1. You are not your opinions.
I know, it’s an election season, and I know, if they would just listen to the powerful, compelling arguments you’re shouting over their replies, then they would see the light, they would make the right decision, and they’d be so, so grateful to you for opening their mind to the truth about the state of our country and how your candidate can finally fix all the world’s problems. Am I right, or am I right?
Listen to me, and listen well: you are not your opinions. Sometimes we hold so tight to those–and I’m not just talking in a political context–it’s as if we’re afraid that if we let go of them, if we let them change, we’re losing a part of ourselves or compromising a fundamental truth. But get this: you’re not. As a full-fledged, God-created human, you’re so much more than your agenda. There are things so much more important than your opinions–including your values and relationships.
It may be an uncomfortable experience to realize you’re wrong, but you know what that is? That’s pride. And you know what? You can move past it. And I think usually, this leads to increased understanding and a better existence for all of us.
2. You are not your failures.
When looking at your fellow humans, it’s pretty easy to see primarily their successes. That’s because successes tend to be pretty public and failures tend to be relatively private. Hank Green, YouTube sensation and creator of VidCon, recently uploaded a video about this very subject (you can check it out here), and John Green, acclaimed author of the best-selling The Fault in Our Stars, responded similarly (here). Both of them have experienced tremendous public success, yet both admit here the real story, the things we don’t see–the things that went wrong.
That’s not a good feeling, the feeling of failure. I’ve definitely experienced it, even in the last week. And you have that voice repeating over and over in your head: “Not enough.” Not good enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not creative enough, not talented enough, not prepared enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough. Not enough.
But take heart: do you hear his voice? My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Failure is something you do, not something you are. And it’s done, and it’s over. That door has been closed; do you see the brightness up ahead? The mountain peak may be obscured by clouds, but when you reach the top, it will have been worth the climb, the scratches and soreness along the way–even if it turns out to be a different mountain than the one you thought you were climbing. You are so much more than any one role you take on–or thought you would take on. You are a person, not an occupation, achievement, or involvement.
3. You are not your successes.
You are a person, not an occupation, achievement, or involvement. This one can be tempting, because we often don’t realize we’re doing it. In fact, we often choose to adopt it to counteract #2. I may have failed in THIS area, but don’t forget about… And to a certain degree, that’s good, to not let your failures crush your dreams. But maybe this isn’t quite the right way to go about it. I think in reality, the realization of the weight you put on your failures is less the opposite of being defined by your successes, and more the result of it, the other side of the same coin.
You are more than your roles. More than a title, more than a job, more than your grades, more than your status, more than your reputation, more than your accolades, more than your position. And all of those things can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
4. You are not the standard in your head.
And neither is anybody else. It’s really, really easy to get caught in the trap of comparing yourself with others, or at least, the version of others that you see. We’re surrounded by mirrors, digital and actual, that reflect back at us the standard of what we should be, bouncing back into infinity like at the hairdresser’s until they’re magnified beyond attainability. Maybe what we should really be asking ourselves is, Is that really what I want to be? Maybe what we should really be doing is redefining the standard.
Jesus set it as himself. And then he died so that you didn’t have to meet it. That’s why the curtain tore, you know. It was tearing away the division, the lies, the sin that separates us. It was torn so that you could enter the Holy of Holies, unashamed and radiant. That is the truth of who you are. You are an orphan adopted, given a new name, chosen and treasured…and loved. What a powerful word.
5. You are not your reputation.
I barely even recognize any more how much of what I do is focused around gaining the acceptance, admiration, or approval of others–whoever those others may be. Your social media followers, your classmates, your coworkers, your inner circle, your teammates, your employer, your teachers, your family, your coach. Every decision you make is influenced by the people around you.
So for one, make sure they’re good people. And for two, make sure you don’t let it define you.
In reality, there is only one accolade we should be striving for. And that is, at the end of the day, to see his face, and hear his voice: Well done, good and faithful servant.
May you have the strength to climb the mountains and the faith to make them tremble. Remember, his grace is sufficient for you.
Kindness is underrated.
In Proverbs 11:16, the writer says that “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but a ruthless man gains only wealth.” This is an interesting truth. When I spend so much effort and time and energy and thought and worry and anxiety and frustration and work striving to attain what one might call success in the eyes of the many, how many of those people’s opinions really matter anyway? Sure, it’s pretty cool to be recognized for something you do, and you can definitely ride on the high of it for a while, but there comes a point when you start to question yourself despite the constant affirmation because no matter how much praise you get you’re also always going to be criticized, you’re going to be disliked, you’re going to face challenges, you’re going to fail sometimes, and you’re always going to doubt yourself at times. Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be.
French soccer player Aurelien Collin once said that while most people come to Christ in a dark time in their life, he found God at the highest point of his. He was named MVP of the MLS cup, and it was that night as he realized he should be out celebrating, on top of the world, when he asked the question, “Is this all there is?” The next morning he went and found a chaplain and started asking questions, trying to find out if there was anything more. He found his answer.
John and Hank Green are people I admire immensely. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity and create educational and interesting video content on YouTube over multiple channels (links at end of post). They’re unapologetic nerds simply out to “make the world suck less.” John Green is known widely for his NY Times bestselling books such as The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns, and Hank is the successful founder of EcoGeek, VidCon, Subbable, and VidCon, among other things. I’ve heard both brothers say, on separate occasions, that they’ve often been asked what it’s like to be successful. And what they’ve said is that it’s a weird concept to them to be put in this little box that, necessarily, can contain only a few, because society’s definition of success seems to be being recognized by a large number of people for your achievements, and so by default only a relatively small number of people can fall into that definition because we can only keep track of so much in our brains. And what they’ve said is, that you don’t really have success so much as you have successes. You have high points, where you achieve something great, you create something worthwhile, but you never arrive, is what they’re saying. This is never it. You never wake up one morning, and say to yourself, this is it, I’ve made it, I’ve arrived. And to be honest, they said, in the end, what you’re really concerned about is the people who are really close to you. And they’re the people who see the real you, behind the achievements and goals and dreams. They see you, hopefully, for your heart. And that’s what God sees too. And hopefully, what they see is kindness, and integrity. And those things are the things that often come in small packages, packages that aren’t much in themselves but when they become a lifestyle, a core part of you, people notice. Especially those people who are close to you, who care. And even more especially those people who receive it. And maybe, in the end, those are the people who matter. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”
Kindness and integrity, those are things you have to develop as habits, not as gestures. They don’t happen in one giant donation or a grand week-long missions trip. They’re things that happen on a day-to-day basis, in the way you respond to challenges, the way you speak to others, the way you treat authority, the way you interact with coworkers, the way you treat the needy, the ways you give of yourself or hold back, whether you’re willing to reach out or take that step or be bold in love or live out what you keep on saying. They don’t happen all at once. And they don’t happen automatically. They’re habits you have to build steadily and intentionally, checking yourselves in the little things you say and do, the ways you respond when things don’t go your way, and when they do. It’s not glamorous or thrilling, but it brings almost irrational joy, even when at first you might be questioning if it’s really worth it. Even if it means you have to get a little bit out of your comfort zone. As the great Dr. Seuss once wrote:
Kindness is underrated.
I’ve been doing a study on kindness, and I looked up every single verse in the Bible that mentions kindness (NIV). If you want to check out the list, click here.