I grew up engulfed in this idea that I was only worth what I did. It’s called "performance" and this mindset teaches us that who we truly are as a person is unimportant. We learn that all that matters is what we do, who others think we should be, and that the way things look from the outside is what’s valued. It teaches us to be more concerned about appearances, run hard after things that don’t matter, and that we are not worthy if we’re not doing something exceptional. This way of life has become pervasive, and it leads to lives that are full of busyness, but are ultimately empty and hollow. Living this way, we also become disengaged with our true self, thus further perpetuating this lie that we are someone else.
Breaking free from performance has been a process for me. The journey began as I started to learn who God says I am. The lies were so loud in my head that I wasn’t able to recognize them as lies, because they sounded like truth.
Some of the lies sounded like:
· I’m only worth what I do, so I better do something important & noble.
· I can’t say "no" to anything because doing more makes me a better person.
· I can’t allow anyone to see the real me, because they’ll reject me.
· I live for the praise of others.
· I must be accepted, so I’ll become a person that others like.
· I have to earn God’s approval, or He won’t love me.
I grew up knowing all about God, knowing the Bible backwards and forwards, but without a true intimate relationship with Jesus. Without the personal relationship, the Bible verses I knew from memory did not carry the authority in my life that came later. God began to teach me who He said I was - His daughter, worthy of His love, beautiful, generous, and free, and over time I began to believe Him.
I was also missing a heart knowledge of the truth that God is good. This awareness, along with my own journey to identity, are two of the main things that really set me free.
When we are trapped in the rat race of performance, it usually permeates our other relationships too, and doesn’t solely have to do with God. We may have built our marriage on some of these same ideas, and are teaching our children that what they do is more important than who they are. It is a value system based on lies, and it damages everyone it touches.
"Authenticity" seems to be a buzzword right now. People are hungry to be around “real” people, especially in the Church. This hunger is coming from decades of being a part of a culture that is striving for acceptance, love, and purpose. The world is largely made up of people devoid of identity. We are searching for it in all the wrong places: in smoking, drinking, drugs, affairs, and even more "benign" places like shopping, working too much, and exercising excessively. It is all misguided, and will ultimately leave us empty and searching for more. This identity (knowing and being changed by the truth of who God says you are) only comes from relationship with the One who knows you better than any other, the Uncreated One. When we know His voice, we can be changed by His words. I have learned that condemnation (a frequent partner of mine for many years) is not from Holy Spirit, but rather conviction (that is from the Holy Spirit) always is accompanied by the grace to accomplish what is needed.
What does it look like to live an authentic life? I believe authenticity can only come from intimacy with the One. It looks like knowing that your value does not come from what you do, but rather who He says you are. So you could be the President of the United States, or be scrubbing toilets, and have the same value to God. It looks like being free to say "no" to things that don’t align with your ultimate purpose because you are not the sum of what you do. It looks like not being afraid to let others see your brokenness because it is only when we’re vulnerable that we can truly grow and connect with others on a heart level. It looks like embracing the journey because we are all in process, and there is no ultimate destination. We are each growing and changing every single day, learning how to love one another better.
May we be a generation that is truly free. May we be a people that know our inherent worth, and may we live from that place. May the world be drawn to the church for our authenticity and be changed by our love. May we all be changed by the radical love of a good Father, and may the fruit of that love be a body of believers that is positioned to love others well. May the kingdom only increase because we know who He says we are.
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Written by Anne E. Ballard
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