Have you ever been told, “You did such a great job! You should be proud”?
I’m sure you have, for one thing or another. Most of us have had at least one experience—big or small—in which we were successful at something. Maybe it was a coloring contest when you were nine. Maybe your high school graduation or getting your first real job. Most of us have had that experience of doing well at something and being proud of it. I know I have (although none of those experiences include athletics).
We live in a world where it is so easy to get an artificial self-esteem boost. We post our success stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then watch and wait to see how many likes we get in the first hour. When our expectations are blown away, we feel validated. When our expectations are disappointed, so are we. We carefully critique the picture or post and if we think it’s not good enough, we quietly delete it.
But when we succeed, wow! We get recognition, congratulations and good wishes. We feel so proud. People approve of me, we think. I’m accepted. Loved. Impressive. Eventually, we identify ourselves with that success. When we think of who we are as a person, we add that to our list of qualifications of doing life.
The problem with success such as I’ve described is that it doesn’t really work the way we think it will. Success is great. Doing a good job is something to be happy about. We shouldn’t strive for anything less. There are several places in Scripture where we are told that we should work hard and not be lazy. We should strive for the best. But we are also told to work for the Lord and not for man. I believe that goes deeper than “work as if you were working for Jesus and not your boss”. I think it includes not seeking man’s approval of that work, but God’s.
I think God knew what He was doing when He said that we need to give Him glory for everything we do. When we start to take credit for our successes, we start to find our identity in those successes. We know who we are because of those successes.
However, finding pride in the good we do is a double-edged sword. When we identify ourselves by our successes, what happens when we fail? We start to define ourselves by our failures too. But since we aren’t perfect and never will be, we will always experience failure from time to time; and our successes won’t always outweigh our failures. So what happens? We get caught in a downward spiral of failure, defeat and guilt.When we allow our successes to define us, our failures will too. Click To Tweet
But God made us for so much more than that. When we were told to give glory to Him, it wasn’t just for His benefit. He loves us too much for that. It was for His glory, but also for our good. He knows we aren’t perfect. When we give God our successes, we give Him ourselves. When our successes don’t identify us, neither do our failures.
Your failures don’t define you. Neither do your successes. You are not a high-paying job or an employment insurance cheque. You are not a high GPA or a failed course. God and His love alone define you. You are a child of God.
The Son of God died for your sins, your imperfections, your failures. Then He rose, triumphant, over those sins. He defeated them. He gives you strength for your successes and grace in your failures. He is on your side and will never leave you. When you fail, He stays the same.