How I’m Learning to Drop the Act

Letting Go of the Performance

Recently, I had lunch with a very close friend. The thing about this close friend of mine is that he’s an effortlessly funny guy. Comedy comes as second nature to him, as he always knows how to lighten the mood with laughter from one of his witty jokes or just his natural demeanor. And I admire that about him. But I started to notice something about myself as I was having lunch with him.

As we talked, I kept feeling this gnawing pressure to make a joke. I really wanted to say something funny. I racked my brain twice over thinking of a punchline or a funny voice or anything that I could muster from my personality in order to get a laugh. The pressure grew and grew as the conversation went on until lunch was finally over and I realized I had not said anything remotely hysterical. I felt like a failure.

For some reason or another, I felt dejected; like I lost a significant battle with myself. But I’ve felt this pressure before. I’m no stranger to it. I’ve felt this pressure for as long as I could remember. In fact, I’ve become so accustomed to the pressure that it has become engraved in who I am. So much so that I’ve been blinded to it’s consequences on my soul. And while I’m often prone to overlook this pressure, for some reason I couldn’t overlook it this day.

After lunch was over and as I was mulling over the defeated feeling I had in my soul, I finally asked myself the question I’ve always neglected: Where is this feeling coming from?

Why did I feel like I had failed at such a trivial thing as making a joke? That’s when I was reminded of something Donald Miller shared about himself in one of my favorite books, Scary Close.  In his book, he shares how when he was a kid and his dad split, he felt like he had to prove he was intelligent in order to matter.

One time, his sister and her friends were over so he took a broken tape recorder apart and he spread the pieces across his bed. Then, as he sat there holding his screwdriver, he pretended to act like he was fixing it by looking at the pieces intently and moving the parts around on his bed. When his sister and her friends asked what some of the parts were, he would say that they wouldn’t understand. But in reality, he had no idea what he was doing.

He went on to say,

Ever since I was a child, ever since I became wrongly convinced I had to be bigger and smarter than I really was, I’ve been trying to perform, trying to convince people I was more capable than I really was. I’d been sending that same nine-year old kid who took the tape recorder apart out into the world to speak and perform and interact with people.

When I went back and re-read this, I realized that’s me. Somewhere along the line as a kid, I felt like I had to prove something in order to matter. Whether it was proving I was athletic, smart, or funny,  I felt it necessary to prove I was any of these in order to belong and to matter to someone. That kid has still been interacting with others in my place to this day. Consequently, my relationships have suffered from it ever since.

Attraction Isn’t Intimacy

I couldn’t even be myself with one of my closest friends. I felt like I had to impress him with a joke or else he would see me for the fraud I really am and decide to bounce. I was afraid he would abandon our friendship after finding out how boring I was. That’s when I realized I didn’t just do that with him either, but with almost all of my relationships. I started to notice this pressure to perform to some degree manifested itself in every relationship I had. And while I was reluctant to make this revelation, it felt good to finally realize why I felt so much “performance anxiety” all the time.

Miller goes on to say,

The reality of trying to be bigger and smarter than we are is that it sort of works, and then falls apart. It’s true people are attracted to intelligence and strength and even money, but attraction isn’t intimacy. What attracts us doesn’t always connect us. I can’t tell you how many friends I have who have been taken in by somebody sexy or powerful or charming but soon after find themselves feeling alone in the relationship. It’s one thing to impress people, but it’s another to love them.

That’s the lie I’ve believed my entire life: attraction is intimacy. It’s a dangerous lie that has wreaked havoc on all of my relationships, and even more so my soul. I’ve sacrificed intimacy time and time again for the sake of making myself “impressive” or “attractive.” But thankfully, I’m starting to see the truth more clearly.

