Tag Archives: tough times

Impossible Standards

For almost as long as I can remember, I have had the title of a “good student”.  Typically, I take my schoolwork pretty seriously.  I work hard on my homework assignments, and I usually fare pretty well in my classes as a result.

I wish I could say this was because I always cared a lot about the specific assignment, or simply because I am just a really smart individual… but to tell the truth, I think it often has more to do with a kind of fear of failure, and conversely—a near constant and impossible struggle for perfection.

When it comes to school or work, this kind of attitude can definitely have its benefits; but I am realizing more and more as I grow up that there is a significant difference between desiring/really working to be your absolute best, and struggling in vain to meet some vague and undefined standard of perfection out of fear of failure.

As a Christian, I know that God tells me to “be perfect” as He is perfect.  But seeking perfection for perfection’s sake isn’t exactly the message of the gospel.  I think sometimes us Christians get too bogged down in this struggle for perfection, and somewhere along the line we forget that this life is not supposed to be a struggle we face on our own.

The truth is that the minute we start to think we are alone, or that failure is something even worth being afraid of, we have already lost the battle.  When it comes down to it, a Christian is not someone who thinks he or she is perfect.  A Christian is someone who knows and offers all that they are to the one who is.

“…As for me, I will glorify Thee by manifesting how good Thou art to sinners.  In me Thou will show that Thy mercy is superior to all our malice, that nothing can exhaust it, and that no relapse, however shameful and culpable it may be, should make a sinner lose hope in Thy forgiveness”

Am I Happy?

“Am I happy?”

It’s a question that I don’t think we ask nearly enough. Notice that it’s not the same question as “Am I having fun?”—I think we ask ourselves that question all the time.

We go out drinking or take a lot of trips, or do all sorts of fun activities to keep us busy and having fun. Generally, there is nothing objectively wrong about doing any of these things. But thinking that they are what will make us happy can often lead to feelings of emptiness and confusion. The truth is that fun is not the same thing as happiness.

Now, that’s not to say that being happy can’t be fun—it certainly can, and often is. But it’s more than that. The question we asks ourselves should not be “Am I having fun?” but “Am I happy?” So how can you tell if you are happy?

1. Happiness is good. Someone who has something that is truly good will always want to share it with others.

If what you have is just “fun”, you may want more people around, but you’re not making it a purpose or goal to share your fun with other people. And often times what we do for “fun” is exclusive to a small group of people—we don’t really want anyone else to be a part of it for one reason or another. Maybe it’s a clique-y thing or maybe it’s something that is shameful that we don’t want other people to know about. The bottom line is that something that yields true happiness, you can’t help but want to share with everyone you meet.

2. Happiness is lasting, even when things aren’t “fun”.

Life isn’t all excitement all the time. Sometimes things are boring; and sometimes you have to do long, grueling work that you’d rather delegate to someone else. But a lack of excitement and a lack of fun does not have to mean unhappiness. If you are leading a life that you are truly happy with, you are going to be happy even in those less-than-exciting times.

To clarify: I’m not saying that boring times are good because they make you thankful for the fun times, and if you realize that, then you are happy. I’m saying that happy people find joy and peace even in the boring times.  They know that their life has meaning beyond what they are feeling in the moment.

So what do you think? Are you happy?

Judging Your Self-Worth

I am feeling a bit uneasy these days.  Things are quiet.  …Too quiet.  I have an all too familiar pain in my stomach and anxiety levels are beginning to rise.  I swore this time that I would be prepared—that I wouldn’t let myself get bogged down by the stress of it all—but once again I find myself here.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am dangerously close to, and painfully aware of the impending frustrations of… finals week.

Ok, it is really not that dramatic.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  But for some reason I have gotten really good over the years at stressing out.  I don’t really know how it happened; and there is really no logical reason for me to be at this level of stress.  I always end up doing just fine on my finals.

I will say this: I found finals week to be a breeze in high school—and not just because the work was easier back then.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I went to a high school with over 3,000 people.  In a crowd that size, it was really easy to slide under the radar.  I never realized that a large group of people could be such a security blanket.  Now?  I will be graduating from my university in a class of about 25 students.

So what’s the big deal?  Going to a university of this size has actually been an extremely positive experience for me.  I know the administration; I know the faculty.  One-on-one time with my professors is not only possible; it is virtually inevitable.  And the community of students is something I would not trade for anything.  I really do love my school.  It just often makes it very difficult for me to be “comfortable.”  It’s a lot harder to slide under the radar in a crowd of 25 than it is in one of 3,000.

You see, at a large school, I had the ability to do less than my full potential because I could comfort myself with the fact that I was still doing better than a good majority of the other students in my class (I know.  A terrible way of looking at things, right?).  At a school of my size now, I know the names, faces, and general history of everyone in my class.  Talk about pressure.

