When I was 14 years old I went bowling with my youth group. My ex-boyfriend was there looking handsome. But he wasn’t the only one looking good. I had just gotten my braces off. As my favorite artist at the time Ke$ha would say, I was feeling “hot and dangerous”.
We were in the bowling alley, talking, and I was doing everything I could to express “don’t you wish you hadn’t given up on me? Look at me now.” I don’t remember what we were talking about but what happened next is forever engrained in my memory.
When you get your braces off, it takes a while for your mouth to get used to it. It is not uncommon for you to produce more saliva than usual. That is exactly how I ended up drooling in front of my ex.
“Did you just drool?”
“No.” I denied it. I had obviously just drooled. It was a lot of drool. It just poured out of my mouth. But I looked him in the eye and denied what had just happened, even though we both knew it wasn’t true.
(Photograph: circa 2011, aka: time I drooled in a bowling alley)
Even though things have changed since I was 14, a lot of things have remained the same. Mainly, my insecurities regarding perfection. For years I have struggled to let my guard down to see the slobbery, awkward mess I am behind the leader, student, daughter, friend, potential love interest (Anyone? No? Even after that drool story?) and all the other things I want people to see me as.
Perfectionism tells me that I cannot mess up, I cannot be flawed, I cannot do anything that would make me have to say, “Yep, you’re right I just drooled.” or “I am late because I was eating a burrito.” I know that sounds funny but seriously, imagine if you did that thing that you hate when other people do it – and it wasn’t even for a good reason.
Perfectionism convinces us that if we are good enough, we won’t ever need anyone to give us grace. We will have it all under control and we will have earned the love and respect of others. Hold on though, that includes the love of Christ.
I started to get really anxious about what I was supposed to be doing with my life as I got closer and closer to graduation. I wanted to be able to do everything, take every opportunity on with excellence, proving without a shadow of a doubt that I am capable of any career. I wanted to never be late and never make a mistake.
But that isn’t being human.
Imagine working for someone who is always on time, never misses a day of work for anything, is always the last to leave, and basically everything about them oozes “I am better than you and you will never measure up.” I don’t want to work for that guy. I want to work with people who say it is ok to not know the copy code or take a day off when you are sick. When I think of it that way, I always ask myself, “why would I want to be that guy?”
You can lead people by example by embracing your humanity. Showing grace for yourself and for others. When you humanize yourself, it becomes so much easier to humanize the people around you.
Humans make mistakes. That is why God gives us grace. Not because we asked for it, because we thought we could handle it – He gives it to us because we need to learn to use it. Accepting you are human is the first step to building a healthier lifestyle.
So next time I make a 65 on a quiz I will tell the girl sitting next to me so she feels better about her 75. Next time my boss is running late, I will remind him that I get how much of a struggle mornings can be. Next time I am human, I will reach out and share that with my neighbor.
Because I want to love people well. Your neighbor doesn’t need a critic or a measuring stick, they need the same grace and love that Christ offers us everyday.