I’m excited to welcome back Jenn Peppers to the blog today. Jenn is a terrific leadership & business coach, and is the co-author (along with Tara Miller) of the insightful yet practical book Finding the Flow: A Guide for Leading Small Groups and Gatherings. You can find out more about Jenn’s life and work by visiting her site at www.vergecoaching.com.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post outlining the impact of performance on our spiritual growth and how it hinders authenticity and transformation. I described how performing to feel a sense of significance or favor with God is a trap that often looks good, but leads us away from God and the freedom he offers. How do you know if you are in this trap? To discern if your spiritual journey is being compromised by what you’re trying to accomplish, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I preoccupied with numbers? We love to quantify things and this type of data can be very helpful. When it becomes unhelpful is when it is used as a tool to prove something to others or us. It may be proof that we’re super-spiritual, proof that we’re successful, or proof that we’re valuable. Have you caught yourself telling people how many minutes long your devotional time was or what percentage of money you’re giving away? Or how about the number of people attending your church or following you on Twitter? And do you use these numbers to convince yourself or others that God is with you and blessing you?
2. Am I neglecting someone or something that is important? Perhaps your spouse or child has told you they feel disconnected, distant or in other ways dissatisfied with how you’re showing up in the relationship. Or maybe the things you used to do to connect with God are sinking on your list of priorities. Your health may be slowly slipping or you’re not getting the amount of exercise or sleep that is ideal for you. You know this, yet it’s hard for you to carve the time for these things until it becomes urgent.
3. Am I losing sleep or having trouble shutting off your mind? You might be spending precious sleep minutes or hours second guessing conversations and actions, like revisiting the things you said to your boss or client and critiquing your words or coming up with things you wish you said. Or maybe you are feeling regret about a decision you made, even if it was just about the menu item you ordered for dinner. Perhaps all of this pondering and analyzing has caused you to ~ more times than you’d like to admit ~ rely on a sleep aid because you really need the rest.
4. Do I notice that my ego is often inflated or deflated after doing something? You might be the type that has a hard time saying no to things, especially if you know you can do it well. Even when you’re already over-extended. Or maybe you spend weeks and countless hours preparing for, scripting, and practicing for a talk you are giving to ensure that you hit a home run. This type of over-preparation may result in accolades, but in whose strength was it accomplished? Were you glorified or was God? And what was the impact on your ego?
5. Am I sensitive to constructive feedback? By putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform well, negative feedback or criticism from others becomes too much to bear. We have a fragile foundation because our self-worth is based on our performance rather than our identity in Christ. And we give way too much power to others to reflect our own value back to us. Who was the last person to criticize you? How did you respond?
At this point you might expect me to say that if you’ve answered “yes” to more than four of these items you are very likely stuck in a performance-based paradigm. I am not going to say it. I don’t believe there is an easy formula. It’s tricky to identify if you’re stuck because what you’re doing may look really good from the outside even if it’s depleting your soul.
Not to mention that being productive with our gifts is important. It’s required for the Body to be whole and good stewardship of what we’ve been given. A focus on doing and achieving for the Kingdom is an expected stage of spiritual growth. Janet Hagberg, author of The Critical Journey, refers to this as the “productive life” stage and believes that it’s important, but not the goal. Unfortunately, this is where many Christians end their spiritual journey and it is only the third stage (of six) in Hagberg’s model.
What I am counting on is that if this post describes you, you feel conviction in your Spirit. You may have only said “yes” to one item on the list but the Spirit of God is convicting you. Right now. Are you convicted?