Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough? That even when you do your very best, it still isn’t good enough? These thoughts lead to feelings of discouragement, frustration, even despair. Sound familiar at all? I would guess most if not all of us would say “Yes!” One of the most common struggles we face as human beings centers around issues of performance. This is one example of what I wrote about in an earlier post, Are Toxic Beliefs Derailing Your Destiny?
Usually these thoughts come from words we heard from parents and other adults during our childhood. Or maybe it was just the look you got when you brought home a bad grade, or didn’t make the team, or didn’t do as well as your sibling. Even well meaning parents can unwittingly convey negative messages. This usually also involves withholding love, affection, or approval until the child does “better.” As a result we (or our children) believe the lie that, “I must measure up in order to be… (accepted, approved, loved, etc.).”
No matter how good or godly our parents were, or we may be, we were all born into sin and are flawed as a result. Generational sins, as described in Exodus 20:4 affect us all until we learn how to get free from them (a topic for another blog post!). Performance, perfectionism, striving and people-pleasing are all symptoms of this root of rejection. This toxic thinking causes us to strive to achieve, to earn acceptance from others through various means, to become a human “doing” rather than a human being. We just can’t seem to do enough, or do it well enough. When our efforts don’t achieve the results we expect, we become offended, angry, frustrated, depressed, etc.
Often we blame ourselves, thinking that if we could only do it better, we would gain the acceptance and approval we long for. So we keep trying over and over, with each new person we meet, or each new situation we face. This destructive cycle typically leaves a trail of broken relationships in its path. Many believers give in to hopelessness, disillusionment with their faith, and their inability to “fix” the problem. Or we may blame God and harbor anger and disappointment in our hearts toward Him. If you can relate to this pattern of thinking and behaving, there is good news – you can get free!
The first step is to recognize that you have believed a lie that you don’t measure up, aren’t good enough, and/or can never meet the standard. We unknowingly believe lies because they feel true, based on our circumstances and life experiences. Some lies, such as this one, have a measure of truth in them. According to God’s Word, none of us measured up to His standard (Rom. 3:23). His standard is the only one we are expected to meet, yet none of us could.
But the good news is that He made provision for us through His Son. Jesus met God’s standard of perfection for us, freely giving us His righteousness in place of our sin. Because He met God’s standard for us, we can rest in His finished work on the cross! We no longer have to earn acceptance for we are completely accepted in and through Him. We don’t have to strive to achieve because He did what we could never do. Plus, He has given us His Spirit to empower us to do what we cannot do in our own strength.
It is essential that we forgive those who communicated this lie to us – parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, etc. And we must forgive ourselves for believing this lie and living it out in our lives. We should also repent, asking God to forgive us and receiving His forgiveness. His acceptance, love, and approval of us alone can satisfy our deepest longings. When we become secure in His love, we won’t need to continually receive approval from others.
Have you been a prisoner of the performance trap? How do you plan to get free? Comment below.