Ever since I can remember, I tied my worth into how well I could accomplish the tasks that lay before me. Whether it was getting good grades, winning a spelling bee, or being in control of my every word and action—I needed to be working my hardest or best, or else it wasn’t good enough for me. And if it wasn’t good enough for me, then I reasoned it definitely wasn’t good enough for God.
I measured my achievement based on whether or not I got a compliment. If I worked especially hard to present my best, and then I didn’t get the amount of praise from others I thought I deserved, I would feel completely devalued. Even when I did receive praise, it never seemed to be good enough because it never satisfied my heart. As soon as I felt approved by those around me, I felt I needed to take it to the next level and be even more perfect, more pristine, and more worthy of love. Sure, improvement is usually something healthy to strive for. We always should try to be our best. But people cannot meet our deepest desires for approval—even our closest friends cannot make us feel completely secure. Only God can make us secure in Him, providing us with an identity that nobody can take away.
I learned this lesson during the beginning of last semester at Evangel University when I was about ready to explode out of not being able to meet my own expectations and garner all the approval I was after. Of course I wanted to live to bless others, but deep in my heart, one of my motivations for blessing others was so that I could receive approval from them, and in turn, feel loved. I recognized the harm of this way of thinking, because without fail, I felt totally insecure in what I had to offer others—regardless of whether or not they were noticeably touched by my actions. If I could not make somebody happy or make sure they smiled after being around me, I felt I had failed them in some way. Thus, I failed myself. If I could make somebody’s day (or at least convince myself that I did), I would feel like I accomplished something great. Being in between these two extremes of shame and pride not only weighed on my heart, but it weighed on my relationship with God. Instead of allowing His grace to flood my heart and my identity to be found in Him alone, I worked to pursue perfection apart from Him. I didn’t even ponder that His love made me complete.
It wasn’t until a close friend invited me to a Bible study at Central Assembly in Springfield that I had a life-altering realization that has transformed the way I live today. The study was based upon the book Chase by Jennie Allen, and in reading the first chapter, my world was turned upside down.
I read from this book with a convicted heart, “Our value comes from God; it can never be found in how we measure up. So whether you feel worthy or ashamed, this news should probably undo you. It is the character of God that gives us worth, not anything we have done or will do. There is freedom in accepting our unworthiness and receiving God’s worth. But self-esteem dies hard, especially for those of us who stand on a great performance. The work of Christ steals all shame but it also steals all of our pride.”
Wow. This one paragraph has truly humbled my heart and made me realize how selfish and prideful I had been. I had been living to give myself glory because I felt my identity was rooted in what I made of myself. However, the “undo”-ing truth that God gave me my identity and it is secure—despite my best and worst efforts—made me a whole new person. I am a whole new person because I am in securely with God’s love. Nothing I do can take that away. Nothing I don’t do can take that away. Now, my delight is to give glory to God, and in doing so, I find my identity and security.
If you’re struggling with having to be perfect and approved by others to feel like you have a secure identity, I’m here to tell you that you can stop finding your identity in others’ approval.
“She didn’t have to be perfect because she was perfectly loved.” ~Holley Gerth
Allow this truth to go deep into your heart. Know that you don’t have to do anything or put on any false appearance to be loved. You are already loved by a Father whose love can fill every recess of your heart. What a life-transforming truth.
Satisfied in His Love,