I put up this statement from Jon Acuff the other day: “Self sabotage is when you drill holes in your own ship because the trip is going so well that you feel uncomfortable because someone or something taught you that you don’t deserve smooth sailing.” So many of you shared how you related to that post that I decided to blog about it. Yay us!
Our society hinges acceptance on performance. In other words, if you say the right things, do the right things, and look the right way, you are rewarded with promotions, accolades, raises, attention, and relationships. When we aren’t meeting the unattainable bar of success that our world has instituted, then we feel like failures and are surprised when anything good happens to us.
We are so used to falling short of the “status quo”, that we don’t feel like we deserve anything good. The problem is the “status quo” we are attempting to meet is always changing and absolutely absurd. Unfortunately, Social Media allows us to paint pictures as though we are “keeping up with the Joneses” and now we are all overwhelmed, in debt, exhausted, frazzled, annoyed, lonely, and angry. Yikes.
So how in the world do we hit pause and then reset what it means to be confident and to feel good and to experience peace? I think a couple of things are at play here.
1. We have to redefine what “Success” looks like.
What does success mean to you? Honestly answer this question even if the answer is embarrassing. Is it money? A big house? Stylish clothes? Popular kids? Talent? A big promotion? What is it? Bryant and I had this discussion when we first started talking about having kids. We decided that success for us would be having good relationships with our kids after they all left the house. I am 100% dead serious. We knew that kids are often the casualties of ministry and we refused to let that happen. So every decision we make about our Church, personal ministries, finances, free time, relationships…every decision is filtered through whether or not it will help us to foster lasting relationships with our kids.
2. We have to figure out why we never feel like we are good enough.
Were you held to high standards as a kid? Are you constantly comparing yourself to other people? Does someone make you feel less than? Did you fail once and you’ve never recovered? Are you speaking negatively to yourself? Again, you have to get embarrassingly honest. If the answer to these questions unearths quite a bit of emotion and baggage, now would be the appropriate time to get into counselling and to start to heal from these experiences. Until you figure out why you are feeling less than, you will never feel enough.
3. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable.
If you have never read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, stop everything you are doing and go and get that book! She writes about shame and vulnerability and it will wreck you in the best way. She explains that we are absolutely terrified of vulnerability, and “good things” make us feel exposed, so that’s why “good things” make us uncomfortable. We live in a broken world where “bad things” happen. Those “bad things” terrify us. And so in an effort to protect ourselves from being caught off guard by “bad things”, we either create those bad things ourselves or we constantly feel anxious because we are consumed with thinking about them. Both of these scenarios are a way for us to feel “in control” of the “bad things”. Except, we aren’t in control. Listen to me right now, my brother committed suicide less than TWO WEEKS after Christmas. Can you imagine how miserable those few weeks would have been for my family if all I did was obsess about “bad things” happening? And the “bad thing” would have still happened, except at that point, I’d have no emotional margin left to handle it. Instead, we had an INCREDIBLE Christmas, even though it looked very different with Bryant’s mom in the hospital (oh yeah, that “bad thing” was happening too). That gave me the strength to lean into Jesus through the nightmare of Eric’s suicide.
After you walk through trauma, it is hard to teach your mind to embrace the moment and the good things that come your way. You are afraid they won’t last or that you will be caught off guard and completely overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal and loss. This has got to break Jesus’s heart. Think of all of this in terms of being a parent: You love your kids. Yes, they live in a broken world where they are going to get hurt. But you nurture them and keep them as safe as you can and give them good things cause you want them to be safe, loved, and to feel worthy of that security and love. This is EXACTLY what Jesus wants for us!!! You can’t think of Him in terms of your earthly parents – cause some of them got parenting and life so wrong. Think of Jesus in terms of the parent you aspire to be. Now take this a step further: What if every time you went to make your kids happy, they only responded with fear and anxiety and anger? Wouldn’t that break your heart and concern you? But this is exactly what we do to God. So just imagine how He feels when He tries to give us good things and we refuse to enjoy them.
4. You have to trust God and live in the moment. We don’t trust that God is going to give us what we need when we need it. Instead, we think we have to prepare ourselves for “bad things” and so we expend mental and emotional energy in the preparation and that only depletes us. We aren’t ready to face anything hard because we haven’t been replenishing with the good. We haven’t been accepting the gifts God gives us, so we don’t think He will be able to give us the grace we need for the difficult times. You see how deadly cyclical this is? Do you see how crafty the Enemy is? It actually makes me angry. Choose to be in this moment. Kevin, my counselor always explains that in THIS MOMENT, you are safe. Take a deep breath – let the air really fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly and go over everything you are thankful for and all the things you are free to enjoy in this moment. And then move into the next moment and then the next. You only have the strength for right now. Don’t spend it on what’s next.
5. You have to love yourself. YOU are an incredible person. You have gifts and abilities and talents and insight that only YOU can have. Your life experiences have made you into such a unique individual with a very specific race to run. You deserve good things because you were made in the Image of God and He is good. Yes, we are all broken because of sin. Yes, we are all sinners (and all my legalist friends say a collective, “Amen!”), but this “Woe is me, I’m such a sinful person and only deserve Hell, but for the grace of Jesus” is bullcrap. That’s not the abundant life Jesus came to give us. OMG. Get a grip. We’ve modeled and taught that godliness is self deprecation. Oh my loves, nothing could be further from the truth. Scriptures teach that the two most important commands in all of Scripture are to love God and to love people…as we love ourselves. If we aren’t loving ourselves, how can we love people? We just can’t. When you are self-deprecating, you will automatically look to other people to make yourself feel better. You’ll use people, demean people, isolate yourself from people, compare yourself to people, cling to people, all in an effort to make yourself feel loved, accepted, worthy, and secure. Can you imagine what would happen if we instead looked to Jesus – if we allowed Him to be our identity and not what we do, say, look like, make? Then we wouldn’t need to get our worth from anyone or anything else. We wouldn’t think we did or didn’t deserve certain things. We could just live in the moment be grateful for what God gives us.
None of this is easy, fam. If it were, we’d all be doing it and I bet we’d all be much happier. But we can What About Bob it and take baby steps. What are one or two points that you can begin to practice today? I’ll tell you, I am still working on making sure my identity is in Jesus and not in my physical appearance (weight) or my house’s appearance. I’m just being real. But being real and vulnerable is the catalyst to lasting change. So what’s it for you? Would you share in the comments?