11 April 2009

Lagom: or, It's Good to be Swedish

I'm not sure if there's any Viking blood in my mixed earthly heritage, but a recent face book test confirms:

"Michelle completed the quiz "THE INNER NATIONALITY QUIZ: WHAT ARE YOU REALLY?" with the result: You are Swedish.
You are friendly, gentle, and modest, with a good heart and a lusty nature. You laugh easily, have a well-developed sense of irony, and tend to understand people intuitively. You are interested in new people, but will always maintain notions of insider vs. outsider, and this will lead you to commit to a group of friends and lovers who will be with you your entire life. If you have a weakness it's your timidity -- you feel pressure to remain 'lagom' -- on an even par with others. But this is also your strength."

Not being familiar with the term "lagom", but always interested in new words, concepts and people (as the results here point out), I looked it up. Wikipedia reports:

"Lagom is a Swedish word with no direct English equivalent, meaning "just the right amount".

"The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as "enough, sufficient, adequate, just right". Lagom is also widely translated as "in moderation", "in balance", "optimal", "suitable", and "average". But whereas words like "sufficient" and "average" suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of perfection or appropriateness."

"Hmm," I said. "That sounds just about right."

The Bible says:

"[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches. But give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8-9)

“This, then, is how you should pray ... Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:9, 11).

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)

It is not the concept of holding back or denying oneself, or of putting up with or learning to live with your circumstances; but the practice of being perfect, content, fulfilled, just right.

The little quiz makes it look like seeking "lagom" is a kind of timidity - a seeking to be at par with others so as not to rock the boat. But it's off the mark there. "Lagom" appears to me to be a kind of modesty - a seeking not to put oneself above others while not lowering ones self to living lazily. And doesn't the Bible also teach us not to "lord it over" others, to humble ones self to the point of servanthood, and also to keep pressing on, to "live up to what we have attained"?

Jesus taught us to "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

Read the whole of 1 Timothy 6, and notice what Paul writes: "there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. . . .

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. ... " (1 Timothy 6:6-9, 11-12) (ESV)

The Swedish quiz also said, "You are friendly, gentle, and modest, with a good heart and a lusty nature." (This is me - a "to the pure..." person - so I define "lusty" nature along with the common definition: "Full of vigor or vitality; robust. Powerful; strong".) I looked back at 1 Timothy 6 and said, "Hmmm." "Pursue ... love, ... gentleness. Fight the good fight ..." The quiz had mentioned a small "insider" group whom you will be with all through your life. Ya, the Bible talks about that too. So I applied my own meaning to their human words in my little Bible meditation today, and I came out Swedish.

And like I said, it sounds just about right. As the Swedish might say: "Det är [It is] lagom."

As Paul said, "Grace be with you all."


Photo above is of Ingrid Bergman, a lovely lady born in Stockholm, Sweden, who lived during the days of the old classic black and white movies.
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