I’m officially over hearing about how to be a better mom. You can also keep your ten tips to being a better employee, your six steps to being a better friend, and your secrets to being a great wife lists. Additionally, I’m rejecting all alliterations for building a better body and every Pinterest-worthy inspirational quote–featuring a pretty font and a beach scene–intended to motivate me to some sort of greatness.
I’m tired of reminders of how I can be better.
I wasn’t always this way.
About the size of a postcard and printed on a red and green tartan plaid background, the words on it read, “Commit Yourself to Constant Improvement.”
This was my life slogan. And this card travelled with me through college and graduate school and from job to job. It served as my reminder that I could always do better. A spark under my fire to keep trying harder and harder until I got it just right.
Though that card was still in excellent condition after two decades of travel, last week I ripped it in two and threw it in the trash.
My realization: Spending the day thinking of all the ways I fall short–meditating on self-improvement–is wearing on the soul.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think I’ve arrived (by any stretch). Nor am I saying that I’ve resolved, “I’ll never change!”
Instead, I know I drain a great deal of God’s grace daily: Be it in my parenting, my marriage, or my inability to say no to the third brownie. (His patience with me and my “resolutions” is truly amazing…)
And I acknowledge that by God’s grace is the only way I will ever or have ever changed.
Not by trying harder to be better.
Through my “committed to constant improvement” journey I’ve tried all the tips to not getting angry at my children when they do something that gets on my last nerve. I’ve attempted to carry out to perfection every suggestion on how I can act in my marriage to make it “magnificent.” And, dieting tips. Don’t even get me started there. I bet you can’t name a single one I haven’t tried…(at least for a solid hour or two).
The reality is: I can’t sustain it.
Every time I get a new list of recommended behaviors I am energized by my new set of rules. With a full heart of good intentions I tell myself, “Now, I will live like this forever.”
And, like a rubber band, four days later I find myself stretched and springing right back to the behavior I had sworn I’d never practice again.
Why? Because these lists don’t transform me. They don’t change who I really am, deep down. Those natural (dare I say, sinful) tendencies–like how I yell at my kids for acting childish (What do I expect?) or how I refuse to open up with my spouse (Because I’m mad that he doesn’t “just know” what’s bothering me.) These behaviors are my default settings.
I can stifle them for a short stint of time while I try something new, but, like trying to hold a beach ball under the water, they bounce right back up and soon become my normal again.
Yes, I think so. I believe there is great hope. Fortunately it’s not found in trying harder or in my ability to adhere to every rule and recommendation on a “be a better whatever” list.
It’s not found in committing yourself to constant improvement.
It’s found in the Gospel.
No tips, no acronyms, no buzz words to remember in time of need but one: Jesus.
If I stop trying to be a better… and just start believing the Gospel, then my change won’t be temporary. Then I’ll become transformed. Not through trying, but through surrender.
Jesus is the only one who can actually mold me, shape me, and make me different.
I can’t change myself (or anyone else for that matter). And, some days, I simply need to confess and repent of the ways I strive to do that.
Whatever you woke up swearing to “try harder” at today–be it loving that annoying co-worker, having patience with your “mini me” or just finding the willpower not to open that 5 pound bag of candy in your pantry that you purchased to donate to your church’s fall festival . . .
Let me encourage you today to stop trying.
And, instead wave the white flag and tell Jesus you are ready for him to take over.
Believe that lasting change doesn’t come through determination but through sanctification. Give yourself grace for the days that don’t feel like progress (because He does) and surrender your struggle again.
2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
**If you’re read for relief from the self-improvement rat race, I hope you’ll read my new book, Compared to Who? It may be just the kind of freedom you are looking for.