People such as Leighton Ford, who can freely choose to walk away from a successful or significant career, do not live in fear of failure. They live out of a strong sense of self- identity rooted in a deep knowledge of God’s love and acceptance.
If you are anything like me, you long for this kind of contentment and security in your own life. We all struggle with the fear that our lives don’t measure up. We all long to be seen as significant in the eyes of someone important, perhaps a parent, a boss, a teacher, or a friend. Sometimes the goal is to meet our own impossibly high self- expectations. But regardless of the standard we are seeking to meet, our fundamental problem is not having too strong a sense of our self but too weak a sense of self. The path to true satisfaction is not the loss of our Striving Adam but the marriage of our ambition with the soulful satisfaction of being loved by God.
I often feel a gnawing deficiency in myself when I am introduced to an attractive or successful person at a party, or when I hear about a colleague who is advancing professionally more quickly than I am.
Even people who seem self- assured can feel inadequate on the inside. They may project a false confidence to cover up a sense of their inadequacy.
I know that I’m feeling this way when I catch myself bragging, name dropping, or exaggerating my achievements. These are sure indicators that I am afraid I won’t be accepted.
Part of what fuels our drive to succeed is our need for the acceptance and respect of others. But the antidote to that need isn’t merely a little more acceptance and respect. It’s a deeper experience of acceptance and love. When we truly know that we are accepted and loved by our Maker, we won’t be so desperate to fill what is lacking with the recognition we receive from others. Oddly enough, we become less concerned about what others think of us.
Braden is a five- year- old soccer player who showed up on the first day of practice for our local community league. At the practice, he was bullied by some older kids, and when Braden’s father saw the other boys taunting and teasing his son, he quickly turned into a protective father bear.
But before his father could intervene on his behalf, Braden responded to the kids.
Stretching himself to his full height, Braden put his hands on his hips and stuck out his chest. “I am not a stupid little jerk,” he told the bullies. “My daddy says I’m a soccer player.”
Braden’s knowledge of what his father thought about him had greater power than the strength of the bullies. That knowledge of his father’s love and approval protected his identity, shielding him from the insults of his peers and giving him strength to face them.
When we realize, through the help of the Holy Spirit, how much God our Father loves us, we will become less concerned about what others think.
Adapted from Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu Copyright © 2018 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.