It seems like a silly question, but does it matter that Buzzfeed just told me that if I were in the Hunger Games, I would be Peeta Mellark? Clearly it should have told me I am the stronger and more successful heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Why do I find something that unimportant so upsetting to my pride?
I think it’s because I have a deep desire to be successful and to be considered successful by others. It doesn’t matter if it’s my marks in school or my score on an internet quiz; a real athletic contest or a race against friends; a professional event or just an everyday, normal social situation: I want to be the best at it. Even if that means caring which fictitious character a Buzzfeed quiz thinks I’m most like.
This is the problem: I want to be good at everything. So I sometimes forget that what’s on my resume, or my test scores, or what Buzzfeed says of me, are not good indicators of my worth. I place my value, my personal sense of worth, in being good at things, and in the things I am good at.
I think, “Am I important? Do I have value?” And I answer with:
“Of course! You had great marks in university in a difficult program, while being active as a leader in student life.”
Or, “You are smart, and good at figuring things out and solving problems.”
Or, “You said that really funny thing yesterday and people laughed!”
Or, “You are successful, so you matter! You have worth because of what you’re good at!”
Whoa. When I put it like that, it’s easy to see what a precarious situation I have put myself in. What will happen to me when I fail? How will I then answer the question of my value?
I realized recently how much stock I was placing in success. Because without even realizing it, I was answering the question of whether or not I have value with, “Well, maybe not – after all, you’re failing at some of what you’re doing.”
This would all be fine, indeed, accurate, if it were true that my source of value as a human being came from my success in life. But I don’t believe that it does. I believe in a truth that tells me something very different.
It tells me that I’m known. That all the hairs on my head are numbered. That I was created with purpose. That the birds and flowers are perfectly cared for, and I am even more valuable than them.1 It tells me that this care for me comes from God, a God who calls me his workmanship, his masterpiece.2
I discovered these truths in the Bible and they declare: You are worth something, you have value, and you matter.
This worth exists apart from my success. In fact, the Bible also tells me that my efforts could never have earned the value that God has already given me. It was freeing to realize that my worth isn’t tied to my actions or performance. My success or failure have no bearing on his care for me, or on my inherent value as a child of God.
When I experience success, I am quick to return to thoughts of pride. I say, “God, look at me! I am good and talented and smart! Don’t you want to love me more now?” Yet what an amazing truth that he could love me and value me no more than he already does. And when I fail, he will care for me no less.
This means that I can let go of my perception of what success gives me, and be free in God’s love for me.
It means I can stop caring who Buzzfeed says I am, and trust in the worth that God says I already have.(1) One of Jesus’ followers Matthew wrote a biography of Jesus’ life. In chapter 10 verses 29-31, he quotes Jesus as saying that each person is uniquely special and valuable to God: “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (2) A follower of Jesus, Paul travelled and wrote to many of the new churches. He wrote to the church in Ephesus in the book of Ephesians telling them that they were created in the image of God and prepared for good works (chapter 2 verse 10): “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”