I am so excited to debut this “spring” season’s bible study entitled We Are What He Calls Us. I have been writing a book for working women of faith that highlights a vicious cycle we can sometimes fall into as we pursue our career goals. A lot of books written for women focus on low self-esteem and women who do not believe they are worthwhile. Those are important books, but there isn’t a lot written for women who struggle with pride. Let me say this, I struggle with pride. It is one of the biggest struggles I have. I have had a career now for nearly 15 years and I like the promotions and the awards and the recognition.
Let me emphasize that success is not negative or problematic if you are also walking in faith and deepening your relationship with God. The problem arises when you purse the award or the achievement over everything else. When the pursuit of success takes priority over examining whether or not God calls you to walk that road, you are in trouble. That has happened to me. Unfortunately, it happens to many working women as we strive to break those glass ceilings. I found myself cycling between two very dangerous ends of the spectrum in response to the external recognition and the “wins” piling up.
The first extreme of the cycle is Pride. If you could have heard my little brain whirring during certain times of achievement, then you would have heard whispers of: “Look what I did;” “How impressive that I accomplished that success;” “Hey, is everyone looking? Over here. I am significant.” My thoughts did not immediately turn in gratitude to God for His faithfulness and blessings. Rather, my very independent-minded self became quite puffed up with pride. Imagine a gorilla shamelessly strutted around beating his chest. I am fairly confident that is the image God saw when He looked at me.
There is a really big problem with pride. Besides some of the obvious ones like, “Pride goes before the fall…” (Proverbs 16:18), Pride Leaves You. It left me. As soon as the applause stops, Pride goes running for the door. Pride is a fickle friend. It is only there when I am playing a winning season. Once I lose, Pride evaporates. And so would I. In my thirst to quench my pride, I would run toward the next win or whatever next big achievement came. I hurtled past red warning flags flapping along the path as I took the wrong fork in the road. I could not hear the voice of God or friends or family telling me I was flying down the wrong road because I wanted something to feel proud about.
The next extreme of the cycle is Insecurity. That end of the spectrum can be even harder to manage. It would leave me feeling panicked and worthless. I felt sure that at any moment the person giving the award or compliment would snatch it back when he or she saw what a fraud I was. Maybe I looked like a success on the outside, but inside everything ran amok. This end of the spectrum is what triggered writing a book. I heard so many “you’re amazings,” yet I almost never felt worthy of the statement. See how damaging this cycle can be? On the one hand, pride drives you to do more in an effort to stay on top of the heap. On the other hand, insecurity and self-loathing create a fear that can cripple your ability to accomplish anything. Additionally, the more you fuel that pride, the more likely you are to fail because you have undertaken far more than you can successfully manage.
So we’re going to look at the names and labels that God gives us because once we believe those claims on our lives then they singularly define our worth and success. If you have spent time lusting after the accolades that the world gives, then you no longer have to tirelessly and endlessly pursue them. If you chased success because those successes sourced your entire belief about your worth, then stop chasing it. If we can come to a place where we believe what God says about us, then that will fill the insatiable appetite we have to be worth something. To succeed. To be valuable. I participated in the cycle of chasing success and then running from disappointment because I needed validation. Yet what the world offered me never satiated me, leaving me exhausted and unable to step off the treadmill of hollow success. So over the next eight weeks, we are going to look at the names and claims God has for us. We are who He says we are.