What Do I Think is at Stake?
Modern day personalized youth baseball gear is like the eggs in the “Alien” movie franchise – every time you look up, there’s more. And I couldn’t find my nine-year old’s new batting gloves. I felt my body temperature rise in frustration. I could hear the anxiety in my clipped, short tone with both him and my wife as we all searched for them. I’m not just dad but coach, which means I often confuse the ultimate meaning a nine-year-old baseball practice holds in the universe.
When my son spotted the gloves on a shelf in the garage and exclaimed “I found them!” I felt anxiety release the way air lets out of a balloon. I looked at my wife and said, “I’m sorry….you know how I get.”
I immediately regretted offering a qualified apology – I said the word “sorry” but what followed implied that how I acted towards her and my son were out of my control.
“Core belief” is a term used in counseling defined as “the very essence of how we see ourselves, other people, the world, and the future.” We all have core beliefs we struggle with that cause pain, chaos, and destruction in relationships. Followers of Christ will recognize some of these beliefs. “I am not loved” and “I am worthless” are two examples that are directly opposed to who we are as adopted children of God through Christ at the cross. Understanding the destructive core beliefs we struggle with is one way we can love people. We love better when we better understand the inner response (“I am worthless”) that leads to an unloving outward response (such as irritability, anger, or cruelty).
For instance, I struggle with a core belief of “I am worthless,” which normally finds its context in the roles where I find a sense of worth – husband and father. This core belief governs my thoughts particular to given situations. Here are a few examples of my thoughts during the baseball gloves incident:
“I’m wasting time” – related to being late for work
“I don’t have him prepared” – related to my 9-year-old being upset, being embarrassed, and so on
“I can never keep it together” – related to my general adequacy in being an adult
In these situations, I find it helpful to ask myself: “What do I think is at stake?” Then the answers start to emerge, and they are often related to my sense of worth. I begin to believe the deception that my worth as a human being is at stake. I act accordingly. Being late for work relates to my role as provider for my family. My mistake leading to my 9-year old being upset relates to my role as protector of my son’s heart and soul. My general inadequacy relates to my capability in all the roles I play in my life.
All over misplaced baseball gloves? Yes. But these patterns develop over time and they become instantaneous, to the point they are so normal to us, we can’t comprehend the chaotic mess of self-worship and shame involved in them.
That is why “What do I think is at stake?” is such a vital question to be aware of in our relationships. When a follower of Christ believes a situation or another person is threatening his worth as a human being, that follower is being deceived. Here’s the truth: our ultimate worth lies in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ affirms this truth on several occasions in the Bible by saying “Do not be afraid.”
My desire to be a good husband and father is a good desire when its purpose is to glorify God. But my desire quickly becomes a demand, or something worse, when I place myself as lord over my own worth. Because the one true God is the only Lord, my worth is defined only by Him, which was determined once and for all by His Son at the cross. In fact, “defined” is misleading. “Worth” is simply a word given to followers of Christ to describe the peace, joy, and grace of being His adopted children.
Therein lies the irony and the vicious cycle. When in the throes of feeling worthless (or unloved), I will often try to define my own worth, which is impossible and therefore reinforces the belief (and lie) of my worthlessness. My attempt at this definition often comes in the performance of the roles I play in relationships with those I love. And I will judge and punish them when they don’t meet my demands.
When you feel that anger or anxiety begin to rise, take a deep breath and ask yourself “What do I think is at stake?” Realize that where your treasure lies – where you find your source of worth or love – has a direct effect on your desires and your desires have a direct effect on your choices, actions, and responses.
If your self-worship becomes apparent, repent with humility and also remain aware that you are bathed in grace. Ask God to push away the fear and shame that deceives you into disbelieving that Christ at the cross ensured an intimate, loving relationship with His Father.
When you embrace this grace and forgiveness, you may find that the pride, shame, and sense of condemnation that blocked you from approaching your spouse and children in repentance are set aside, revealing a path of thankful sorrow that leads to reconciliation.