“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart,” said a wooden ornament hanging from a bathroom cabinet.
“The only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday,” said a signpost outside a church.
Are these really the best mantras to carry with us?
Growth and maturation happen as life progresses, but often it isn’t tangible and visible and right there. It isn’t like climbing a mountain, where you can look back or unfold a map and see how far you’ve come. Even when your body screams and your throat is dry and your head hurts, you can still see progress.
Real life isn’t like that. Real life is subtle and grey and hazy, even when you look back. Either you don’t have a map, or it doesn’t seem trustworthy anymore. Your body may scream and your throat may be dry and your heart may hurt … and in all this, there is zero concrete evidence of progress.
Sometimes, you will sink down, and it won’t be ladylike (or gentleman-like). The nice bench next to the nice signpost — that acceptable resting place — is just around the bend, but you couldn’t make it that far. You’re a heap on the side of the road, sweaty and red.
What if you’re still there tomorrow? And the next day? And next year?
I must be better than I was yesterday. And you aren’t. At least, not in any way you can see, not even as you rise heavily to your feet. You don’t feel like you are being particularly strengthened, like any character traits have sharpened themselves into any kind of tool. In fact, the ground seems to have given way a bit, and the wind pulled you back down a few hundred yards. If anything, you’re worse off than you were before. You’re not better than yesterday, or the day before, or even the year before.
You might as well lie down again. You aren’t getting any better.
This is why I think comparing oneself with previous versions of oneself is toxic.
In many ways, life is more about the journey than the destination. Maybe the only way to truly be “better than the person you were yesterday” is to forget about that person and forget about that saying.
Just live today, no matter what the world looks like through your half-opened eyes.
God isn’t using his head to handle you and his heart to handle everyone else, so you shouldn’t either. Give yourself as much grace as you possibly can, because that’s what he’s doing.
It’s not about getting to the top of the mountain. It’s not even about making sure you pull yourself a few steps closer to the peak today. What is this “summit of perfection” you’re striving for? Your worth isn’t based on perpetual upward motion!
Be in Christ, even if you’re not better.
Maybe you won’t see growth for a long, long time, but one day you will put your hand at your side and you will feel polished metal. Surprised, you will look down and see new tools in your tool belt that you didn’t realize were there. New bits of wisdom, new confidence, new depths of love and hope and patience.
And yes, another day will come when you will reach down again and some of those tools will seem to be missing, and you won’t know why, and you will feel like all the progress you were making has been lost.
Remember, even in loss you are not lost. Life is subtle and grey and hazy. Hold on to truth and God even when every outward sign of value and progress and comfort is torn away.
You are still worthy.