If you’re feeling lost because you believed the same lie your entire life, let me encourage you with the truth. And trust me, I’m preaching this to myself even more so. Here it is:

You don’t have to be smart, funny, athletic, or sexy to find love. No, you are loved regardless. Jesus looks beyond our outward, external reputations and identities, and he peers into the depths of our inward selves. He sees that little boy or little girl still trying to prove they matter. And he is telling us that we don’t have to be that little boy or little girl anymore. He tells us that we matter, that we belong, and that we are loved unconditionally, regardless of our talents, abilities, skills, appearance, or intellect.

Do I have a hard time believing that sometimes? Absolutely. And I’m sure you do too. But it’s true. I believe it’s true because Jesus went to the cross to prove it’s true. That’s what I forget far too often. It’s because of Jesus that we are free to be ourselves. He doesn’t ask us to impress. He just asks us to love.

All that being said, I think that’s what I’m going to do now. It’s time for me to drop the act and stop performing.

I can already feel the pressure fading. The peace and love of Christ are flooding in.

 

 

 

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How to Let Go of Likes 

I decided it was time for a break. It seemed as if my entire life had come to revolve around this digital, hand-held device. But it wasn’t the phone itself that was appealing to me. No, it was what it offered. It offered the allure of high praise, the possibility of connection, and my personal drug of choice: validation.

It presented me an opportunity to write a narrative about myself to friends, family, and strangers alike through the medium of carefully edited photos and well put together captions. I could be who I wanted to be. I could convince those peering into my profile that I was living a life of adventure, wanderlust, and whimsy (for those wondering what ‘whimsy’ means, it comes from the Bob Goff book of life). I could convince people that I had a lot of friends and was really popular. I could trick people into thinking I was on cloud nine, constantly walking through fields of daisies, without a care or worry in the world.

But while I could possibly trick others, I could not trick myself. While my profile exhibited an exciting and abundant life, my real life felt far from it. I painted a picture of my outward life that did not represent my inward life. 

To put it simply, I was a fraud.

Truthfully, my life was fairly mundane. Most of my days consisted of me doing homework, working a desk job, wasting time on YouTube, reading a book, or hanging with some friends. 

Furthermore, what social media didn’t capture was the days I felt lonely. It didn’t capture the moments where I hurt people and felt hurt by others. It didn’t capture the extremely embarrassing moments I’ve had. It didn’t capture my immature qualities and  insecurities. 

It didn’t capture my raw, unedited humanity. 

Which is partly why I began to worship the platform of social media. For a couple hours a day, I could lose myself in a narrative in which I could be a different character. A character which was admired, affirmed, and “liked”. As a result, I became addicted to the dopamine hit I would get from every like and follow.  

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I deleted my social media accounts and got as far away from it as possible. 

I decided to detox my life and remove myself for as long as I needed so that I could come back down to planet Earth and do some work on my soul. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In my absence, I spent a lot of time in reflection and prayer trying to figure out how and why social media affected my life in such a negative way. Subsequently, I learned many valuable lessons, of which I may or may not write about in future posts, but there is one lesson that was more valuable than all the rest. There may be a different and more vital lesson for others to learn individually, but here was my big lesson to learn:

Real connection, real joy, and real life are neither manufactured nor measured by likes, retweets, or follows. Real connection, real joy, and real life come only as a result of being defined daily by love. A love which must be defined by the life and love of Jesus. 

This is it for me. I don’t care how novel, clichè, or simple it may sound. The remedy for my need for validation, my incessant coveting, my envious desires, and my constant comparisons is none other than the life-changing, soul-shaping, deep, and abundant love of Jesus! 

When I allow myself to be defined by His love, I stop worrying about what people think. I stop comparing myself to others and start accepting myself. I stop envying and coveting other people’s lives and start being more grateful for my own. I stop judging other people based off their profiles and start seeing them through the loving eyes of Christ. I stop painting a false narrative of myself as the main character and start seeing Jesus as the real hero of the story. 

Because the love of Jesus defines who I am, I stop living for a like and I start living to love. 

