I had the opening notes of a Joe Henderson song stuck in my head yesterday. I don’t know how famous he was in jazz circles, but I used to listen to one of his albums, So Near So Far: Musings for Miles, all the time, because he played tenor saxophone, an instrument I played all through high school, and my music instructor thought I needed the inspiration.
It’s a fantastic jazz album, but the only problem I had with it yesterday is that the music is linked to a sense of failure in my mind. I had to turn it off after a few seconds and listen to something else, while the shame of failure washed over me.
I can’t really say that I ‘failed’ at playing saxophone–I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t terrible either–but in my mind, when I had to give up playing the sax, it registered very, very strongly in my mind and emotions as failure, and it’s something that has stuck with me up until today.
Shame and embarrassment is something I have to deal with every now and then. I get little flashbacks–something will remind me of an embarrassing situation I went through–and the pain of the embarrassment hurts just as bad as it did then. It gets better–once I started getting a revelation of grace, I say out loud every time that happens, ‘I am not that person any more,’ and usually it dissipates. But every now and then something will trigger another memory of shame, and it’s more difficult to get rid of.
I’ve already shared how important music is to me, but I don’t remember mentioning how much music is linked to my emotions, and the memories of previous successes and failures.
I don’t know why it’s difficult sometimes to get over shame and embarrassment. Whatever happened, happened, and I can’t change a thing, so beating myself up about it (if that is indeed what’s happening), doesn’t help a whit. I used to think I was a perfectionist and was in ‘unforgiveness towards myself’ when I was in Charismatic circles. I’m not as certain about that now. Now I just call it what it is: an annoying thing that happens sometimes.
So near to success, and so far from being perfect.
I don’t think I’m alone in this–if I am, that’s fine, at least I got a chance to practice writing, but just on the off chance I’m reaching someone who has the same problem, these are a few things that help me:
- Knowing who I am in Christ, specifically the revelation of grace: I am free from the power of sin now and forever because I died with Christ. My old nature is gone and I live in the new nature, free from sin. I do dumb things sometimes, but I don’t have to beat myself up about the mistakes because I’m already forgiven. (And lest you think I’m preaching heresy, I do not want to sin because I have the new nature: Christ living in me. You’re only preaching true grace if it sounds too good to be true.) If you need help with this, I have a list of books that helped me in this article, about halfway down the page.
- Making sure I’m taking care of my physical health. It’s more difficult when I haven’t gotten adequate sleep (like yesterday), have had too much caffeine (like yesterday), or haven’t taken my medicine (which I actually did, but it doesn’t always help if I have a stressful day).
- Speaking out loud: “I am not that person any more.” I don’t know why this helps, but it does. I’m not the same guy who made the dumb mistake. I learned from it and probably never did it again. So I don’t need to beat myself up about it.
Hopefully this will help you a little. Cheers.