I’ve seen such a vast difference in perspectives regarding the isolation we’re experiencing. Some are “going out of their minds,” while others are finding peace. I guess extroverts would find these times incredibly challenging, where us introverts don’t mind as much. I was reflecting over the past few weeks and realize I’ve been home most days, besides a couple of golf rounds and a few grocery store trips. Even I’m going a little stir crazy, especially with no end in sight!
I grew up performing. Whether playing sports or excelling in school, I kept my eye on “the prize” – positive feedback from parents (or perhaps avoiding the negative). As many of you know, I learned how to perform early and often, given it was the safer choice amidst a volatile upbringing as a young child. I carried that performance torch throughout high school, college, and eventually into my twenties. Regardless of the year, I was performing and/or competing. As I’ve aged, the opportunities to compete became less about a field or a court, and more about an office. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still gear up for my occasional golf round or softball tournament, yet these typically happen with less frequency as we age. My twenties were often about competing with colleagues at work, while striving to set new personal bests year over year. Finishing in my company’s regional Top 10 was a must for me, otherwise my shaky self-worth system could’ve crumbled.
I know several people who still live in overdrive, just like I used to. They’re driven by similar goals: competition, money, awards, approval, etc.. I see them today and realize they have their own journey to experience. Some will learn that the “hamster wheel” of chasing success isn’t where they’ll ultimately find internal worth or peace, while some very well may never learn this fact. What I can say is that amidst this pandemic the younger version of me would be experiencing vast anxiety under the current stay at home orders. I’m talking panic attacks- literally!
Let’s use Lebron James as an example, who is arguably the best basketball player of this generation. Imagine taking competitive basketball away from a man when it’s been such a huge part of his life for decades. He’s obviously experiencing this right now given the NBA shutdown. I suggest how much the shutdown impacts Lebron is correlated to how much his self-worth is tied to his ability to play basketball, and/or winning another NBA championship. Lebron very well may live and breath basketball, being so tunnel-focused on the game that it’s his top priority each and every day. Perhaps he lives solely for the competition, thrives on winning, even gauges his overall significance by each statistical barrier he surpasses?! OR… perhaps he’s more grounded, utilizing this time to practice because he simply loves the game, while also spending more time with family. Maybe he’s using this shutdown as a personal gift of time. Perhaps he’s learned a lesson I believe we’re all meant to learn in life (or unlearn)- performance doesn’t necessarily equal significance.
We all seek meaning. We all search for purpose. We all desire significance. My purpose used to be comparable to the first descriptor of Lebron above- perform well at work and feel higher significance and self-worth. I had a hard time when I wasn’t performing in some way, because I was conditioned to find value, safety and significance by constantly running after “the next thing.” I wasn’t content on the inside, nor was I truly healed of adolescent pain. Instead, I aimed to create an external world of accomplishments that would substitute for my lack of self-love, inner peace and true joy. This path inevitably leads to self-destruction, in some way or another. This path is like building our house on sand instead of rock…
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the wind beats against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” -Matthew 7:24-27
I am grateful I’m not the version of myself who needs to perform to chase worthiness throughout COVID-19. I’m glad I can find peace amidst this pandemic, knowing that God is the only true source of my self-worth. I realize that sometimes I must be patient, be still, and let God take the wheel. I realize that amidst this crisis I still have obligations with work, which I cherish given that I’m blessed to have the capability to do so from home. I also realize that I don’t have any obligation to prove anything to anyone right now, including myself. I don’t have to perform in some way to muster up self-worth amidst this shutdown. You may have heard the phrase “my light comes from The Son” – that’s the lesson I needed to learn to stop feeling the need to perform for significance. Perhaps others out there are learning this lesson now, as I imagine even the highest performers are somewhat stalled amidst current conditions.
Life is still teaching me lessons each day. I’m still shedding parts of my conditioned mind around feeling guilty for “not doing enough.” I’m allowing this period of time to strengthen my patience. I’m allowing this time to help me focus on gratitude for what I do have instead of focusing on what’s been taken away. I’m allowing this period of time to shift priorities even more toward chasing dreams, like learning the guitar. I’m focused on daily Surrendering now more than ever. I’m committed to nurturing my mind, body and spirit amidst a chaotic time in the world. And while I set commitments to stay accountable to my future self, they’re not with the intent to fulfill me in some way. A vast difference from the intentions of past goals and commitments.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. -Romans 12:2
Life will transform our minds if we lean into God each day for guidance. I feel for anyone who is trapped in the pattern of this world that represents a need to perform for significance. We can look outward for significance, or come to the realization that only God can truly provide unconditional worth within each of us. I pray for those who are struggling because they “need” performance to “find” significance. I pray they’ll turn to God for this and reap the benefits of living with a more spiritual, divine and loving purpose throughout life. I pray this pandemic continues to teach us lessons, both individually and as a nation. May we never forget that we can choose to learn through the pain to truly experience the process. May we remember where true joy, significance and love stem from, not from anyone else or some accomplishment, yet from God Himself.
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