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?
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Today I’m linking up with Holly Barrett’s Testimony Tuesday and Kelly Balarie’s #RaRaLinkup
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Yes, God’s truth sets us free … in so many ways. It’s hard to understand why we often choose bondage. So human of us. 🙂 Beautiful story. Thank you. I needed this.
I agree, Shelli. I don’t know why I STILL choose the bondage of external validation/comparison over the freedom of finding my worth in who Jesus says I am. I’m so glad God is patient with me as I learn to live this out consistently.
What a beautiful creation he made! I have to remember to hold these truths close, so I can model and teach them to my daughter- who struggles with comparing too.
I agree, Lisa. He did an amazing job on it. You’re right. We model the truths we want our kids to learn. Must remember this! 🙂 I’m sorry your daughter struggles with comparing. Hopefully she’ll realize at a young age how futile that is. 🙂
Such a wonderful teachable moment and what a great opportunity to pour those truths into your son. I think we all fall into those traps where, even though we know the truth, we want that external validation. And when we don’t get it, we can conjure up all sorts of reasons why. I know my mind often goes to all the reasons I’m not enough. Sometimes we just need someone to point us back to what’s real and more so to what’s real about God. Loving this series, friend!
You know how it is, Tiffany. We can share truths . . . in portions. Usually small portions at a time. 🙂 But I can pray he begins to understand things with God’s perspective. And yes, external validation seems especially big at this age. Here’s hoping all of our boys will choose to stay pointed toward God and understand what’s real and what’s really true. 🙂
What people think of us truly does NOT determine our value, yet we put so much of our time and worth in other’s opinions of us. Wonderful reminders for all of us, no matter what age we are! Thanks Jeanne!
Isn’t it crazy, Jill?! Oh, that I could remember God’s view of me all the time. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!
A cuttlefish? How interesting! I’m curious what it is now. Recently I attended Rejoice, a Christian “American Idol” and one of the judges told the contestants something like this, “Remember singing is just what you do. It is not WHO you are. You are a daughter/son of Christ. What you DO does not define you. It’s the gift God has given you, but not you. Keep doing your gifts but always remember WHO you are.” I have to remind myself of this daily, moment by moment, to stay out of comparison or the idea that I lack talent, value etc. Thankfully I have pointers such as yourself to help me remember!
Yes and amen to what that judge said, Lynn. You and I both know that we cannot allow our identities to be wrapped up in what we do. I’m finding I learn the lesson of remembering who I really am on different levels the longer I walk with God. I have been praying my boys figure this out before I did! Ted Dekker’s book has really brought these truths home to me. Thanks for your encouragement, my friend!
How great that you are taking steps to help your son avoid the comparison trap. Oh how all our hearts yearn to hear that we are treasured just for being (not doing) who we are. One scripture that grounds me is Matthew 6:33 But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. I always got it backwards – seeking affirmation and praise from others, when FIRST I needed to be seeking God and His ways and then He will add anything else needed. Once we get a big dose of God, I believe we find we don’t need a whole lot else 🙂 Wonderful post!!
That’s a great verse to remember, Bev. And, as I suspect you know, it’s hard to teach the comparison/God’s value lesson. Especially to a wonderful kiddo who sees himself as not so great. This is one place I find prayer is essential (well, one of many!). We need to pray God can reach their hearts in the places we’re unable to go. I hope both of our boys learn the lesson of putting God first before I did. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your wisdom here today!
Beautiful post, Jeanne. I’m so sorry your son experienced such pain and rejection. So hard to watch our kids go through that.
Of all you shared, this was most powerful to me: “we have the choice of whether or not we embrace their words as truth”.Except for me it’s the accuser’s words I hear, just as your son did too I bet. The enemy loves to use silence to pierce. But yes, we have a choice to let those lies marinate or to draw them out and expose them with the Light of our Father’s truth.
Thank you, Anna. You’re right, it IS hard to watch them walk through the pain of rejection. The enemy does like to speak his lies into our thoughts. And yes, silence does sometimes pierce. As we learn to discern lies and truth, it becomes a little easier to see the lies for the deceptions and pitfalls they are. Thank goodness for our God who loves us!
Jeanne, I think I literally gulped when I read this: “It was that people didn’t say anything at all.” Yes, I know that feeling. It’s almost like rejection, isn’t it? That by not saying anything, people are actually withholding something from us. Of course, that is most often not the case, and, as you say, others’ opinions don’t matter anyway. But ugh … those feelings! I love your four points … I would have benefited from a good understanding of those things when I was much younger too.
Lois, yes, that realization—coupled with what you added—that feeling that something is being withheld from us, smacks of those rejection feelings. It’s hard, especially as a young person, to see beyond the feelings. They feel so REAL to us, especially in the moment. I’m thankful God is beyond all of the emotion. And that He’s patient with us as we grapple with living out the truth that He loves us.
I so identify with your son, Jeanne. Sometimes silence can feel just as hurtful as negative words. Tell him that when I saw his cuttlefish, I thought of how creative he is. Not only in his creation, but also in his selection. I have never heard of a cuttlefish before, so I was intrigued. I’m so glad he has a mom that reminds him his value is in Jesus. 🙂 I love this truth – “Understanding how God views us—through eyes of love—helps us begin to comprehend our value.” Thank you for this encouragement! Blessings and hugs to you!
Trudy, thank you for your words. I’ll pass them on to my son. He really is a creative fellow, even though he denies it. 🙂 And, I suspect the reason I picked up on the struggle my son was having is because I recognized it in myself. It’s a slow journey out of the comparison swamp. When we’ve been there for a lot of our lives, it takes time and intention to slog our way out, to change our view of ourselves and to adopt God’s view of us. But, man the freedom that comes when we are free of that swamp! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!
Good solid truth and encouragement here, dear Jeanne. And I love the pictures. 🙂 I regularly switch around what verses I cling to; however, the one I’m reciting lately is Psalm 71:14. “But as for me, I will always have hope. I will praise you more and more.” (Keeping my “hope” in Him is my lifesaver.)
Blessings ~ Wendy
Wendy, I love that verse. I need to write it down for myself (and for my son). I’m so thankful we can keep our hope in a faithful, loving Father-God. Thanks for sharing it!
So much truth in your son’s comment that sometimes we feel bad not because anyone says anything awful but just because they say nothing and we feel ignored or unnoticed. Your advice is great- comparing ourselves others never leads to a good place and yet it’s so easy to fall into. I think grounding ourselves in God’s truth is the only answer.
Lesley, that comparison trap is so subtle sometimes, isn’t it? I agree with you. Grounding ourselves in God’s truth IS the only answer. Thank you for sharing here today.
I just love this post! And Zephaniah 3:17 is one of my faves 🙂
Emily, thank you! And that verse is one of my faves too. 🙂
Too many times I’ve found myself squarely in your son’s shoes! Excellent advice! Beautiful post!
Liz, believe me, I’ve been there too. And still get caught in that place of comparison from time to time. It’s a journey for each of us, isn’t it? That journey of coming to the place of finding our value in what God says about us?
Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂
Great post, Jeanne! And I’m sorry the cuttlefish didn’t get the attention it warranted – truly.
A serendipitous topic for me, because when I feel my value slipping, I look into my past, and there’s a song that helps me keep my head on straight – Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon”.
Hope it’s OK that I include the Youtube link to his performance –
Andrew, I’ve listened to Billy Joel before, but somehow, I’ve never heard this song. I’m glad you shared it. It’s powerful. And I think I might understand how it helps you keep your perspective. I’m praying for you, my friend.