Recently I’ve been really drawn to People Of The Second Chance. They are, in their own words, “a global community of activists, imperfectionists and second chancers committed to unleashing radical grace everyday, in every moment, for everyone….committed to stretch ourselves in the areas of relational forgiveness, personal transparency and advocate for mercy over judgment.”
I started seeing them show up in my Twitter feed some time ago and followed them. I then unfollowed because, to be honest, it was a little too feel-good for my taste. But I have recently been noticing the movement again and was floored a couple of days ago by this incredibly powerful image from their Labels Lie series.
You can read the whole story here.
I’ll admit that I have often blown off this kind of obviously shocking visual as just that- all shock with little substance. And this one is shocking. The raw, visceral photograph made me wince and want to look away and yet I couldn’t. Throughout the day I kept gravitating to it, each time trying to figure out why.
I’ve never had to endure many struggles with destructive labels. I’ve been called a few not-so-desirable names, of course, but I think anyone who goes through junior and senior high gets called something ugly at some point. But for the most part, it was never a big issue for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been pretty much an unassuming, down the middle kind of guy. I suppose you could call me mostly a conformist, as much as I’d like to think I’m not. There’s just not a whole lot about me that draws vicious attacks.
But somewhere around the 10th time looking at that picture, I realized that in fact I have been the recipient of some pretty harmful labels, including and most of all the one in that image. And the one doing the labeling? Myself.
I don’t like to admit it but I live with a fairly constant feeling that I’m not measuring up, or more directly, that I’m the label on this guy’s neck. Measuring up to whom, I don’t know. I didn’t grow up with overly pressuring parents who pushed me to be something that I wasn’t and I’ve never been the ultra competitive type. Yet deep inside there’s always this nagging feeling I’m not living up to all I’m supposed to be. And there have been times when nothing could convince me otherwise. Maybe it’s because I didn’t continue down the exact career path I thought I would when I responded to a call to ministry. Maybe it’s because I feel like I should be doing more and better in just about every area of life- music, ministry, marriage, parenting, or just training my dog.
POTSC does something on Twitter on Tuesday nights called POTSC Live (#potsclive). They tweet questions and people respond and talk about them. Two nights ago I had some time to follow along and that’s when this open-ended statement came up:
Courage is __________ #potsclive
— POTSC (@POTSC) July 11, 2012
…and I replied:
— Joe Mazza (@joemazza) July 11, 2012
I just said what immediately came to mind and the resulting honesty made me realize that one of the sources, probably the biggest one, of this feeling that I don’t measure up is worrying what others think. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
It’s a paralyzing feeling to analyze every decision through the eyes of others. I’m doing it now about this post. It keeps me and you from so much we might otherwise do without thinking. It’s no way to live.
Of course I know that there’s a truth bigger than this lie. I actually love my life. It’s strange and odd and it’s not what I planned but it’s also a gift from God. And I need to live with more courage and let that speak to me louder than anything else. Because labels lie, even when they are self-imposed.
How about you? Do you feel anything when you look at this image? Let me know in the comments, check out POTSC for yourself, and follow #POTSClive on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email.