to feel nice about a pretty wad of paper that can’t be recycled easily. I use Bamboo ‘Paper’ on the iPad for handwritten notes (which feels like a notebook) and keep multiple notepads all on a nice ‘shelf.’
  • Books – I buy kindle, or (because I love paper books) charity shop books / swap with friends. Any new books I’m gifted, I always pass on.
  • Old school work – whatever was necessary, I scanned and stored on my laptop. Then I recycled all paper, and passed the folders on to people who needed them / other students / charity shops.
  • Gifts / rewards – I never treat myself with a purchase or possession. If I want to celebrate, I do so over dinner with a friend, or I buy myself flowers. I also only ask for gifts at Christmas that I need or have wanted for more than 3 months. Otherwise, I ask for a dinner voucher or nothing at all. Any birthday money gets stored for a few months and used to do something nice with a friend.
  • Artwork – I love artwork. For me, this is my joy. I do regularly paint and hang artwork. But now I’ve run out of wall space, I still paint. Instead of hoarding it all, I enjoy it for a moment, before then gifting it. It brings a lot of joy to someone when you gift them something like that!
  • Old electricals – I recently fixed something that was destined for the bin, just by reading up online. It made me realise how much we bin and deem to be worthless when after a repair, I managed to rehome it. I felt good after persevering to fix it too!
  • Running shoes – this is my issue! I run 10-15miles a week and so get through shoes like crazy. They are no good for running but can still be used for walking and other low maintenance activities. I can’t keep collecting my runs. I guess with everything, reduced consumption is about balance and for me new running shoes are a necessity. All I can do is try to recycle the materials and buy less of other things.

These are just a few ideas, to give a clearer picture. I’m by no means perfect, or a minimalist! But I do encourage you to start to reduce your consumption. Question everything you dispose of, and question everything you buy.

What are you resolving to reduce?

*for more on clothes and sustainability, check out my previous blog: sustainable struggles. But, do read with gracious eyes – I wrote this long before my ‘charity shop dump’ realisation.

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