Measuring up can become an impossible taskmaster

Measuring up has been a worry for most single people since we were small children.

First it was parents, then teachers, then our employer. Most of us have doubts whether we're pleasing to God.

It's exhausting. All those standards, all those rules, all those emotions to control so we're the perfect little person. We've even seen gold medal winners drop out of the Olympics because of the intense pressure. The ugly truth is that nobody can do it, and those who try eventually have serious problems from trying to please everyone.

Let's look at this obsession called measuring up:

When measuring up is necessary

Obviously if you have a job, you have to meet your employer's standards and quotas for your position. As Christians, we are morally bound to give our employer our very best effort. Slacking or goofing off is not an option.

Here's an important truth: You can only do your best. Often workers forget that. When you try your hardest, honestly give it everything you have, and that's still not good enough, you can't feel ashamed if you're let go. Naturally you're going to be angry, resentful, and discouraged because your employer had unrealistic expectations of you, but you must not allow yourself to feel shame and guilt.

I recall being laid off once because the economy was bad. Our division vice president said to me, "Our company magazine has never been better since you took it over, but we have to let you go."

I had given it my 100% best effort.  I worked to the peak of my abilities, but even that couldn't save me. I measured up but I was still fired. Measuring up is necessary to do your job, but it won't guarantee that you'll keep it. Many times factors exist beyond your control.

You can only do your best. You can't do more than that.

Maybe some jobs are beyond you. They may be a wrong match for your talents and abilities. Measuring up is impossible if that's the case. It's heartbreaking to realize you can't do anything you want in life, but sometimes even the most passionate desire isn't enough.

Measuring up for others

You probably spend great amounts of time and energy trying to please family members or friends. They have expectations for you too, and sometimes you won't be able to meet their standards.

Again, if you try your hardest and do your best, you have nothing to be ashamed about. But keep this in mind: Often their expectations will be unrealistic. Parents try to push us to achieve as much as possible. There are times, however, when we reach our limit.

I had a friend in high school whose parents thought he should be the best at everything. When he couldn't be, he broke down and cried. That brought a lot of humiliation to him and needless guilt.

What often happens is children who are pushed like that end up resenting or even hating their parents. Measuring up becomes torture.

We need to evaluate whether the standards are sane or not. Yes, it's good to stretch yourself and keep shooting for excellence, but it's important to be realistic as well. We see people on television every day who try to be singers who have no voice, athletes who have no muscles, and actors who have no charisma.

Let me repeat, because it's so, so important: Whether it's your boss, friends or family, you can only do your best. If your honest best isn't good enough, then it's their problem, not yours.

Measuring up for God

What causes a surprising number of single people misery is believing they're not measuring up for God. They see themselves as failures in his eyes. They're devastated by their sin. They have a hard time believing in God's forgiveness. They're wracked by a constant sense of guilt and discouragement.

Those poor folks have a misunderstanding of the basics of biblical Christianity.

I had that problem myself, for many years. I began to study the Bible, almost fanatically. I read every book I could get my hands on about what God is really like. I made some discoveries about measuring up that changed my life, and I hope they'll change yours too:

Jesus measured up for you. Let that sink in. It is stone-cold impossible for us humans to live up to God's standards. We cannot be sinless, no matter how hard we try. Our best just isn't good enough, but the good news is that Jesus is. He sacrificed himself so our sins could be forgiven. When we accept him as our Savior, his righteousness becomes ours. We instantly measure up. For eternity.

God adopted you as his child. He is the perfect Father, who does not abuse his children. When bad things happen, and they will, he is always with you to love and comfort you. It took me years to believe that, but now I do, because he helped me get through many painful experiences. I no longer accuse my Father of things that would be completely out of character for him.

God created your abilities and talents and accepts you completely. I'm not a best-selling author. For decades it bothered me that I'm not. But God gave me some talent, and I believe he is pleased with me the way I am. I am doing the best with what I have, and that's all he expects me to do. That's all he expects from you, too. He loves us for who we are, not for our accomplishments.

God takes pride in you. I know! Hard to believe, isn't it? But the Bible says you are the apple of his eye, precious in his sight. He made you unique from all the billions of people he has ever created or will create. When you love him and do your best to obey him, you are measuring up, and don't forget it! No one loves you more than God. He rejoices in having you as his child!

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