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Monday, July 7, 2008

Vanity, Envy and Pride

Tired of all the Susie-Homemaker stuff and toddler-talk? Well, let's get serious for a minute shall we?(I stewed over blogging about this briefly, then realized the four people who might actually read this, know it already. That and it will be good for my children to know when they read this in 40 years.)

Here are some basic facts about me:

I sing.
I LOVE to sing.
I have a music degree (magna cum laude, even.)
I'm a confident person.
Very few people intimidate me.
I am absolutely petrified to sing in public.

I've learned a lot about myself and the above list these last two weeks.

It all started when I was asked to be a part of our church's first July Fourth celebration, singing lead on "Saturday in the Park" and "9 to 5" and back up for everything else.  There was to be an antique car and tractor show, carnival games, popcorn, cotton candy, concert and then fireworks. Sounds fun, huh?

I showed up for the first rehearsal and was sitting in the little row of back up singers. (THE most fun place on a stage, in my opinion.) One of the male singers was getting ready to rehearse his song (Mellancamp's Small Town), and he turned to us and said some sort of negative, insecure thing like, "If I can just do this right." I can't even remember his exact words, but I remember turning to the other girls saying, "Why is it even good singers are so insecure about their own abilities?" One girl responded, "I don't know. I can't relate. I'm not insecure about it at all. I wish I could say I could relate, but I just can't."

I was beginning to think I wouldn't like her at all.

Then as rehearsal continued, she sang great back up. She picked out sweet harmonies and when she realized she was doubling a line, she just picked a new one and sang it. Hmf...

Second rehearsal: The stage had been rearranged. The back up singers were way on the side, so that anyone with a solo had to trek ALL THE WAY to the center of the stage -- in the spot light on a giant carpet the size of my living room. It's a lonely and vulnerable place. I was first on the line up and did everything but stomp my feet and refuse to go out there. I just wanted to do my bit on the side, in the dark. In the safety of three other singers and four huge microphone stands.

So, I begrudgingly did my thing and came over to whine in the comfort of my girls. Same "I never get insecure" girl said, "Well, sometimes I think it's even more diva-ish to say, 'Oh don't put me in the spotlight, really.'" Double HMFFFF!!! I didn't say much of anything the rest of rehearsal and I fumed and almost cried all the way home.

What was wrong with me?!?!?!? I was trying to figure it all out....this GIANT insecurity in this part of my life.  It hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn't like hearing it ring true in my heart as I thought it all through.

Three other basic facts to add to the above list:
I'm vain.
I'm pea-green with envy.
And, I am insecure about my singing.

I realized that the thing that made me so unsettled, so downright angry about this very talented gal is that she's very talented. More specifically, she can do what I can't. Most of the time, I can live with all the things other people can do that I can't. I can't make a souffle. I can't paint a portrait. I can't throw a curve ball. But she can do what I WISH I could do and probably will never be able to do. It was pure envy. I wanted her talent AND her confidence. The ugly, ugly face of envy.

Why don't I have the confidence I should to do what I love and am pretty decent at? Here's what I came up with: I want people to love me. Not just that... I'm so afraid that if I mess up, they won't love me. They'll just remember how I messed up.  Not that I'm fun, nice (most of the time) or can sing REALLY great in the shower...just that I messed up that line in that one song.

It sounds so simple. And, so silly. If my children or husband or any friends came to me with that, I'd shoot the ignorance in the foot and encourage them in their gifts. I'd say, "You'll be great! What's the worst that can happen?" But I could NOT let it go. I don't want to mess up. I thought it was that I just wanted it to be done well. But that second layer of withholding affection or friendship or love because of the mistakes? Wow. You know why that worries me? Because people are that way!!!  And it worries me because I don't WANT to be that way.  Am I?

I don't know where it started (probably somewhere in my childhood), but I started working toward the end of it Sunday. (This has all been brewing for some time, I should add.)

I confessed pretty quickly on the drive home from rehearsal the other night when envy and pride and vanity were all pounding in my heart. Confession is one thing, but how to turn from it and go the other direction? How to get to a place of contentment and humility with a very public gift? A place where I can use the gifts I have and stop comparing them to everyone else's? I can't count the number of times I've said, "I can't sing like her, so I'd better not do it." (I'm talking about people like Barbra Streisand and Julie Andrews and Reba McEntire.)

I can remember my Dad saying 20 years ago, "Don't sing like her. Sing like you."

During our communion time at church Sunday morning, I was talking to God about all this stuff. Remember, communion is the time we remember what Jesus did for us...what he did for me. You know, that whole thing about dying for me while I was still a sinner.  Loving the unloveable enough to be beaten and crucified.  

It dawned on me that I care so much about what an audience thinks, yet none of THEM died for me. Did you catch that?  I found that so freeing.  

God gave me the gifts (and limitations) that I have. He wants me to use what I have, grow what I have and try to please Him. He already loves me and believe me, He knows how much I mess up. I can put on a show for a lot of people, but He sees the real me. You might hear the note I sang flat or notice the lyrics I flubbed, but God sees when I'm nagging my husband or being hard on my kids or focusing only on myself. THOSE are the things that matter. Those are the things I should be losing sleep over when I mess up.

This one realization probably won't make all my jitters and insecurities go away at once, but it sure helped to put it in perspective.

My own vanity, envy and pride have been holding me back for years from singing and who knows what else, really.  Do you have any insecurities holding you back?  Is God asking you to do something and you're more afraid of the eyes looking back at you than the glory you would bring to Him?

One more basic fact about me:
I'm sort of forgetful.

Help me remember the scripture behind this blog:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, NOT FOR MEN, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward."  Colossians 3: 23-24



  1. I love you, flat notes and all!

  2. I love this post! I can certainly relate - and I'm sure everyone can in some sense. We all want to be liked by others, and putting ourselves out there - whether that's on a stage or not - is rarely easy. Thanks for writing this.

    And for the record, you were amazing on Friday. I'm not just saying that, either.

  3. I've always loved you voice... not because how beautiful you sound (and you do), but because how beautiful and transparent your heart is.

    You put into perfect words what almost all of us feel. That's the kind of worship for which His eyes scan to and fro.

    Love ya,


  4. What a beutiful post. You struck a chord deep in my heart with your transparency. Thank-you for being so real, so honest, and so beautiful.

    For the record, I have a major issue with coveting the amazing singing voice. LOVE, love, love to sing. But not so good at it - average maybe. Sigh.

  5. I honestly could not understand when you discussed this issue with me at your house before the performance. It blew me away that you were concerned about being up in front of people doing what you do so well...I guess that is because I am a little green myself and have yet to find a great talent of my own. Okay maybe that is a little of it. I think for the most part it is that I love you so much that I could not understand someone not loving you or you feeling that someone wouldn't. Your beautiful voice is just a bonus in my eyes. I am so glad that you invited me to spend that weekend with you and let me hear just how amazing you are at singing...heck just how amazing you are in general!!!! Love you!