Because the love of Jesus defines who I am, I stop thinking about how I can make myself look better and start focusing on making known the riches of God’s glory and beauty. 

Because the love of Jesus defines who I am, I stop looking for happiness and connection through a virtual world and start looking for it in the life that Jesus offers. 

I hope you know how much Jesus loves you; that He gave up his life for you so that you may be forgiven and redeemed and made new; that His love for you doesn’t waver according to how “bad” you are, but that His love is unconditional and never-ending.

The real problem was never with social media, but with my sinful, idolatrous heart. I began to let a social media profile define who I was instead of letting the love of Christ define me. Accordingly, I’ve come to realize the more I receive Christ’s love, the more I love Christ, and the more I love Christ, the more I love others, and the more I love others, the less I worship myself. 

Once I understood that, I was able to enter back into the social media world with a redeemed perspective and a fresh lens. 

If you came here looking for more practical tips for social media, there’s a lot of articles out there that can help you more than this. But if you find yourself lost and feeling like a fraud, then I hope my story helps you see how extravagant the love of Jesus is and the implications it has for each of our individual worlds. Even our virtual ones. 

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If you want to keep up with my blog and join me on this journey of diving deeper into the love of Christ, then feel free to subscribe to my blog and follow me on social media. 

Instagram: @coltonbanks__

When I Found Freedom

I used to think freedom meant having the ability to say “yes” to whatever I wanted. Now I know real freedom is about being able to say “no” to all the things I used to say “yes” to before.

I passed one class my first year of college: English Comp. Other than that, I flunked out of every other single class I took. Apparently that’s what happens when you skip 90% of your classes. But I’m sure I missed class the day they taught that lesson. Figures.

Up until my first year of college, I was the archetype for cliche high-schoolers. I was all about living in the now and not considering the consequences. So naturally, as one can expect, college meant one thing to me: freedom.

Pure and unadulterated freedom.

As far as it concerned me, I was free to do all that I saw fit. Stay up as late as I wanted. Sleep in as long as I wanted. Drink all the beer I wanted. Smoke all the weed I wanted. Party all I wanted. Go to class? Eh, I don’t think so. Class was no place for a free man like myself.

And to be quite honest, it was pretty fun for a while. I was meeting a lot of girls, making tons of new “friends”, and making even more memories. Every night came with a new adventure or risk. I don’t think I had ever felt more free in my entire life.

Then things started to change.

Too much became never enough. The more I consumed, the more I craved–a craving that grew stronger the more I fed it. It was an endless cycle, and the more I succumbed to it, the more my soul became restless.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine

Little by little, without recognition, I was slowly letting go of real freedom. The more I said “yes” to my sin, the more I was developing the inability to say “no” to it.

Before I knew it, my sin had taken me as a slave.


I guess that’s the thing about slavery. It’s never as obvious and outright as we think. Slavery is a subtle, gradual, and downward slope into a dark, lonely pit; a pit that we walk ourselves into with naive happiness.

I basically dove head first into it. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed someone to come along to loosen my chains and get me out.

And along came Jesus.

What I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t call me to be obedient for the sake of gaining his love or approval. Rather, in His love for me, He asks my obedience because he knows it offers the freedom my soul truly longs for.

I used to think freedom meant not being held down by rules. But real freedom, I discovered, is found in obedience. And Jesus gives us one big commandment to obey: love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s in obeying that command that I’ve found the freedom my soul has always wanted.

“But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21-23)

I eventually gave up that lifestyle. But it wasn’t out of guilt or fear. I wasn’t afraid that my disobedience would disqualify Christ’s love for me. It was the exact opposite. His unconditional love bred within me a desire for obedience.

I suppose that is the paradox of the Christian life. Real joy comes in trading worldly freedom for slavery to Christ, because slavery in Christ means the freedom to live the life we truly want–a life of unending freedom.

Pure and unadulterated freedom.

 

 

Featured Image: Kathlyn Wieland

Instagram: @kathwieland