Our current culture teaches us that only those with absolute control over their lives are worthy of speaking out and are able to make a difference in the world. We see perfectly scripted lives play out in real-time on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. After watching and scrolling past countless pictures of manufactured happiness, wealth, and success, we believe ourselves unworthy. But our real lives are so much more powerful.
What we don’t realize is that these people have the same problems, concerns, and fears that we have. They just edited them out. Even when we do recognize this fiction, we still tell ourselves that we can’t participate in making a difference until we are able to master the same level of fake perfection. Yet, at the same time, we long for real connections and an unedited life. So what gives? We know it is not real, but we tell ourselves that the standard set by the fake news we follow is the standard that we must judge ourselves by.
Today’s celebrity and social media culture paint a picture of success that whitewashes the failures, pain, and disappointments that naturally accompany life. In truth, no life is perfect. Failure often comes with success. Success does not prevent pain. Disappointment is everywhere. Movie stars don’t get every part they want. Politicians don’t always get elected. Business leaders make mistakes. Social media influencers started with zero followers. Our friend’s perfect family vacation photo does not include the 25 other pictures of the crying kids or the stress of the three-hour layover before the amazing beach pic.
We know all this to be true. Nevertheless, we push ourselves in a fight against reality to create worlds that don’t exist in an attempt to be accepted in the only world that does exist. Why do we judge ourselves by other people’s fictions and lies? More importantly, how do we stop?
Tell the Truth. Ignore the Lie. Don’t Mix These Up.
A lie holds great power in the absence of truth. A lie can get us to believe all kinds of things about ourselves, about the world we live in, about the standards we should be following. But a lie is always destructive. It seeks to hide or distort the truth in an effort to keep us unaware of the reality that surrounds us. Once we buy into the false reality, it can be hard to remember what is real and what isn’t. The good news is that the truth is always more powerful than the lie. The lie will prevail in the absence of truth, but once you let the truth in, the lie has nowhere to hide. We can prevent the lie from ever taking hold again by ignoring it and focusing on the truth. The lie does not have to have power over us. The truth can prevail.
Learning to Recognize the Truth
Life is a constant mixture of good and bad, joy and pain, success and failure. Our culture is full of stories about how people were in pain and now they are not. Stories about how they had failed but now they are successful. Stories about suffering that turned into triumph. We love a good story about a life that was turned around. What we don’t hear off-script is that success (once achieved) is not constant. That pain comes back. That everyone has good days and ones they would rather forget.
There is no such thing as happily-ever-after. What is true is that there can be happiness amongst the trials. Joy can sit alongside tribulation. Part of the continual process of success is overcoming momentary failures. Believe it or not, this is actually a very optimistic view of the world. It gives us the freedom to stop seeing the bad moments as the ones that dictate our self-worth or judge us as unready and unworthy of the life we want to live and the things we want to accomplish.
The truth is that it is both the good days and the bad that prepare us, teach us, and move us forward. Anyone can edit out their pain, suffering, and failures to tell a fictitious story about a life they don’t really live. But where is the peace and hope in such lies? Where is the lesson in such a story? There is no lesson because lies have nothing to teach us.
The real story, the one that is truly exciting to live out and share, is that our imperfections have prepared us for what comes next. We are ready to stand, to take action, and to serve. Not because we have everything beautifully figured out, but because we know what it is like to have pain, to have failed, to have suffered. It is our mistakes and misfortunes that make us perfectly ready for the next challenge. We know what it means to overcome and we are ready to do it again.
The best part is that we do not have to do it alone.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need”. Hebrews 4:16