Sideline Sentiments are my thoughts on life, from a bleacher perspective. Literally.
There’s an old phrase in sports that says you’re only as good as your last performance. I first heard it from my dad probably 15 years ago in a warning on the fickle and fair weather nature of most fans.
While it doesn’t hold much truth, it is, at the same time, absolutely true.
Logically, we know as athletes, employees, workers and beyond we’re actually the average of the sum of ourselves. One great game doesn’t qualify us for all-star status and on the contrary, one poor showing means nothing more than everyone’s capable of having an off day. We would do much better to look at a season, a career, or a life instead of making sweeping statements based off a moment in time. We’re not, in fact, only as good as one shot, one play, one game or one day.
But then, in a sense, isn’t it also true? Turn on Sportscenter. Settle yourself into the stands. Watch a post game press conference. We’re constantly judging and being judged by our last game, our last shot, our last words, or our last play. The way people talk, you’d think some of the profession’s greatest performers were operating at a preschool level. All stars will always be unfit according to critical bystanders.
You’re only as good as your last performance.
I’ve been there and I’ve believed it. After a bad game, I’d await anxiously for the next, wishing away any and all time in between. The next game—an opportunity to redeem myself, to re-prove my worth. As if I could erase unwanted history in a forty minute performance. But that’s how it went. Living from performance to performance, and feeling however worthy the last one proved to be.
I don’t think I’d be out of line to say most athletes operate accordingly. And so life becomes nothing more than a coaster of riding the peaks of good performance and scrambling out of the valleys of perceived failure.
But guess what, it’s not just athletes.
Athletics only happen to be both a microcosm and magnifier of the general human approach. We are, indeed, performance based creatures.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say you could actually rephrase the popular phrase to be slightly more accurate. You’re not only as good as your last performance.
You are your performance.
And the only thing more exhausting than going through a season riding the highs and lows of basketball performance is going through life riding the highs and the lows of life performance.
I’ve been there and I’ve believed it. Constantly striving, trying, proving or disproving. Did I do enough? Do I make enough? Did I work hard enough? Do they like me? Did I show enough? Am I good enough?
The questions are endless and security is found only at the end of the questions.
There is no freedom and no rest when our self-concept is all knotted up in nothing more than ourselves.
But what if all of our energy and efforts, our striving and our trying weren’t really the measuring stick at all? I mean, what if we were worthy not because of ourselves, but in spite of ourselves? What if performance were nothing more than an outpouring of a re-aligned identity?
Well, I’m not there and, honestly, I’m still trying to believe it.
But grace isn’t a destination and sometimes it still seems too good to be true. In my 26th year of life, I’m learning more than ever it isn’t about me. It’s not about my productivity or my performance. I’ve been there and done that and it left me nothing more than a motivated mess.
I’m learning I had it all wrong. That all along, my worth was never so fragile and fleeting as my last showing or the next person’s opinion. But instead, it’s as solid and steady as the Creator who made me. Because, indeed, that’s where my true worth lies.
I don’t know exactly what it looks like to live according to grace and faith over perfection and performance. But I’m learning. And already I’ve found more peace and less pressure, more rest and less stress, more compassion and less comparison. I’m learning to live life, not perform it. To relish the moments without worrying about outcomes. To concern myself less with perception and performance and more about people. I’ve learned I can only love others when I’m not stuck on myself. And further, I can only love them properly when I’m not assessing their achievements. Ultimately, I’m learning I am so much more than anything I could try to prove, and you are too.
Our worth is intrinsic, and it’s not our own doing. It doesn’t lie in what we’ve done, but because of Whose we are.
So while we might be athletes and homemakers and entrepreneurs and employees, we are all one thing.
We are people. Uniquely talented and individually equipped.
And that’s so much more precious than any performance could ever prove.