If You Don’t Quit, You Win
Other people’s estimation of you can be a powerful thing. It can be extremely hurtful, or it can be a fuel that gives rise to an enormous ego. Empowering an opinion has effects that are far reaching and often times devastating. I know from my own life that I have given other people’s opinions much more influence than should be deemed healthy. Their opinion can bring fear that quenches passion, it can bring hurt that fuels bitterness, it can bring approval that gives rise to the temptation to be less than genuine with our faults, it can bring glory and honor that feed human pride. Defining yourself by other people’s opinions, whether those opinions are good or bad, is detrimental. It is in Christ alone that we find a true and accurate judge.
My entire life I have allowed other people’s opinions to rule my heart. The way I look, the way I act, the way I speak, the way I worship, the way I work, in every area I’ve wanted to please someone. When the constant thought going through your head is, “How will people perceive this? What will they think?” you begin to live under an enormous and controlling weight. Your actions are no longer your own. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting and many times painful. You can never measure up to everyone else’s judgment…especially if their judgment is unfair or misunderstood.
A few years ago, I accepted an internship with an organization with which I was excited to work. When I showed up for the first week of work, things were intimidating, I didn’t understand the culture of this work place, I didn’t understand the people I was working with (quite literally, language was a barrier), I didn’t have anyone with whom I could connect (age, situation, or past experiences), I had no clue what I was doing there, and I wasn’t sure how to process it all. I felt like I was perceived as weird, rude, selfish, unhelpful, quiet, standoffish, the list goes on (By the way, I would like to think that most of those are misjudgments). That perception, whether wrong or right, caused me only to further retreat from these people and from taking any initiative in the work that I was doing there. I felt so misunderstood! I knew that God was literally the only one in a 9,000 mile radius that understood me or my heart in those moments. I found comfort and solace in Him, knowing that no matter what everyone else thought, He knew the truth and his opinion of me is always favorable.
The fact of the matter was that their opinions paralyzed me. Anyone who knows me knows that I am definitely not quiet, nor would I consider myself weird or rude, but because they thought that about me, I felt so uncomfortable to actually be myself. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t find my way out of the paralysis. Why would I speak up and give them more to talk about? I just resigned myself to be quiet, persevere, and pray. I knew that God had placed me in this position and I knew that He somehow expected me to connect with these people, or He wouldn’t have put me there to begin with. I just had to wait until something changed.
I have had this feeling repeatedly throughout the years, most of the time it stems from giving other people’s opinions too much power. Not allowing other people’s judgments to affect me is something that I still battle, but God constantly reminds me that it is His estimation alone that matters.
1 Peter 2 paints an amazing picture of the example that we have been called to follow:
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” – 1 Peter 2:21-25 (MSG)
As I read the verse “He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.” I was filled with respect for what He did. On the day of His crucifixion, He was mocked, ridiculed, called every terrible name imaginable. He was misunderstood, underestimated, and completely misjudged, but rather than fighting back, rather than attempting to justify himself or explain the truth to those who had already made their judgment, He was content to let God be the true judge and to set things right. When no one else understood, He knew that God knew the truth and He was satisfied with that alone.
There will be times in our lives when we are called into situations and places that are uncomfortable. We may be mistreated, misunderstood, misjudged, or treated with contempt, but we have been called to that place nonetheless.
“You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived….” –1 Peter 2:18-21
Like Christ, you have been called to painful places. You have been called to participate in Christ’s sufferings. “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) Things will not always be simple or easy or desirable, but if you are swayed by the treatment or opinion of others, you will surely find yourself running from the very place that God has placed you. “But if you do good and suffer and so endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20). In the wise words of worship singer, Misty Edwards, “If you don’t quit, you win.”
As if not letting people’s opinions define you, and enduring sufferings were not enough, God does not stop there. 1 Peter 2 opens by saying “So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.” (1 Peter 2:1-3, MSG) It can be extremely hard to feel misunderstood and mistreated, it can be even harder to hold your tongue and not to fight back, but to go even a step further and prevent yourself from allowing malice, anger, or envy to breed in your heart can seem nearly impossible at times. But that is what you have been called to do….Drink deep of God’s kindness, banish malice, and grow up into maturity.
“ Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” -Colossians 3:12-15
So then, should find yourself in a place where you feel misunderstood, every day is painful, solace is fleeting, and you feel like you just can’t handle any more, be assured that Christ experienced the same and even more. There is strength that comes in those times of weakness. There is favor, grace, and the glory of God waiting to be revealed to you….“if you don’t quit, you win.”