Today we continue our series on Chosen and Approved: Untangling Our Identities From People and Perfection, with Emily Conrad, Mary Geisen, and myself. We’ll be sharing posts on Tuesdays through November 8th. To read previously published posts, click here.
He slid into the car, a storm cloud parking itself over his head on an otherwise sunny afternoon.
“How was your day?” My usual first question.
“Bad.” He crossed his arms. “Really bad.”
Something told me to wait rather than dive into dissecting his day with him.
After he had calmed down a little, I asked him about his day.
I had been so excited to hear every detail. This boy of mine spent hours on a science project. Each child had to create a sea animal and give an oral presentation. My guy didn’t choose a common animal. He chose the one that interested him. He came up with the plan for building a life-like cuttlefish. Yes, cuttlefish.
He took the initiative to get the job of creating done. We talked through how to do it, and then he got busy. Each spare moment, he was working on his project, with a smile and his typical exuberance. I loved watching his excitement with his creation.
The night before it was due, we stayed up late finalizing details. He was exhausted, but he went to bed—and woke up the next day—happy.
I prayed for him. This child o’mine can be so critical of himself and his creations.
When we got home from school, he held his cuttlefish over the trash can, ready to toss it.
I claimed that two-foot-long creation for myself (and maybe for him again, one day).
When he calmed down, we talked. He told me that it wasn’t that anybody said something terrible about his animal, it was that people didn’t say anything at all.
I suspect, in his heart of hearts, he had hoped to earn his peers’ praise. To find value in their affirmations. He shared what other creations came in, ranking each one above his own.
He had fallen into the trap of comparing.
How many times have I sought my value in measuring up to others? Either by striving to accomplish something another has? Or by doing something well enough to be noticed? Or by being so good that people would value me, would think well of me?
My boy was doing exactly this. He didn’t admit it in so many words, but I believe he wanted to know that he had done a good job. He wanted the praise of his peers in order to feel good about himself.
When he didn’t get it? He was upset, with himself. He automatically saw himself as not as good as those kids who received kudos for their sea projects.
If I could have told him what I needed to hear at his age, these are the points I would have shared:
- What people think of us doesn’t determine our value. People’s opinions feel so important in the moment. When we crave affirmation from people, we’re going to be disappointed, because quite honestly, people are fickle (especially young people).
- When we pour our hearts into something, others’ opinions don’t matter. We can find satisfaction in our efforts, not in what others think of them. People will still share their opinions, but we have the choice of whether or not we embrace their words as truth. If their words don’t line up with God’s words, then we shouldn’t give them much weight.
- If we’re comparing ourselves to others, there will always be times when we feel “less than.” This feeling will never, ever lead us into a good place. Instead, we need to remember that God loves us, and that makes us enough.
- We need to view ourselves as God does. When we remember that in God’s eyes—because of Jesus—we are enough? That’s when freedom begins to change us. Understanding how God views us—through eyes of love—helps us begin to comprehend our value. We are priceless to Him.
Love motivated Jesus to endure the cross . . . to take our punishment upon Himself.
His love never changes and can’t increase because He already loves us completely.
When we can embrace the truth that we are loved that much? Striving for value from people becomes more of an empty pursuit.
God tells us this:
- He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
- He rejoices over us in singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
- We are precious in His sight (Isaiah 43:4)
- He delights in us (Psalm 16:3)
- There is nothing we can do to separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39)
When we embrace these truths, they will help us reframe where we find our value.
And I’ll give you a hint. You won’t find it in comparing your cuttlefish to someone else’s sea animal. Or work project. Or talent. Or anything else.
We find our value in what God says about us.
What about you? What lessons have you learned in establishing where your value comes from? What Bible verse helps you stay grounded in knowing your value?