Yet I know that this is one of the major reasons why God had me go to this school rather than a larger university.  It wasn’t because He wanted me to compare myself to other people and judge my worth based on the differences.  It was because He wanted to show me this part of myself and help me rise above it, by learning to be inspired by the achievements of the people around me and be proud of who I am in my own right.

Easier said than done?  Of course.  But I think, with the help of about 25 friends, I am at least beginning to learn.

Oh PS – I like to think that I write this blog for actual people to read it.  As such, I would love to hear your suggestions for future topics you would be interested in reading what I have to say about.  And as always, you can ask me anything you’d like.  Feel free to use the form below to contact me for anything.

[contact-form 1 “Contact form 1”]

Are You Who You Want to Be?

Me and One of My Many Adorable Nieces 🙂

 

From the time we are in kindergarten, we are often told that we can be whatever we want to be, that we can do whatever we want to do, so long as we set our minds to it.  Accordingly, we start to dream.  We start to dream big.  The world is our oyster!  We can do anything we want to do!

Unfortunately, I think that sometimes having this drilled into our minds over and over again has a little bit of a downside.  As a little kid, hearing “You can do anything you want so long as you set your mind to it” is meant to inspire us to dreams of greatness.  Yet in order to hold onto the “options” of doing anything we want, we often end up acting pretty mediocre.  The fact of the matter is that no one can do everything, which means that at some point we have to stop thinking we can do anything and just decide on doing something.

This is scary to a lot of people in my generation.  We love to “keep our options open.”  In college, we put off declaring a major until the very last second.  Then, we simply choose the most generic one that we can do most anything with.  We think that by acting this way, we will be more free in the future to do whatever we want to do, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

No one needs to hear this lesson more than me.  I don’t even like to make the decision on what restaurant to eat at for dinner, let alone one that involves something as important and big as my future.  For a while, I thought that by doing this I was protecting myself from making a wrong decision, but I was really just hurting myself even more by not allowing myself to develop opinions of my own.

I have such admiration for those that have the courage to make decisions, even if they end up being the wrong ones. It’s not that I think we should be rash or careless in our decision making.  Of course we should weigh the options and never do anything that goes against what we know is right.  What I now know is that when it comes down to it, you can learn a lot more about where you want to be by taking a wrong turn than by standing still.

Ask Mary – Complicated Relationship

Dear Mary,

As a christian, I feel like people should be given second chances. That we should see the good in people despite their past mistakes. But when do we draw the line in the forgiveness?
I have had a complicated friendship with a guy for a bout a year, which briefly turned into a relationship that ended badly. He just can’t seem to make up his mind and decide what he wants. He has always been good to me and seems to genuinely care about me, but still seems to be attached to his ex. He seems to want the best of both worlds and keeps managing to pull me back into the complicated friendship.
Despite everything that has happened, I still care for him and have hope for the future. But at what point do I stop being the bigger person in the situation and move on from the past, even though I still enjoy hanging out with him?
sincerely,
undecided heart

 

Undecided,

So sorry to hear you are going through this.  Relationships sometimes can seem so complicated, when in reality they are not supposed to be complicated at all.  Our feelings get all tangled up and we don’t want to leave, so we call it “friendship,” but a real friend wouldn’t be doing this to you.

In truth, I don’t believe that guys and girls can be really close friends without it meaning anything more.  Sure I have my guy friends I can talk to from time to time, but I don’t have guys who are just “friends” that I chat with for hours on the internet, over texting, or late into the night on the phone.  Actually, I don’t even really have girlfriends I do that with on a regular basis 😛  That’s because this is the behavior of a romantic relationship, and if your “friend” is letting the two of you do these things and calling it anything less, he is playing games and you need to call him out on it.

Should you forgive your friend for hurting you in the past?  Absolutely.  But should you give him an unmerited chance to do it again?  Probably not.

My advice is this: Be honest with him.  You can’t be just friends, and the complications and heartache of the last year should be evidence of that for you.  What you need from this guy is either hard-and-fast commitment, or for him to be out of your life completely—none of this in between stuff that makes you wait for him to make up his mind.  There is a difference between genuinely caring about you and wanting to genuinely care about you.  If he genuinely cared, he would recognize what this back and forth is doing to you and put an end to it either by committing to you or walking away.  Maybe he isn’t capable of genuinely caring about you the way you are supposed to be cared for right now.  Could that change in the future?  Sure.  But until there is evidence of that and he is willing and able to actually give you what you need, it is probably best to get out of the situation.

I’m not telling you to hate him or hold anything against him.  Sometimes being the bigger person means recognizing that a situation is not doing either of you any long-term good, and having the courage to walk away for both of your sakes.