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. The ugly truth is that nobody can do it, and those who try eventually crack up struggling to please everybody.

Is measuring up necessary?

Obviously if we have a job, we have to meet our employer's standards and quotas for our position. That's hard, and it's getting harder every day, as the economy suffers and more is expected of us.

We can only do our best. Often we forget that. When we try our hardest, honestly give it everything we have, and that's still not good enough, we can't feel ashamed if we're let go. Naturally we're going to be angry, resentful, and discouraged because our employer had unrealistic expectations of us, but what we must not allow ourselves to feel is shame and guilt.

I recall being laid off once because the economy was bad. Our division vice president said, "Our company magazine has never been better since you took it over, but we have to let you go." I gave it my 100% best effort.

I worked to the peak of my abilities, and it couldn't save me. I measured up but I was still fired.

Measuring up is necessary to keep your job, but it won't guarantee that you'll keep it.

Jack's truths for thriving

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

Maybe some jobs are beyond us. They may be a wrong match for our 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 we all learn that lesson sooner or later.

What about measuring up for others?

The same holds true when we're trying to please other people. I'm not talking about your boss here, but 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.

In the final analysis, whether it's our boss, friends or family, we can only do our best. If our honest best isn't good enough, then it's their problem, not ours.

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 discouragement.

I'm here to tell you that's not how God operates.

I don't speak for God, but I had the same 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.

  • God has 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 what we do.

  • God is actually proud of 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!

Return to top of measuring up