I despise feeling like a failure.
My daughter has a similar aversion. She clenches her fists, cries, screams, or covers her face if she makes a mistake on a math problem or can’t meet some other seemingly trivial expectation. In these moments, her visible responses reflect my own heart, which is often equally as loud, chaotic, and ashamed. My heart cries, “You are not enough” and I hate that.
Over the years, I’ve become attuned to how I often seek to avoid feeling like a failure. My inner monologue churns with excuse-making, blame shifting, and visions of my ideal self. Perfectionistic tendencies provide temporary satisfaction. Sometimes I’m simply immobilized. I can’t seem to move past this feeling that I should be able to do more and be better.
In his book, You’re Only Human, Kelly Kapic recalls how the serpent tempted mankind in Genesis 3:1–5. Satan subtly implied that humanity’s limits were not good, enticing them to try to overcome their finitude (p.13). Perhaps underneath my restlessness lies a deeper and more profound issue—my desire to be God—which leads me to despise the good limits he has given me. Kapic aptly describes those of us who struggle in this way:
Often when we rush to meet all the expectations that surround us and look at our bottomless to-do lists, we desire to become infinite in capacity. We think, “If only I had more time, energy, and ability, then I could get everything done, which would make me and everyone else happy” … Sometimes lurking under our desires to expand our abilities is the unspoken temptation: “If only I were the infinite Creator, not a finite creature …” (p.12)
So, what should we do when we realize how dissatisfied we are with being human?
A good start is to stop hiding and striving but instead we can confess our sinful desire to be infinite to the God who made us, knows us, and sees us. Confession orients us to the truth that life comes from God alone. It keeps us from believing the lie that we are sufficient in and of ourselves. Psalm 32 provides one way in:
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long… I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (vs 3–5)
We can die to our old ways of covering up and rest in the refuge of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). Christ renewed our humanity by entering bodily limits, rescuing us from our identity delusions. The life of Jesus shows us that to be truly human is to live in dependence on our Father who “remembers that we are dust” and has compassion on us (Psalm 103:13-14). His shouts of deliverance over us are louder and truer than any internal groanings. The fruit of being forgiven by God sounds like gratitude and praise, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11)
Perhaps one step of faith today is to rewrite the bottomless to-do list Kapic referenced instead of gazing at unrealistic, and ungodly expectations. Narrow things down to just a few important, attainable items. Perhaps you share your internal struggles with a trusted friend and pray together. Maybe you just go to bed a little earlier tonight. We ought not to despise our limits when God has deemed them good (Genesis 1:31). But take heart – the Lord has promised to grow us into people who both rejoice in God’s limitlessness and love our own finitude (Philippians 1:6).