We have a problem.
We don’t know how to enjoy life anymore.
Why? We have so many hang-ups, so many issues, so many worries, so many fears, so many burdens…
We have lost the art of enjoying life, of playing with small children, of conversing with a friend, of holding hands with a loved one, of smelling the flowers, of gazing at the stars, of singing in the shower, of dancing in the rain, of sucking deeply the bone marrow of life!
Let me tell you why people have a hard time doing these…
The Bottomless Pit Of Worthlessness
Deep inside us is a bottomless pit of worthlessness. (In the Philippines, the only time we hear the word bottomless is connected with Iced Tea. You can drink 16 glasses and the waiter will still keep on pouring. It’s endless.) Deep down, we feel a nagging sense of inadequacy. We feel there’s something lacking in us. We feel that we’ve been measured and we’ve been found wanting.
You’ll see this everywhere you look. People are walking around carrying this bottomless pit of worthlessness inside them, and they’re looking for ways to fill this pit. And many people try to solve their worthlessness with three things: Work, Wealth, and Warmth.
Work: To fill this bottomless pit of worthlessness, some people work endlessly. They work in a frenzied pace. They work and forget their families and health and spiritual life.
Wealth: Others try to solve their worthlessness with wealth, filling their lives with material things. Cars. Gizmos. Houses. Brands.
Warmth: Others try to solve their worthlessness with warmth, getting people to like them no matter what the cost, making them people-pleasers and approval-addicts. They become co-dependents, trapped in enmeshed relationships. They lose their identity and have no boundaries.
Please know that Work, Wealth, and Warmth are wonderful things. They’re gifts from God. But they can NEVER fill up your bottomless pit of worthlessness.
John Had Everything And Yet…
I read a true story about a student named John who never had a grade lower than A in his entire 4-years in college. And John was about to graduate summa cum laude. But before graduating, the unthinkable happened: John killed himself.
This shocked the entire college. How could he do that?
John left a suicide note. In that note, he wrote, “I just couldn’t measure up to the standards of this world, perhaps in the next world I can do better.”
Why? This is the bottomless pit of worthlessness within him speaking.
What’s The Song You Hear In Your Head?
Believe me, I’ve met a lot of people who are plagued by this pervasive feeling of inadequacy. Inwardly, they hear the constant refrain, “There’s something wrong with you…” like a permanent LSS. (If LSS to you means Life in the Spirit Seminar, then that means you’re my age. LSS means Last-Song-Syndrome.)
Subconsciously, they feel they can never measure-up to these standards. They’ll never be beautiful enough. They’ll never be rich enough. They’ll never be successful enough. They’ll never be happy enough. They’ll never be holy enough.
Some of these people feel that no matter what they do, they’ll never be a great husband, or a great wife, or a great father, or a great mother.
This nagging feeling of inadequacy is the air that they breathe. It colors the way they look at themselves, the way they look at life, the way they look at the world.
I compare these people to a donkey…
1. Racing Donkey
Donkeys are stubborn. To make a donkey walk, all you have to do is dangle a juice, crunchy, red-orange carrot one foot away from its nose. The donkey sees it, smells it, seeks it, and off it goes, chasing after the carrot.
But he never can catch it. The donkey moves forward but the carrot moves forward too. Perplexed, he takes another step. But the carrot takes another step too. As the donkey moves faster, the carrot moves faster too.
That is a perfect picture of many people today.
I’ve been doing ministry for 30+ years. I’ve talked to thousands of people all over the world. Believe me, most people are like that donkey. We’re looking for our “carrot”, something to fill our bottomless pit of worthlessness.
But we can never chase it.
If Work, Wealth, and Warmth can never fill your bottomless pit of worthlessness, let me tell you the only thing that can.
But first, let me tell you about the second donkey…
2. Relaxed Donkey
This second donkey is a relaxed donkey.
Why? He has discovered that the carrot he was chasing was all the while with him. He was carrying it along!
Once he realized this, he relaxes.
So let me tell you now the only thing that can fill up your bottomless pit of worthlessness.
The only solution to worthlessness is Worth.
I can hear your reaction: “Bo, you’re nuts. Of course, worth is the solution to worthlessness. But how do you get that worth?”
That’s my point. You don’t get worth.
You already have it.
By the mere fact that you exist. By the fact that you’re alive. By the fact that you were created by God, you’re somebody! You’re special. You’re a treasure. You’re precious. You’re His masterpiece. You’re the crown of His creation. You’re His child. You’re His Prince and Princess. You’re His the love of His life.
You’re like the donkey chasing after a carrot that you’ve been carrying all along.
I repeat: You need some work to be happy. You need a level of wealth to be happy. You need a degree of warmth and relationships to be happy. But here’s my point: Even before you work, or get wealth, or get warmth—you’re already a person of GREAT worth.
Here’s the truth. There is no such thing as a bottomless pit of worthlessness. It’s an illusion. What you think is a bottomless pit of worthless is actually a bottomless pit of WORTH! Because you already possess the intrinsic worth imputed by God to your soul.
Make This Discovery And You’ll Relax
This is true happiness: When you discover that what you’ve been looking for—searching in distant lands and faraway planets—was actually in your heart all along!
I repeat. The bottomless pit of worthlessness is fake. It’s not true. Because you’re a human being, a child of God, created in His image, you are a bottomless pit of great worth.
