Do you live in fear that other people will discover the real you?
If that happened—if other people found out—would you lose your job, your spouse, friends, and, in the words of Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live, “die homeless, penniless and twenty pounds overweight?” For those who already feel below average and believe that their grades, jobs or reputations prove it, there is no reason to feel like a fraud because the news is already out. There is nothing to hide. But, for those who have received accolades from others, the norm is that they feel hopelessly undeserving, like an incompetent child. They hope that the charade of success will last, but suspect it won’t. So you either feel like a failure and you think everyone knows you are, or you feel like a failure and you wonder when everyone will know. There seem to be no other options.
You have to love this universal human experience. For all the silly bravado and endless methods to enhance self-esteem, we all feel like failures at heart. So, we can all take a deep breath and relax—we are not alone. And we can wonder: why is it that we all feel this way?
We are small and insignificant
There are seven billion people on this planet. We are replaceable. No one is indispensable. No matter how big a splash we make in our own local pond, the ripples will only last a minute or two. We really are small and insignificant. The first house my wife and I bought had a nice little white fence that ran along a walkway. When we first saw it we both thought it was charming but almost beyond salvaging. But salvage it we did. And we thought Better Homes and Gardens would come knocking. The fence was lovely, and, along with it, we essentially re-did every inch of that house.
Two years later, we sold the house and bought one across the street. We could still see the fence, which, of course, was our unique and lasting contribution to worldwide beauty. But within twenty-four hours of the sale, the fence was in the trash.
A postscript. The old house went through a few owners. A couple years ago we mentioned to the present owners that we once owned the place and they invited us to look around. There was not one piece of evidence that we had existed. The house is a perfect reminder that our labors are small and insignificant, though I probably don’t need the extra reminder. And there is more.
We are failures
Yes, on top of being small and insignificant, we are failures. Take any standard: Mom’s hopes and dreams for you, your boss’s expectations, world records, batting averages, your income or God’s standards. We fail at them all. Some of us hold out hopes that life is graded on a curve, but those who see themselves accurately know that they will fail then too.
Our falling short of God’s standards is the most far-reaching and palpable failure that human beings experience. It is also the one we sense the least. Hiding behind all other failures, this is the granddaddy of them all. We are failures before God. We are God’s offspring who were intended for greatness and we seem to ruin everything we touch.
There are plenty of ways to go, but consider just resting here for a while. Enjoy it. You are a failure, so am I, so is the person whose easy success you envy. Human beings are small and insignificant; human beings are also failures. Go ahead. Admit it and take a break from covering yourself with your fraudulent resume. This is called weakness, and it is critical to the abundant life. You cannot really appreciate grace without it.
Then be amazed…
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Ps. 8:4)
Each of us has personal and interpersonal struggles. Jesus Christ knows those struggles, cares about strugglers, and enters in. We see him bring about significant change in people’s lives every day. This passion for Christ’s relevance in counseling is our heritage and heartbeat.