I stumbled on an interesting collection of photos recently. ABCNews.com displayed a series of photos of individuals featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Here are some highlights:
- The largest human peace sign was formed by 5,814 people in Ithaca, N.Y.
- The most pierced woman lives in Scotland and has 5,920 body piercing (ouch!).
- A Texas man holds the record for sitting in a tub with the most rattlesnakes. He lasted 45 minutes with 87 rattlesnakes (double ouch!).
- A Massachusetts man grew the biggest pumpkin on record. It weighed 1,689 pounds.
- And just in case you were wondering, the largest Mentos-and-Coke fountain was created by 1,360 students in Belgium.
If you’re anything like me, these kinds of records fascinate you. In fact, most of us are drawn to the idea of doing something spectacular, even if it’s as silly as choreographing the world’s largest coke fountain. But, this idea that performance equals value can easily trip us up. It’s true that the people who are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records have accomplished something extraordinary. But does that mean that they have more value than those of us who haven’t been a part of a giant human peace sign or sat in a tub filled with rattlesnakes?
Let’s take it down a notch. Forget world records for a minute. What about sports, grades, activities…Do you have value because you are a straight A student? Would your friends still have time for you if you weren’t a star athlete or first chair in the school band? Would your youth pastor think so highly of you if you didn’t agree to work the nursery, and set up chairs for youth group, and serve on the student leadership team? Would your parents love you less if you weren’t the best at everything you do? Do you ever feel burdened by the feeling that your worth comes from what you can accomplish?
In fact, lots of girls feel this way. During our research for Lies Young Women Believe, we found that a whopping 95% of the girls we talked to were plagued by the lie that they had to perform in order to be loved and accepted.
Here’s what they told us:
“I’ve been struggling with depression for five years. I always have those little feelings that I’m not worth anything—that I’m not good enough. I can tell it is Satan telling me that I am never going to make it. That I can’t DO anything in my life.”
“As soon as you get into high school, everything you do becomes about college. If you make a bad grade everyone points it out. Every day you feel this tremendous pressure that the decisions you are making will affect your ability to get into college. It’s always in the back of your mind.”
“I want to get a scholarship to play ball in college. If I have a bad game Satan will tell me ‘you did bad in this game…and on top of that these things are wrong with you…’ I fell like that is how everyone sees me” (Lies Young Women Believe, 77).
Sound familiar? I’ve felt these same pressures plenty of times. I’ll admit I’ve never felt pushed to pin down a world record or secure my place in the history books, but I have felt pressure to be perfect…the perfect wife, the perfect friend, the perfect Christian, the perfect daughter…the list goes on and on.
Believing this lie can be especially exhausting. When we strive to be affirmed by the people around us based on what we can do, we lose the freedom to just be who God created us to be.
“Your value is not determined by what you do, but by how God views you…He chose you before the world was created (Ephesians 1:4). He knit you together in your mother’s womb and declared that you have been ‘wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14). He loved you before you could love Him (1 John 4:9). And, if you belong to Him, nothing can ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:38). Your value isn’t determined by what you can do. It’s determined by the simple fact that you are” (Lies Young Women Believe, 78).
I think it’s great to strive for excellence. This is one way that we can be salt and light in a dark world. But when that gets twisted into a drive to achieve in order to attract the applause of man we will find ourselves in bondage.
This can be a difficult lie to break free of, but it is worth the work. There is tremendous freedom to be found in the ability to rest in God’s promises about your worth instead of striving to do and to be enough to impress those around you.
On page 80 in Lies Young Women Believe, Nancy and Dannah encourage young women to tackle this lie sooner rather than later. I think their advice is worth repeating.
Wrestle with this one now, because it won’t go away. It’ll just grow with you. And the bigger it gets, the heavier a weight it becomes in your life. Choose now to embrace the Truth that as a believer in Christ, you have value—not because of anything you do, but simply because you are God’s girl, redeemed and loved by the grace of God, because of what Christ has done for you!”