Photo via Maxmedals.com
Yesterday, my kids and I walked past a store front that boasted contestants’ winning art from a statewide contest. The handcrafted works were impressive. So were the brightly colored, shiny ribbons that hung from them.
Ironically, this was the same contest my tween son entered via a different organization. He won several ribbons of his own for his work. (Mom blushes) However, as we gazed at the artwork, he said with disappointment, Those are prettier ribbons than mine. It made me double-take a glance at the ribbons, bewildered as to what he saw that was so special in them.
My young tween competed against kids from all over the state up to 12th grade. It was a super great day for him because he worked so hard on his projects. And, if I may add, they were done without an iota of parent help (except with the electric saw that he’s not allowed to use).
However, after admiring these ribbons, his bubble of excitement and enthusiasm over his own ribbons popped because of how he compared these to his own. There wasn’t anything I could say. His ribbons now seemed inferior.
His reaction really made me stop and think about how I respond to life’s ribbons. You know, people’s accolades, winks of approval, and (for some) tangible awards like bonuses, trophies and certificates. Oh, and pretty ribbons.
We can work ourselves to the bone, and feel really good about what we’ve accomplished, but all of our sense of self-worth tanks with a casual shrug, a word of mediocracy, a glance of semi-approval, or worse – no comment at all! – by an objective onlooker who gives great praise to another for their work.
It is one thing to be an active part of community, and therefore give our best effort to the task. It’s another thing to place our value, self-esteem, significance, and entire sense of accomplishment in comparison to others’ accolades.
The day my son received his awards, he was humbly overjoyed! I took a photograph of him with the ribbons hung from his ears and fingers so we could get them all in the shot. Now, his seem tarnished, less significant, to him.
It makes me wonder, whose approval do we seek? Others’, ourselves’, or God’s? God is pretty clear about how He feels on the subject of hard work.
And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…Colossians 3:23
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (The Apostle Paul)
As someone who struggles with her self-esteem, I must fight against finding my validation in anyone but Christ. He is my audience of One in my heart, but my head doesn’t always reflect this truth. I compare myself to others. Wow, she’s accomplished. Look at her career! Or, She always has it together, I wish I could be like her. Or how about, If I only looked like this woman, was as articulate as this other woman, and was as smart as this other woman, I’d be the total package. Then there is the whisper in my mind, If only I could do my job like her, and be noticed by them, then I will have finally made it!
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36
Whose standard am I measuring myself against? Is God looking down at me and constantly thinking these same inferior thoughts about me? I think not! He created all of us differently, for unique purposes on this earth. If He says we are doing a good job, a great job!, then that should be enough – no matter how shiny the other person’s ribbons may seem. When we’ve done something we know He asked us to do – be it a good, honest day’s work or something extraordinary in our daily grind – it should be enough to hear His words, Well done, good and faithful servant. It is… more than enough.
Today, I’m putting blinders over my heart when I see other people’s pretty ribbons. I’ll congratulate them on a great job, but I will remind myself that was their job – not mine – good for them. For me, I will seek only the smile on my Master’s face as my greatest reward. Anything else attained is all glory to Him. Ribbons or no ribbons, prettiest or not, I will sleep well at night knowing I did my best. It’s all we’ve ever asked of our children, and it’s all God has asked of me, too.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21