Today at work something strange happened. Now, when I say it was strange I don't mean that it was paranormal, in fact as far as occurrences go it happens quite frequently, rather I mean that it didn’t really make sense. Let me explain.
As a part time gig I work for a UPS Store as a graphic design and print production guy. I used to do this full time as the print manager for a couple high volume stores and so when it was time to find a side hustle, this seemed like a natural fit, especially since the store I work in is far less busy than my previous shop. A customer came in who is apparently a regular and having seen a new face, mine, she inquired of my boss about me. My boss called me over and introduced me while simultaneously listing off my qualifying credentials and showering me with praise as the print and design specialist/former manager who was doing great things, teaching them a lot and helping immensely, yada yada yada. My boss is a kind and generous man and he is really good with customers and staff but he also is very direct and you never question what he thinks of someone so I am certain that this wasn’t one of those moments where he was trying to instill confidence in her by praising me and overstating my ability to serve her. He really believes the things he was saying about me.
Now you may be picturing me standing by his side proudly, nodding in affirmation of all his compliments with a confident smile, as I slowly grew in stature like in the cartoons but your imagination is way off. As praised me for my work ethic and skill sets I was much more likened to the cartoon turtle that quickly retreats within his shell as danger approaches. I was so uncomfortable as he complimented me. I wanted to shake off the compliments like a dog after a bath as if his compliments were a slime that I just couldn’t bare the weight of.
Now here is the thing. As I think back to what he said He is right. In a lot of ways I am over qualified for the job I am doing. I am a hard worker and I am good at what I do. I have made significant and helpful changes in the short time I have been there and I have done so without coming off like a know-it-all jerk to the rest of the team that has been there far longer than I have. So why is there such a discrepancy between what I know to be true and how I feel when people speak it out loud? Why is taking a compliment so hard for me?
Well, do you remember that old record? Yeah. That’s why. You see, even if the complement is true, there is something about it being said outloud that creates pressure for me. What if this lady comes back in and I’m having a bad day and I totally screw up? What if I don’t live up to the expectation my boss set for me? What if I fail? Will I be discarded?
You know, we’ve talked a lot about honesty in the blog but mostly from the vantage point of being honest about what we are ashamed of. What about being honest about what we are proud of? Well, I think you should know that in some ways, that’s even more important. If you are like me, you tend to focus on the ways you are coming up short and if that’s all you ever do you will never move forward. Yes, we have failed. Yes we have screwed up. Yes there are things about all of us that we would like to change. But, there are also some things we are doing right. There are some accomplishments that we should be proud of. There have been some moments where we did the right thing. And these are the things that I pull front and center when the volume on the record player rises.
So as an example, you should know that I have put on some weight over the last couple of years. Apparently being 5’9 and weighing 250 lbs is not healthy. We bought one of those Wii Fit balance boards as a means of helping me shed some lbs and when I step on it the little character says “Oohhh” in a politely offensive tone similar to the “bless your heart” often stated in the south. It was embarrassing. So I got fed up enough to finally do something about it. I started this crazy diet that if I described to you, you would assume me to be dead already and that a ghost writer had taken over this blog. Pun Intended. But actually I am alive and about 33 lbs lighter. Now there were many points on this diet where the record would kick on which seems to coincide with the record my stomach plays when it hates me and I would be tempted to quit or give in and I had to combat all the negativity that swirled around in my head. In fact, I still won’t buy new pants despite them looking like Jencos on me because I’m afraid I’m gonna give in to old habits and just gain it all back.
So when those moments came I started to think back on the successes I had. I say to myself, “you know yesterday, you went to Krispy Kreme with your friends and just had a black coffee and it didn’t bother you at all. So this carrot cake, which you don’t really even like, shouldn’t be a big deal at all.” By reminding myself of the good and the strength in me it helped me fight the lie that “you’re gonna fail eventually anyway so why not just give in?”
The Bible talks about this in Galatians 6. Paul is instructing the church to bear one another's burdens and to restore one another when they get caught up in sin. Then in verse four he says something unique in all of scripture. Despite all the things Paul says about boasting in Christ alone he tells them to be proud of themselves. “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” It is absolutely true that we don’t stand a chance without Jesus, but there comes a point where we have to look back at where we have come from and be proud of our progress, not so we can laugh at those behind us or consider ourselves better than them, but rather we should identify with them saying, “I’ve been where you are. Let me show you the way out.”
So when the record plays, don’t focus on the voice of the accuser. Focus on the voice of the God who has brought you out of that place, the God who is a proud Father of a child who is learning daily, the God who loves you as you are but loves watching you grow. Be encouraged friends, you are not who you once were and you will not remain who you are today. Take some time to think about the things you can be proud of, make a list, carry it with you, and let it be you’re new record.