Addicted To Achievement?

We can get addicted to anything.

I say that to spotlight the trophy’s importance. This was recently brought to my attention as I came across a humorous social media post:

“Ironic that every trophy store looks massively unsuccessful…”

The power, the lure, the snare of the trophy…

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. James 3:16

With all of the disordered beliefs and actions I have been mired in, an underlying common denominator existed. It was achievement.

As a child, I was driven to acquire and win. I was encouraged to earn as many badges, ribbons and trophies as possible. My first actual trophy was when I was in 4-H. My landscape painting snagged the prize in the organization’s art category.

And, as my name was announced from the makeshift county fair award stage, I felt the exhilaration of being chosen and special. I had achieved something significant. And so, it was not too long before I entertained other thoughts:

Am I significant?

“If I am this winner, will I lose this significance if I don’t keep winning?”

Unconditional versus performance- based has been at the core of everything I experienced. It has covered love, value and acceptance.

Likewise, it also extends to the spiritual matters of faith, salvation, damnation and Divine grace. So, yes, there was more attached to the trophy than just the beauty of its gold-plated metal.

They became all-important to me. As long as I kept winning and earning, I was acceptable and pleasing. I just had to reach that “enough” marker of achievement: enough badges, first place ribbons and shelves of gold trophies.

And I racked up quite a number of them. For, in that moment of winning, I experienced the high of my value and the relief of being “okay” which came with it. It drove me to win more.

But, like all highs, it did not last. And it demanded another “hit” of accomplishment.

And the achievements of the past?

Well, they lost their luster and became a weird combination of disappointment and failure. After all, they could not deliver on some vague, affirming, but, nevertheless, unrealistic promise; they left me feeling hollow.

Further complicating things, I internalized their incapability to solve and heal as my personal failure.

If I were a better person, only then could these awards truly be something, meet my needs and make me whole.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Ecclesiastes 1:14

So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17

And, not surprisingly, this perspective soon contaminated my faith.

I lumped the All-loving Father and Creator of everything into the same oppressive, task-oriented category. And, of course, I felt nothing but disappointment and schemes to punish me from my Maker.

In this mode of thinking, Philippians 2:12 became yet another pressure point, demanding I earn everything, my lovability and salvation included.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

And grace? Well, that only existed for me if I could perfectly understand, accept and apply its reality.

Maybe everyone else could absorb it into their lives while still being horribly messy, but I couldn’t. I had to “get it right.” I had to qualify for it.

But there is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). Ephesians 2:8-9 further reiterates that…

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast..

“…Lest any man…” covers anyone and everyone: regardless of what they do or do not do.

That may sound like a “no brainer.” Yet its realization in our lives is more complex than we realize.

For, if we subscribe to the theory of “earning” anything for ourselves, we are not that far away from addiction.

Trophies are anything which makes things – or us – “okay.” The sentiment rejects grace because the trophy, in all its glory, promises to be the “bigger, better deal.”

It’s the willful, rebellious assertion we don’t need the Almighty to be our Source. It declares how, only through our own merits, the prize of grace, love, salvation and worth is achieved.

But this belief unravels at its uncertainty. Grace extends beyond our finite reasoning; it covers in spite of us.

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.. Romans 11:6

Grace doesn’t make sense; it’s unfair. It covers everyone – and everything – they do.

So, for any of to assume we could do a far better job, replacing it with our achievements, is not only arrogant, it is insecure.

For, in our trophy pursuit and collection, we have operated in a delusional thinking which soothes us with tangibility. We can, after all, reach out and touch this trophy of our desire. It is three-dimensional proof. It lies not only in a gold award, but in the comfort and/or high we experience as we drink, eat, inject or indulge physically in any representative craving. It promises us love, meaning, happiness, freedom from fear, escape, courage and some vague form of “the answer.”

Trophies are all about getting what we think we need. They can become an impenetrable barrier, convincing us we are worthwhile and safeguarded from pain.

Take those things away from us, and what are we left with?

Our fears scream, “Nothing!”

But the Most High God reassures us otherwise.

“… Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”. Jeremiah 31:3

Nothing need be added to that Truth. It is. It is.

“Ironic that every trophy store looks massively unsuccessful…”

That’s because every trophy is a pathetic version of the one true prize: Him.

And we have already won Him.

Let’s revel in THAT Prize!