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  • Claire M. Burnett

Messy Christian

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Meet The Captain.

I’m not soft spoken. I’ve got tattoos. I cuss. I get angry. I don’t get up at the crack of dawn to study the bible and there is likely Bailey’s in my “Jesus-y” coffee mug. I take anti-depressants even while knowing Jesus is joy and I don’t go to church every Sunday.

I’m fully known, I keep my shh(it) in the light, I allow room for correction and accountability in my life and I do my best to listen to the Holy Spirit that lives within me. While I’m not exactly your “stereotypical” Christian woman, I’m beyond proud to confuse the crap out of people, and I can guarantee you I love the heck out of Jesus none the less. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t constantly fight the lie of not being the “right kind” of Jesus-Freak.

Why Do We Think We’re Not Enough?

Have you wondered where your internalized message of “I’m not good enough,” came from? How do you define enough? Is it an inherent and internal definition that you yourself created? Or is your definition of enough weighted against what everyone else is doing or thinking?

Remember when you were a kid? Think about how impressionable you were, how you were soaking up life and trying to learn and understand the world around you.

The most important thing to a child is gaining love and affection from their caregivers. They don’t yet have a worldly or experienced understanding of human behavior or why people do what they do. They just want to be loved.

Now think about the array of family dynamics. Take the alcoholic parent: A kid doesn’t understand why the alcoholic parent is sometimes there and sometimes not depending on the substance usage. In a narcissistic family, the kid doesn’t understand that the narcissistic parent isn’t capable of empathy or real love. In abusive families, the kid doesn’t understand why the adults are acting in horrible ways and not seeming to tune into how that affects their children. So, given that a child’s only goal is to be loved and cared for, the child begins to try to “fix” the adult problems so they can achieve their ultimate goal.

Children are like sponges and they learn very early that if mommy and daddy are happy then they themselves will be happier too. But what the child is learning and internalizing is that performance equals reward.

Guess what? Not much has changed as adults. We have a tendency as adults to parent ourselves in the same manner we were parented. So the negative message “they didn’t applaud me so I’m lame” remains strong. If you didn’t catch my drift…let me phrase another way. We’re all a bunch of adult children…and now we’ve got another disease to deal with.

Obsessive Comparison Disorder

Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the smallpox of our generation. This version of OCD is our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to all-around misery.

Obviously the lure and danger of comparison didn’t just start. Y’all may not like to read your bibles, but honestly, there’s some coo-coo stuff in there! For instance:The first murder recorded in the Bible was a byproduct of comparison. Two brothers brought God an offering. God approved Abel’s and disapproved of Cain’s, with no explanation. So in Genesis 4, Cain invites his brother out to the field, and kills homeboy.

And how about this for another example: During Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, he tells them shocking news that will forever change history—one of them is going to betray him. How should your 12 best friends respond? They should do whatever it takes to find and stop the culprit, right? No, in Luke 22 they start an argument about which one of them is the greatest disciple.

Just a few decades ago, you used to have to wait until your ten-year reunion to look each other up and down to see how much worse or better off you were than them. All you had to do was fake it for one night. Rent a BMW. Borrow a spouse and a few kids. Go on some insane weight-loss program you bought from an infomercial, along with that machine that shakes the fat out of you. All you had to do pull off some fabricated version of your life for one night to show everyone that your made-up life was obviously better than theirs. Then, you could leave your reunion and take that rented BMW straight to Little Caesar’s. Get two Hot-N-Ready pizzas, and life could go back to normal.

Now with the joyous invention of online social media, who needs a ten-year reunion? We now have the opportunity to compare ourselves to everyone. Every. Single. Day. What a blessing.

Every day we’re trying to pull off a branded, dazzling, filtered, edited, impossibly epic and other worldly life that no one could possibly be living.

The only problem is, comparison is exhausting us.

It’s the leading cause of buying things we shouldn’t. Comparison makes us look through every picture of our friend’s “My Life is Awesome” Facebook album, depressed because our life looks nothing like “it’s supposed to.” It devours creativity, energy, and peace— which are three vital characteristics you are going to need to live your life well.

Comparison takes God’s designs for your life and warps them into a distorted, myopic view of all the things you don’t have, instead of all the things you do.

And one of the most dangerous side effects that I’ve seen firsthand is that comparison isolates us. It’s blocking honest, authentic conversations. Vulnerability and authenticity do not go hand-in-hand with a highly crafted online image. We can’t connect with each other over our pretend perfection. What we connect over is our shared struggle.