This is an incredible discovery. Unless you make this life-changing discovery, you’ll never enjoy true peace in your soul. You’ll never have true rest, true contentment, true happiness in your life. You’ll always be searching, seeking, looking, and longing for something. You’ll always be trying to fill the emptiness of your heart with stuff: New clothes. Jewelery. Popularity. Money. Achievements. Fans.
Here’s the truth: Everything you want is already within you.
You might say, “Bo, that’s not true. I don’t have what I want. What I want right now is a new job,” or “a new house,” or “a new boyfriend” or “a new sexy body.”
But why do you want what you want? Why do you want that new job, or new house, or new boyfriend, or new sexy body?
If you search deeply within your soul, you’ll realize you want that thing because you think that that thing will increase your worth.
But there’s only one thing that you increase your worth.
That one thing is love.
Bottomline, you want love. Love is your biggest, deepest, greatest need. And you have all the love you need. God is within you. And the Bible says that God is love. So let me repeat—everything that you want is already within you.
Because right now, you’re already loved.
But where does this bottomless pit of worthlessness come from?
Simple Answer: From parents.
Obviously, the answer is more complicated than that. There are many reasons. But for many people (not all), this is where our feelings of inadequacy come from.
How? Parents raise their kids by “Performance-Based Parenting.” What in the world is that?
Performance-Based Parenting is when the core message to their kids is, “I will love you only if you perform. I will be proud of you only if you perform. Your value and worth are based on your performance. If you don’t perform, I will think less of you. If you don’t perform, I will love you less.”
I’ve met a lot of parents who are like this. They want their kids to solve math problems by 2, play the piano by 3, write computer programs by 5, and pass the medical school by 12. They force their kids to enrol in painting class, swimming class, gymnastics class, Mandarin class, and violin class all at the same time.
These parents go ballistic when their kids fail an exam. They go hyper when their kids have catsup on their shirt.
Another sign that your parenting is Performance-Based? If the most common line you say when you’re angry at your kids is, “You embarrass me! What will others say if they see you fail? If you’re a bad child, they’ll say I’m a bad parent!”
Parents Pass On Their
Bottomless Pit Of Worthlessness
Fact: These parents want their kids to perform because they want to perform as parents. Kids that are racing donkeys have parents who are also racing donkeys. Kids have a bottomless pit of worthlessness because their parents have one too. In fact, they merely inherited it from them. (And guess where these parents got their bottomless pit of worthlessness? From their parents too.)
Hey, I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t encourage their kids to excel or to reach their full potential or to work hard. We should!
But our core message to our kids should be, “I love you for being you. I’m happy you’re you. Before you do anything good, you’re already a fantastic person. I’m already proud of you. I encourage you to give your best NOT to win my love for you. That’s a done deal. You already have my love. I want you to give your best as a way of loving yourself and being who you truly are.”
If you have a kid, let me give you a very important tip…
Say “I Love You” At Odd And Unexpected Times
I love telling my kids “I love you” all the time. But I see to it that I don’t say those words after they “perform”. (I say other words like “That’s a nice drawing,” or “You sang so well,” or “You did great…”) But I say “I love you” to them in the most odd and unexpected times. Sometimes, when we’re in bed, about to sleep, I tell them, “Do you know how much I love you?” Or when we’re taking our morning walk, I squeeze his little hand and say, “I’m so proud that you’re my son.”
The opposite of Performance-Based Parenting is Presence-Based Parenting. My love for them isn’t connected to their Performance but to their Presence. By the mere fact that they’re my kids, that they’re alive, that they exist, that they’re created by God, they’re worthy of my love.
Let me clarify. Parents should teach their kids to love hard work. But to work hard not out of fear of worthlessness but out of love for one’s intrinsic worth.
By the way, religious leaders are parents too. Sadly, some religious leaders use “Performance-Based Parenting” too…
Religion can worsen this feeling of inadequacy. Religion can worsen your bottomless pit of worthlessness.
I know. I’ve been a religious leader for thirty plus years. And I have a confession to make. In the first decade of leading my little group, Light of Jesus, I had a very skewed spirituality. I was uptight, rigid, legalistic, and judgmental.
I never realized that my image of God was also uptight, rigid, legalistic, and judgmental. (Truth: We relate to others according to our image of God. Because we become the God that we worship.)
My life revolved around trying to fulfil very high spiritual expectations to gain God’s approval. Such as praying one hour a day, and reading the Bible one hour a day, and going to Mass everyday, and praying the Rosary everyday, etcetera… The list was endless.
Years later, I realized I had a “Performance-Based” spirituality. To feel worthy of God’s love, I had to do no sin, think only pure thoughts, be a good boy, and do my religious obligations….
If I failed any of these stringent requirements I set for myself, I felt God was shaking His head in disgust at me.
Learning To Relax In God’s Love
But for years, the real God was gently knocking into my heart. And He kept telling me, “No need to perform. Just relax in my love.” The radical idea was so foreign to me, I wondered if this was God at all. How dare He tell me to relax? How dare He say I was worthy of love even before I do anything good?
Slowly, I began to realize that God wasn’t uptight. Or rigid. Or legalistic. Or judgmental.
After three decades, I’m still learning how to relax in His love.
I’m still learning to follow God when He said, Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)
Here’s my unauthorized translation of this verse: God is saying, “Relax in my love you. You don’t need to impress me with your performance. I love you as you are. I believe in you. You’re a wonderful person.”
May your dreams come true,
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