My almost fourteen-year old son Jed is obsessed with athletic shoes. He spends a lot of time on the internet researching them. He knows exactly when new shoes will be released, how much they cost, and whether they have a propensity to increase in value over time based on the number produced and the unique nature of the shoe. Jed knows the details of each athlete’s latest shoe and is keenly aware of any celebrity collaborations to produce special shoes. From him, I’ve learned there is a whole community of shoe collectors who also love their shoes. Most of the athletes who collaborate with shoe companies are NBA basketball players. Many of them take their influence with their fans seriously and therefore try to impact the self-confidence of young people while also increasing their awareness of social justice.
LeBron James is known for this kind of positivity. In fact, one of Lebron’s latest shoes has the Theodore Roosevelt “Daring Greatly” speech printed on the insole. Recently, Jed purchased a pair of Lebron’s shoes that had the phrase, “I am more than” written on the back of the left shoe with white space on the left and right shoes for the athlete to fill in the blanks with the marker that came with the shoes. On his own, Jed finished the sentence: “I am more than my flaws.”
When I saw his shoes complete with his new mantra, I stopped in my tracks. Of course, my son was more than his flaws. I knew that, but his announcement to that effect felt important. He was making a statement to the world that he would not be defined by his failings, real or perceived. Jed’s comment was insightful and full of depth.
I started wondering if I believed that I was more than my flaws. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my negative traits. But all of that analysis rarely results in forward movement. Instead, I usually end up feeling bad about myself without much positive to show for it. I’m not saying that examining life is bad in and of itself but ruminating incessantly without acting is not helpful.
At this time of year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions. Most of those resolutions are based on the things in our lives that we don’t like and want to fix. But many of the resolutions will fall flat, and we won’t feel any better about ourselves after the fact. I have a letter that I wrote to myself a few years ago in the middle of the night at the end of December. Essentially, I berated myself for all of the ways I was not living up to my expectations, but I didn’t change in the new year. I could’ve written the same letter the next year. I beat myself up, but I wasn’t ready to deal with actually fixing my most obvious shortcomings. I hadn’t reached the point in my journey at which I could make the changes. At the time, I was consumed with my flaws and thought that my flaws made me who I was.
God does not focus on our flaws though, and he certainly does not equate our worthiness with our failings. He sees us as whole beings who are messy and imperfect but who also have strong, positive qualities. The entire time that I was obsessed with my weaknesses, God was not. He was with me in the waiting and will always be there when I can’t find my path out of whatever darkness I face.
Maybe until we are emotionally, physically, or intellectually ready to tackle our flaws, we can try to see ourselves as God does. What if we could pick a strength or something we do well and make that the centerpiece of our resolutions? We can resolve to do more of what we do well, devote more time to our families or communities in ways that make us feel good about ourselves. In situations in which I’ve been a bit helpful doing something I enjoy, I’ve felt better about myself and thought a little less about my shortcomings.
Jed said it well: “I am more than my flaws.” All of us are more than our flaws. In the new year, let’s resolve to believe it in our minds, hearts, and actions.