Unfriending Comparison

Here are 3 quick tips to try and put some space in between your relationship with comparison.

Cut back on social media and TV

Wow, that hour spent on Facebook was an incredible use of my time! And I feel so much better about my life now. – Said, No One Ever

Social media and TV can take your Honda Civic-sized comparison problem and turn it into a Chevy Family Suburban—guzzling energy for no good reason other than to try and look cool.

For me personally, this has meant taking breaks from Instagram. Sometimes, it’s also meant no longer watching shows like House Hunters International to see a couple decide which $700,000 home in Italy best suits them. Sometimes we need to blind ourselves from what makes us anxious.

If you look at a horse that’s carrying a carriage out in public, the horse will usually have blinders on. Blinders keep them from being distracted or freaked out by the noise of the peripheral. Blinders force them to focus on what’s exactly in front of them, and nothing else. We all need a set of blinders. We need to be forward-focused. What set of blinders can you put on that will help you look straight ahead?

Celebrate What You DO

Celebrate what you do. Don’t obsess about everything you don’t. We need to celebrate on the ship we’re sailing, instead of drowning as we attempt to swim to someone else’s.

Hone and Own Your signature sauce

The best way to celebrate what you do is to own and hone that unique flavor you bring to the world that no one else can.

God is the Master Craftsman and He has created you with a unique blend of ingredients. The more you own and hone what you were created to do, the more you can celebrate what other people do well.

As Mother Teresa aptly put, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

When you focus on being thankful and being a steward of the skills, values and strengths God has given you, then Obsessive Comparison Disorder won’t have the same hold on you. You can be happy for other people’s success instead of wishing it was yours.

You serve the world by serving it your signature sauce.

No One Is You

In a study by Harvard Business Review, it was noted that while people remember criticism, awareness of faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. It was further discovered that knowing your strengths offers you a better understanding of how to deal with your weaknesses — and helps you gain the confidence you need to address them.

It allows you to say, “I’m great at leading but lousy at numbers. So rather than teach me remedial math, get me a good finance partner.”

Here are 7 Things to Remember the next time you find yourself thinking “I’m Not Good Enough.”

1. The people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people too.

We all compare ourselves to other people, and I can assure you that the people who seem to have it all do not. When you look at other people through a lens of compassion and understanding rather than judgment and jealousy, you are better able to see them for what they are—human beings. They are beautifully imperfect human beings going through the same universal challenges that we all go through.

2. Your mind can be a very convincing liar.

I saw a quote once that said, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Thoughts are just thoughts, and it’s unhealthy and exhausting to give a ton of power to negative ones.

3. There is more right with you than wrong with you.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is famous for saying “Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.”

As someone who sometimes tends to zoom in on all my perceived flaws, it helps to remember that there are lots of things I like about myself too.

4. You need love the most when you feel you deserve it the least.

It is most difficult to accept love and understanding from others when I’m in a state of anger, shame, anxiety, or depression. But adopting the above truth shifts your perspective and makes you realize that love is actually the greatest gift you can receive during such times.

5. You have to fully accept and make peace with the “now” before you can reach and feel satisfied with the “later.”

You cannot fully feel satisfied with where you’re going until you can accept, acknowledge, and appreciate where you are.

6. Focus on progress rather than perfection and on how far you’ve come rather than how far you have left to go.

One of the biggest causes of self-loathing is the hell-bent need to “get it right.” We strive for perfection and success, and when we fall short, we feel less than and worthless. What we don’t seem to realize is that working toward our goals and being willing to put ourselves out there are accomplishments within themselves, regardless of how many times we fail.

Instead of berating yourself for messing up and stumbling backward, give yourself a pat on the back for trying, making progress, and coming as far as you have.

7. You can’t hate your way into loving yourself.

Telling yourself what a failure you are won’t make you any more successful. Telling yourself you’re not living up to your full potential won’t help you reach a higher potential. Telling yourself you’re worthless and unlovable won’t make you feel any more worthy or lovable.

I know it sounds almost annoyingly simple, but the only way to achieve self-love is to love yourself—regardless of who you are and where you stand and even if you know you want to change.

You are enough just as you are. And self-love will be a little bit easier every time you remind yourself of that.

Messy Christian

So yea. I’m a beautifully messy Christian. I don’t act or look like what you expected and I know that Jesus meets me here in this space. I am not a walking contradiction of his gospel, but proof that He meets us in the margin. I don’t aim to confuse the message of Christ by who I am, but I do aim to be a living testament to His grace. A person who may fall short, but refuses to stay there.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. | 1 Timothy 1: 15-17

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