The Failure List
For years, I lived under my own law of checks and balances.
If I had achieved, I was good. If I failed, I was bad.
It was an exhausting way to live. I walked around with a checklist hovering in the back of my mind:
- got a good report card, I’m good
- lost my temper, I’m bad
- finished my degree, I’m good
- my business failed (hello 2008 stock market explosion), I’m bad
At the time, I justified writing out lists like this by telling myself and others that it was just as much about listing all the things I tried. I showcased my fragile bravery (a good thing) by listing all the things that I attempted to do, all the things I failed at ( a bad thing ).
Looking back, I think part of me just needed to justify how shitty I felt about myself. I lived–and still live–with a disease that turns my own mind against me. It prevents me from seeing myself the way others do. It tells me that no matter what I do, it won’t ever be enough.
And since my own brain was telling me what a failure I was, I wrote lists. A sort of balm to match what my thoughts were declaring with tangible evidence from my life. It made me feel a little bit less crazy to have the darkness justified, to be able to look at a list of words scratched onto paper and say, ‘oh yes, this all makes sense now.’
But it doesn’t make sense, does it?
It doesn’t make sense to justify lies–to expend energy to prove them true. It doesn’t make sense to live under the weight of past moments, compressed and made heavier by a disease that falsely accuses . It doesn’t make sense to brand myself with the burning lie of failure over things that simply didn’t work out, were affected by circumstances outside of my control, or hadn’t come to fruition yet.
The list making stopped for me when I realized the checks and balances of temporary things should not define me. My identity is not dependent on what my career looks like, where I live, or what I have accomplished. These are all things that pour out, and are by-products, of my identity.
My identity is dependent only on who God says I am. This is the only list which matters to me now. It is an ever expanding, changing and growing collection of treasures I discover as I spend time in the presence of the triune God and His people. It is list that declares:
- I am wonderfully made.
- I am an heir to heaven.
- I am conquerer.
- I have been given gifts and talents.
- I am loved.
- I don’t have to live in the darkness.
- And so much more.
The truth is what breaks the lies. I don’t have to live exhausting myself, scraping and clawing together some temporary definition of my value. I am no longer a slave to making to columns match up and come out in my favor.
The favor of Christ has given me the freedom to choose presence over proof.