Growing up, my mind made everything a competition. I strived to win those time tests back in sixth grade. I remember taking second a few times and silently accusing the person who won of cheating, simply because I was salty that I lost. Playing around the world was so much more than learning math for me. If I lost, I would throw an internal fit. I just wanted to be the best, so I held myself to such a high standard. In gym class I was always the try-hard who won things. I didn’t care if I was sweaty for the next class period, I had to win.
In high school I always wanted to be the leader of whatever team I was on. I wanted to be the captain, the mentor, the best player, and the “on-court coach.” If I wasn’t any of those, I looked down on myself. I remember my freshman year in high school, I had made a large improvement over the year as a basketball player. I wanted to be on varsity so badly. I even hung up a hand-made sign in my room that said “VARSITY.” Every morning I would walk out and give that sign a little slap and think about how I was going to get better that day. I put hours upon hours in the weight room, gym, watching video, and reading articles on basketball. I just wanted to be the best.
One open gym during the summer going into sophomore year, my coach asked if I wanted to play with the varsity guys, and I got so excited. “This is it, this is my chance,” I thought. I played well and thought I impressed my coach enough to where I would at least get the chance to play with them the rest of the summer. Afterward, I went up to him and told him that I was excited for the opportunity to play with the varsity team, and I asked if there was anything that I can improve. He basically told me that they just needed players to fill in so they could do the drills they wanted, and that I wasn’t going to get the chance to play with them over the summer. I was so disappointed in myself. “I should’ve worked harder. I should’ve done this better. And I definitely could’ve done that instead.” I expected so much out of myself, and hated that I wasn’t good enough after all of the work I put in.
Even now, I expect a lot out of myself. With two older brothers who are successful people, it’s hard not to compare myself to them. I get a lot of comments about being a Moriarty. The one I get the most is, “You’re a Moriarty so you’ve gotta be good at volleyball.” Or something along those lines. I hear that, and I think to myself, “I’ve gotta somehow work to be better than my brothers.”
Not just with sports, but even the little insignificant things like playing video games with my roommates. I get so overly competitive with that, and I expect to win. I get frustrated with myself if I don’t.
Having perfect expectations like that makes for a hard relationship with God. It makes for unfulfilling ministry. I never took the time to celebrate what God has done both in and through me. I was always thinking how I can do better. About a year ago, one of my closest friends placed his faith in Christ’s death on the cross. WHY DID I NOT CELEBRATE THE CRAP OUT OF THAT? That is so exciting! Instead, my reaction was thinking how I can do my part in his growth, whether that’s pointing him in a direction or being there for questions and discussing things with him or really engaging with him and walking with him. None of those are bad things to think about, but there was no initial joy and celebration.
We had our Cru leader’s retreat a couple weeks ago, and one of our staff members talked about grace and standards, and that resonated with me so clearly. I experienced grace in a really deep way that weekend, and it was incredibly freeing. I was able to take a step back, and know that I don’t have anything to live up to, because in the end, perfection is impossible. And that’s why grace is so beautiful.
I knew grace was an undeserved gift, but I didn’t let that be my driving factor for change. If I knew I needed a change of heart in a certain area of my life, I would try to change it on my own. It was when I failed to change my heart that I would try to experience grace. But grace isn’t this vending machine where whenever you screw up you put in a prayer, press the “B3 button,” watch the circular spiral contraption push out some grace, pick it up, leave and tell yourself you’ll do better next time. Grace is something that’s already been given to us, and there’s an endless supply.
Am I perfect? No. Do I still want to be the best I can be? Absolutely. But it’s a freeing feeling knowing that I don’t have to meet standards. I don’t have expectations to live up to. I don’t have to be better than my brothers. I have Jesus. And because of that, I’m good enough.