Posted in Anxiety, Family, Health, Motherhood

4.0 Prison

“Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.”  (Brene Brown)

Undefeated season.  Rachel’s middle school basketball team’s final record was 21-0.  The crowds came to every game and cheered wildly (I mean the parents and a few random middle schoolers came to some games, but yes, the cheers were wild). The team hugged and jumped up and down at the final buzzer of the championship game. A large trophy was given as the girls gathered center court . The parents beamed and frantic videos and photos were taken.  The team picture went in the newspaper with a long article praising the efforts of the coach.  Once in a lifetime.  Perfection.

Sarah’s freshman fall semester at college.  Worked extremely hard.  No crowds cheered.  Didn’t miss a class. No trophies were given. Read every assignment thoroughly. No photos were taken.  Studied until the wee hours.  No articles in the newspaper.  End result:  four A’s and one A-.  Imperfection.  Not 4.0.  3.95.  (Even this paragraph is shorter.)

I was part of the crowd who cheered and took pictures and congratulated the coach and  girls on a job well-done that winter of 2012.  I was a proud parent.  But underneath, I cringed before each game, knowing that the team was held captive by their continuing undefeated and perfect record.  As the season marched on, it became worse.  What would happen if they lost a game?  Would they fall apart?  What seemed amazing on the outside could have the potential of “messing” them up on the inside.  I continually asked myself the question:  is this actually a good thing?  Thankfully, Rachel was second-string, being a mere seventh grader and the pressure was not on her directly.  She had played in many games, but no one was counting on her skill set to accomplish this far-reaching, never-accomplished goal in the life of Central Middle School.  She could enjoy success without the pressure of failure.  But as I thought about those first-stringers, my heart went out to them, understanding the potential stress and perfection prison that just might be holding their hearts and minds captive.  What some would call a good thing might just not be so.  Call me crazy, but I secretly began to wish for at least one loss.  As you read, it didn’t happen and life marched on.  But at what cost?

I was also the comforting voice to an 18-year-old daughter as she received the news of her 3.95 right before Christmas of 2010.  If anyone deserved all A’s and a 4.0, this girl did.  By her nature, she poured effort upon effort into her studies, working when others were playing and getting up for early classes when others were sleeping in and skipping (yes, that was me in college).  But inside and actually pretty vocally and loudly, I cheered her release from 4.0 PRISON.  She could now move on throughout the rest of her college days without the underlying duress of perfection.   Might sound strange to you, but it was an amazing relief to us both.

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“4.0 PRISON” became a mantra in our house.  A-‘s and B+’s (and sometimes even D’s – this is true.  Ask Sarah.) were high-fived.  Game losses were a normal part of sports.  The “gift of imperfection,” as Brene Brown has coined it, was something we, with much trepidation, received with both confusion and gladness, fearing and embracing it at the same time our hearts were disappointed and frustrated with each loss or bad grade (some of my kids even failed tests and had to drop classes in college – imagine that).  I was on a mission that my kids understand that their worth is NOT based on their performance (a new concept in our family and particularly myself), that life is full of successes and failures and neither of those define them and that I love and accept them no matter what. I took very small and shaky steps to embrace and share this newly-discovered message with them (neither an easy task):

LIVING FOR A PLACE OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS SLAVERY!  LIVING FROM A PLACE OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS FREEDOM!

Fast-forward to last Sunday, one week before this Dolly Mama blog marks it’s one-year anniversary (cue balloons and congrats and trophies and loud cheers and pics).  We were spending the weekend as a family on our beloved Long Beach Island when I spoke out loud for all to hear, “Oh no!  I don’t have ANY views today.  I have had a view EVERY SINGLE DAY for this whole year and I’m only one week away from accomplishing my goal of exactly that.  Ugh.  I didn’t post today since we are away and that usually produces my needed views for the week.”  Remarks from audience:  “Oh mom, I can go on your site today.”  (Daughter) “That doesn’t count.” (Me) . “I will like one of your posts on Facebook and get it back up to the top.  Someone will click on it.” (Husband)   “It doesn’t work that way.”  (Me)  And the one that got me right in the heart:  “4.0 prison, Mom.”  (Son)  “Ugh.  You’re right.”  (Me)

