I got fired today.
I’m half pissed off and half devastated.
I made a minor mistake. One, in 49 projects completed.
The truth is the fault was mine. I missed something that I am supposed to catch.
Mortified when I heard, I apologized profusely. I owned it. I groveled. And then when I didn’t hear back, I was angry with myself for the groveling because it was, after all, just a genuine mistake. I hadn’t started World War Three.
They left me hanging for a week. Colleagues assured me everyone makes mistakes now and then and they weren’t fired for it. It’s just human error. Inevitable eventually.
But then today, I got the email.
I’m a big fan of Brené Brown’s work, and when I was first told of my mistake last week, SHAME in big fat red buckets of blood poured down on my head.
I was suddenly eight again and Miss Barrett was asking who had stolen someone’s eraser in English class and I blushed puce. I hadn’t taken it but I was sure in some way I must have been guilty and would soon be found out. Especially since I was blushing.
Now at fifty years old, the same voices in my head are instant:
“How could I have done that?? You IDIOT! They’ll think you’re not serious about your job! They’ll think you weren’t paying attention! They’ll think you’re a complete flake. (And let’s be honest you are, aren’t you.)”
Shame. It works with David Bowie’s song if you change that single word:
Shame, makes a man take things over
Shame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Shame, puts you there where things are hollow
Shame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane
I was engulfed. So I groveled to overcompensate then resented myself for it.
These moments are not fun in my head. Come on in.
What is interesting about an instance such as this is what it reveals about yourself.
I hadn’t thought of myself as a perfectionist. For an artist I suppose it’s quite unusual. I strive for excellence, however I can also live with “good enough.”
But being fired shows me that, actually, I am a perfectionist after all. About my conduct.
You see, it was my fault. I could have worked harder and then I wouldn’t have missed what I was supposed to catch. The fact that I was working hard and really don’t know why I didn’t catch the mistake doesn’t help. I should have caught it. I’m really, really good.
That voice of pride and self-confidence and strong work ethic is immediately in battle with the voice that says, “You’re full of crap. You’re not good!! Of course you were going to make that mistake and of course you deserve to get fired. Why should they just give you a warning? Why would they want you to stay?”
And that second voice really gets me. Why?
I think the truth is that deep, deepest down, I still believe that God blesses me when I get things right. That God loves me when I get things right.
And so when I don’t, I’m on my own. I’m jailed from all things good because the big iron door of blessing and grace has now – rightly – been slammed shut with a death-ening clang.
I can tell other people about grace. I can teach about it. I can quote all the verses in scripture describing it. I can verbally ask the Lord to cover me in it (as I did this afternoon). But apparently I have no grace for myself.
And that, my friends, is pride. Based in fear. I realize that deep down my fear is that it is indeed works which justify me, and not love.
Whoa. That epiphany is almost worth getting fired for.
Because God loves me not for getting things right. He simply does. He’s Love. Not to love me would be for Him to not be who He is.
How can I accept that? How can I resist it?
After I heard, I was upset and my kids were upset. So I asked if we could pray together. I was so sorry for making the mistake, and I was so sorry for letting everyone down. And I did ask for the Lord’s grace to cover me.
I do trust that it does.
In spite of myself.