I’ve recently been realizing that I have quite a few bad habits that I’ve never noticed before. I had no idea that I do them. It’s kind of been like playing a sport since you were young, and then realizing all of the sudden as an adult that you haven’t been implementing a fundamental skill correctly.
For instance, I had no idea that I was a perfectionist until this past summer. I also didn’t know that I tended to live without boundaries, and that my well-being is frequently enmeshed with other people’s opinion of me. I didn’t know that I tend to kiss people’s rear ends, and (this is the one that I want to talk about), I didn’t know that if I see someone else doing something well, I feel immediately threatened by it. Then I start to feel a push to either compete or to despair of my own worth.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen this same habit starting to develop in someone that I so wish could avoid it all: my daughter. She’s four and her younger sister is two. When I compliment her sister on doing something well, her typical response is to try to do the same thing and draw everyone’s attention to herself by saying, “Look at me. See how great I do it?” And if we don’t give her the same praise, she’ll express something along the lines of: “When you tell Bethie she is doing a good job, it makes me feel like I don’t do a good job at all. I’m not special.”
Bleh!! When I see it in a four-year-old, I realize what a ridiculous and yucky mentality it is to consider my value forfeit simply because someone else does something well. But I’ve realized that I do it all the time. If I have a friend who is gifted in some area that I’m not, I start to feel threatened. This yucky little feeling inside will start ‘whispering’ to me, “Oh no. Oh no. Your friend does this particular thing so well. She’s so gifted in that area. Why don’t you think to do that more often? Why don’t you enjoy serving in the same way that she does? People are going to like her more. She’s going to be safe and secure in life. She’s going to have a status of belonging in life. She’s going to be saved from rejection and pain in her life. And you won’t. You don’t do the same things she does; and because of your poor performance, you’re just not good enough.”
I didn’t even know that I had that habit: seeing what other people do well and feeling that I’m disqualified for not being able to do it just as good...or better. But I realized that I do it all the time, and I worry that my performance won’t be good enough to secure me the future that I think I need.
You know what is so beautiful, though? There’s hope for me (and people like me)! I’ve got this habit of comparing and disqualifying myself, but God says there’s another option! There’s another way to live. 1 Corinthians 12 describes His way. I just love, love, LOVE this word picture:
“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.
He decides who gets what, and when.
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.”
Isn’t that like one thousand times better than being threatened by my friend’s gift and deciding that it means I’ll forever be rejected? I love the idea that we’re each uniquely gifted, and that if I don’t recognize and use my particular gift, The Body will miss out. The Body doesn’t need me to be someone else. The Body NEEDS me, and The Body needs me to be ME. As I am being changed into a new person with God teaching me His way to live life, I can appreciate the beauty of my friend’s gift, but the uniqueness of her gift doesn’t change or define anything about me.
She’s essential. I’m essential. We’re both essential.