In the Background
When she tells me she's proud of me, I want to pull a blanket over myself and stay there, away from her attention, away from the pride I can feel rising up in myself that tells me, Mission accomplished.
"Don't be," I want to say. Because if she knew how much I cling to other people's pride, other people's respect, she wouldn't have woken that beast.
I'm made for living in the background and helping other people find their footing. I'm made for loving the people around me and doing God's work quietly, with steady hands.
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." –Philippians 2:3
I need this verse tattooed on my arm for every time I forget it, because I'm all about making my mom, my friends, people I don't even know, proud, but I often forget about God.
Last week, I obsessively listened to TED Talks, entrepreneurship interviews, Danielle LaPorte Desire Map talks—basically, I loved listening to other people talk about how they found their purpose in life.
And it's really entertaining to listen to other people try to give me advice for how to find my purpose in life.
Every talk hits some key major points; figure out what makes you happy, don't think about money, surround yourself with good people, just take jobs until you find something that sticks, don't compare yourself to anyone else. And it was all great advice that will no doubt improve many areas of a life.
But none of them tell you about standing in the background, about being patient, about working on small platforms and being faithful to small work. Success is about big, bold steps, they say. Your purpose is about being passionate about something every single day, as if that was possible.
Last week, as I listened to all these successful people with millions of dollars, hundreds of testimonials, creations they can hold in their hands and say, "I finally made it," I felt the things I've held in my heart shrink over the thought that I had to do big things and be a big person with a big platform to achieve these versions of success.
Here's how I figured out my purpose.
I knew the only time I felt at peace was when I put my words on paper. I knew I loved people and could spend every day listening to the things on their hearts. I knew getting responses from people who had read something I wrote saying "I've been through this same thing," or "I can relate completely," filled me with joy.
But what worries me is how often I get distracted from what I know lights me up in this world by the thoughts I have telling me nobody will ever listen, nobody will ever think I'm enough, I'm nothing without a world to validate what I feel to be true. That without a "platform" where I could reach thousands, I'm not fulfilling God's purpose for my life. That the only people in this world who matter are the ones we follow on social media and tell that they matter.
I'll be honest; social media bores me. When I post something on it, my spirit feels heavy. I don't want to waste my life waiting for likes, I don't want to give anyone the impression that my life is as flawless as a photo put through three different filters. I have no talent for photography. I have a hard time putting myself at the center of attention, and I can't post "selfies." I like posting my thoughts and these blogs to Twitter—it is a platform where I feel entirely myself in a community that isn't judging whether I am too weird, or too much. On any other platform though, I go months without posting, and I don't miss it.
But I know that if I had thousands of followers, and got hundreds of likes, and comments telling me how wonderful I was, it would become my downfall. Because I have this thought in the back of my mind that the reason I'm so bored by social media is because it hurts my pride.
Oh, the sweet conviction of that sentence.
Sometimes I start writing knowing exactly what I want to say, but today all I know is that I'm living in a world where we strive for validation on the internet, we look for our purpose in TED talks and motivational books, and we hang on big ideas of success, wealth, and worth like idols dripping in gold. And I can feel that it's wrong.
My mom and I had a talk about how so many people anymore are unhappy, wondered where it could be stemming from, if we're falling into a trap disguised as a "perfect" life. I don't know the answer, all I can tell you is this:
Humility is not an easy thing to achieve when the satisfaction of pride is just a post away. But nothing we can achieve out of ambition will change how our hearts feel. No amount of likes or followers or comments will be enough to validate our purpose if we don't first validate it through God.
Let's do the small work. Let's be faithful to it. What if we stopped doing things to make our moms, our friends, or complete strangers, proud? What if we did the things we felt called to do, just because we feel called to do it?
We might be judged for it. We might be ignored by this world full of voices yelling over each other to be heard. But we might feel just that much happier, freer than we've been in years.
Maybe standing in the background is where we were meant to shine.