I thought I would be suddenly freed from this “blog-view jailhouse,” I had made for myself but I continued to check the blog throughout the day and was hugely relieved to see a visit to my charity:water post late in the evening, along with the confessed views of some of my children (I made them promise none of them had viewed the charity:water post which they pinky swore they hadn’t).  4.0 prison is right.  Perfection.  I am stuck there again.  I have been checking all week and continue to have views every day.  I am writing this on Saturday morning and currently, have no views today so far.  Maybe I will be released.  Or maybe I will have an “undefeated season” after all.  It’s only 7:41 am.  The battle rages on inside of me.  I know that the “gift of imperfection” is what’s best for me.  God accepts and loves me regardless.  I am His one way or the other.  Yet I hang on to perfection like it’s my life’s blood.  I pray that I am released from this internal 4.0 prison no matter what happens today externally, whether on day 363 I have a view or not.  I need that strong and good and beautiful and true voice to shout loudly and cheer me on as I listen (albeit reluctantly) once again:

LIVING FOR A PLACE OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS SLAVERY!  LIVING FROM A PLACE OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS FREEDOM!

Let this freedom ring on in all of our hearts today!

(((UPDATE:  I got views today, Saturday.  I was kind of bummed in a weird way.  I guess my freedom will have to come from the inside out, not the outside in.  Imagine that!)))

Author:

I am a wife, mom, daughter, women's group leader, sister, marriage mentor, friend, speaker and lover of Jesus.

6 thoughts on “4.0 Prison

  1. Hi Esther: 1. In your photo at the top, which one is you?
    2. Well, well said. It took me a VERY long time to get this seemingly so obvious consciousness worked out: I don’t HAVE to be “perfect” to be acceptable, and the only One to Whom I need to be acceptable anyway is He who made all things, and without Whom nothing was made that was made.
    3. All human acceptance, I’ve found, is conditional, but God’s acceptance is unconditional = “agape.” As high as He is above us is how far removed we are from Him in our “conditionality.” It’s the highest price of The Fall. It devastates and wrecks. We MUST accept God’s “agape” if we want to be “Free, free at last.” We must NOT pass the conditionality error to our heirs!
    4. One vignette from the heart of a career-long teacher. I had a hair-trigger-anger 16 year-old junior in my English Composition class. Oh, he could joke around, but inside he seethed. Then I found out why. A fine power hitter in baseball, one weekend our school’s team had won against our nemesis on the basis of two solo homers by him. When he came to class on Monday, I acknowledged his heroics. He said, “Well, my dad was pissed.” I asked what, possibly, that could have been for. “He said I should have hit three.” What a conundrum for the poor guy: As a golfer, I suppose, he would have had to scored 18 on a par 72 course to meet his father’s conditions. I asked how he’d felt. He said he wanted to punch his dad out. I advised him NEVER to strike his dad, as neither he nor his dad could forgive him for that. Sad.
    5. Thanks again for sharing, though, from what you’ve said, I suspect your daughter would have earned an A in my English class. 🙂

    1. I am the one with the red hair 🙂 And yes, your story reminds me of the sadness and lack of unconditional love we have for one another. I saw that so many times with parents and their kids playing sports, and my older daughter knew kids who got in trouble for getting anything less than an “A” on an assignment. Come Lord Jesus! Quickly! Make things right!

  2. Esther, thanks for reaching out to me at AliceinAuthorland so I could get a taste of your writing. I love your piece on Perfection from the standpoint of a mother and how imperfection is easier to witness and even encourage in others’ lives than it is to experience in our own. My (now deceased) beloved used to say, “Alice, it’s not the prom every day.” It helped me relax and not try to make everything perfect. Esther, may you truly feel the perfection in your imperfection & the beauty in your humanness. Sometimes, I believe that’s the part of us God loves the best and gets the biggest kick out of.

  3. Hi Esther. Just want you to know that I am with you in the battle for your heart to be as free as it can be.

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