The Truth about Messing up and Measuring up

The Truth about Messing up and Measuring up


My career as a special education teacher was full of highs and lows. While the milestones of teaching a sixteen-year-old to read or helping a fifteen-year-old out of his wheelchair to take his first steps were deeply fulfilling, there were many days of defeat.  There were plenty of days spent simply trying to keep everyone healthy and safe.

I’ve been attacked with scissors, fists, and pencils. I’ve been spit on, pushed away, and cursed out.  I’ve walked out of the classroom and wondered if my efforts were making any difference at all.

The days of greatest defeat were the days when I walked out of the classroom feeling less worthy than I did when I started the day. These were the days when I bought into the lie that my performance as a teacher determined my worth.  This is the lie that is embraced by millions of Christians.  We embrace the lie when we let our performance determine our worth in any area of our lives.

It’s the athlete whose heart is broken when he doesn’t win the medal. It’s the student who feels like a failure after one too many sub-par grades.  It’s the businessman who doesn’t seal the deal and the young mom who loses her temper on her little ones for the sixteenth time of the day.  We are tempted to fall to despair, and we succumb to the gnawing sense that we simply don’t measure up.

While a poor performance hurts, we hold the power to change the trajectory of our lives by remembering that our worth is not determined by how well we perform. Scripture makes it clear that we aren’t defined by what we can accomplish or what we fail to accomplish.  We are defined by one reality: God’s love.  When it’s tempting to fall to discouragement over a poor performance, here are some truths to cling to:

You are defined solely by God’s love for you.

Song of Solomon is a depiction of a man’s love for his wife.  Regardless of where a person stands on the theology of the symbolism in this book, one Biblical truth is clear: Christ is often portrayed as the bridegroom, and his church is portrayed as the bride.  With this in mind, we come to the general conclusion that a healthy marriage relationship bears striking similarity to a healthy relationship between Christ and his people.

Song of Solomon 2:16 reads: “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” This statement is at the center of the believer’s identity.  I belong to Christ, and he belongs to me.  He is my great treasure, and I am his precious child.  Everything in my life flows from this vertical relationship of love.  Nothing can shake it.  Nothing can take his love from me (Romans 8:38-39).  As a believer, I am defined solely by the love relationship we share.

Your worth was settled at the cross.

When the lingering feeling that I don’t measure up in some area of my life settles in, I remind myself of Romans 5:8, which reads: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God demonstrates his love for us once and for all.  He looked upon our sinful lives and sent his precious Son to receive the punishment we deserved.

I wouldn’t allow my children to suffer harm on behalf of another person, no matter how much I loved that person. Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate demonstration of his Father’s love for sinful humanity.  We can rest in the assurance of the love that was proven at the cross.

You have nothing to prove.

When we don’t understand that God proved his love at the cross, we will live like boastful children with something to prove. We will love others so that we might receive their love in return.  We will aim to be perfect in our performances and try to achieve great honor, all in an effort to prove we are enough.

When we grasp the depth of God’s love for us, we realize we have nothing to prove. We are passionately loved by the Creator of the universe, and his love is more than enough to carry us through life.  We are set free to love others without needing their love in return.

The Word of God is truer than your emotions.

We can stop trying to prove ourselves because the Word of God is truer than our emotions. The familiar words of John 3:16 speak of the compelling love of God: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Even when we don’t feel loved – when the desire to prove ourselves through our achievements rises within, we can return to God’s Word as an anchor. My performance can never determine my worth.  My worth was settled at the cross of Calvary.


When I left the special education classroom to follow God’s calling elsewhere, my memories were filled with moments of victory and moments of defeat. At the end of nearly a decade, I could look back on it all as faithful service, and there was freedom in being defined not by the victories, nor by the defeats, but by the love of Christ that was given as a free gift.



About Stacey Pardoe

Stacey Pardoe is a wife, mother of two young children, writer, Bible teacher, and mentor. She is most passionate about walking closely with Christ and sharing his love with a broken world. Find out more about her at her website.


  1. Great words, Stacey, and a good way to end 2017 and start 2018. Your post really spoke to me because I have chosen to focus on the word love for this next year. I want to gain more revelation about what the love of God really means. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks, Barbara! Love is a great word for the year! I think you’re right – if we only began to grasp his love on deeper levels, we’d be changed throughout every fiber of our beings! I want more of this too! Happy New Year!

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