In this post we touched on the idea of writing down the victories for the days that criticism buries us alive. In the days since, that idea has been percolating in my heart. Here’s why…

As we acknowledged in the aforementioned post, there is no shortage of criticism. The fount of those who point out our failures (real or perceived) is ever flowing with boundless opportunities to practice self-control while the fount of those who have come to thank you for your hard work is an intermittent drip from the faucet. If I had to guess, most of us, if asked, would be able to list 15 ways we’ve been discouraged this week, 15 negative words spoken to us,15 areas where we aren’t seeing results. But how many of us could list even 3 victories we’ve had in the last month, much less this week?

In my typical approach to life, I would be in the camp of those who could easily tell you my faults, places I’m failing at work, at life. And most of that would be based on how I perceive how others perceive me. My natural bent, my factory setting, is to not be satisfied with anything less than something better than this. There’s a problem there, because “this” is always changing. Even if “this” is a million times more effective and successful today than it was a year ago, I am still not satisfied. And if the critics are louder than the supporters (which is usually the case), I take out the magnifying glass and find the errors. We, most of us, human beings as a creature, are fixated with improvement.

Don’t misunderstand me. Improvement is a great thing. Working toward better physical health, deeper relationships, increased effectiveness is an honorable and necessary endeavor. However, when we constantly are striving for better than “this”, without stopping to check in, we may just be killing our effectiveness unknowingly.

Consider Orthorexia Nervosa. No, it’s not a spell from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. It is an unofficial (for now at least) eating disorder. What starts out as a desire to make wise choices in one’s diet, turns into a fixation on the quality, quantity, and purity of food. According to Dr. Karin Katrina, for those who struggle with this obsession, any failure to stick to the rules, any moment of bending to temptation, leads to self-punishment. And this…THIS is what really gets me about this disorder….

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.”

Eventually, the desire to improve oneself, to be healthier, make wiser choices, without stopping to assess what is and isn’t working, what progress has been made, actually becomes more harmful than helpful. Telling, isn’t it?

Just like we need regular physicals, or dental cleanings (which we all know means appointment for dental judgment), we need to have those moments in every aspect of our work and personal lives as well. And while those check-ups serve to bring to light the areas where we still need work, they should also serve to point out what is going well. And unlike physicals and dental visits, these check-ups need to happen often. Daily even.

So, I’ve been trying to make it a point to celebrate the victories. They may be small. They may not seem like victories to anyone else but me. There may even be some who would tell me my victories are actually failures. But with all respect, and rarely out loud in real life, I tell them they are wrong and they don’t get to define victory for me. Much like the medical world may tell a woman who is 5’3 that the goal waist measurement is 25 inches. And women everywhere answer back with a resounding “HA!” and begin to define healthy goals as something besides inches and pounds. Experts have all sorts of ways to measure our lives. But you are an expert in you. You know what success is for you. You know what is cause to celebrate.

Here’s what I’ve been celebrating lately:

  • Students trusting me enough to tell me they don’t believe in Jesus or sharing their pain and mistakes with me
  • Parents knowing that they can call me and will be heard, and even asking me for advice about parenting even though I don’t have kids of my own
  • Ten first time participants in our High School mission trip
  • Seven 5th-7th graders going on their very first overnight mission trip
  • Being brave enough to say yes to some scary opportunities
  • Taking a class that is life-giving and discovering ways to put to use what I’m learning
  • Losing 12 pounds
  • Not having a soda in 25 days
  • Finding the floor of my closet

Some of those may seem silly. In your life, maybe it’s no big deal. But in mine, those little victories deserve a party. And so I’m breaking out the confetti!

What are you celebrating these days? If you don’t think you have reason to throw a little party, just slow down long enough for a check-up. Great things are being accomplished. Don’t miss them.


Photo by Amanda Tipton (No changes have been made to the photograph)

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