Do you ever feel as if the only thing people seem to notice about you are your failures?
A week ago, on the morning of Monday, February 27, I woke up to a Twitter feed full of ridicule and criticisms. Late the previous night, the Oscars - the biggest annual awards show in Hollywood - had been mired in controversy. When announcing the award for Best Picture, presenter Warren Beatty mistakingly read from the wrong envelope, announcing La La Land as the winner. After the customary celebrations and speeches, an awkward commotion on stage gave way to the revelation that Moonlight was the actual winner. The La La Land team was gracious and Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel tried to smooth things over, but the damage was done.
For the next twenty four hours, social media streams and news outlets alike blasted the Oscars for the mishap, pointing fingers wherever they could. Many comments were playful, others were scathing. As I scrolled my own timelines on and off throughout the day this was the only news from the Academy Awards I saw. To this day, a week later, I still have no idea who won any of the other awards, save Emma Stone whose name was revealed in the gaffe. All the actual winners, all the celebration of art, creativity, story, and humanity were completely overshadowed by one single mistake.
And such is life. Our world is quick to pounce when people mess up. We see this every day in the public sphere. Politicians, celebrities, athletes, high profile pastors: the more popular you are, the more public your failure becomes. Our culture revels in the pain and mishaps of others. Yet, you don’t need to be a millionaire to feel the pressure of perfection. Even on the smallest scale of normal, everyday life, failure - or the fear of failure - haunts us. You don’t publish the project because you’re afraid people won’t like it; I lose my temper with my family and it hovers like a cloud for days; he misses a deadline and the boss comes down hard, despite an otherwise solid track record; she flubs a line in her performance and it becomes the only moment that the audience talks about.
What is the one thing people think of when they look at you? Do you, like the Oscars, feel as if you can’t escape your own mistakes? Do you feel like people ignore all your beauty, your goodness, your contributions, latching instead onto your worst moments? Do you worry that you will never escape the shadow of your own mistakes? Does the fear of messing up paralyze you and prevent you from taking risks altogether?
Unfortunately, our culture is a parasite, gaining strength by feeding off the weaknesses of its own inhabitants. But the good news is we don’t have to be defined by our shortcomings. One of the many profound truths of the Gospel is that when we know Jesus we are also known by the Father. Jesus, though fully God, was also fully man; the only man to live without sin or failure. The mystery that took place at the cross is that Jesus took upon himself all of our sin and brokenness, and gave to us his perfection.
What does this mean? It means that when God looks at us he sees the righteousness of his son. Not our mistakes. Not our failures. Not our sin or our brokenness. He sees us whole, complete, perfect, and holy, just as his son. That’s a far cry for the impression many of us have of a God who magnifies and judges all our failures. It’s a far cry from a world that does the same thing.
When you rise each morning, do yourself a favor: ignore the social feeds and silent internal judgements that whisper inadequacy. Instead, rest in the knowledge that mercy, love, and belonging rise each day with the sun.