Performance does not refer to what a person does, but it refers to the motives behind why a person does something. Unless a parent is careful in training a child, the child may perceive that if he does not do what the parents expect, then he will not be loved and accepted by them. This causes constant anxiety, fear, and striving to please. The child thinks that he won’t be loved unless he performs correctly and if he doesn’t perform correctly he deserves rejection.
1. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (he hath made us accepted in the beloved). In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8
2. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. John 15:16a
Love from a parent should be unconditional and unable to be lost, no matter what the child does or how he behaves. This will cause the child to be secure. Does the child know that he is loved even when he messes up and probably has to be punished, or does he feel rejected when he messes up? If a parent uses love to try to control the child and says something like, “I can’t love you if you act like that” or “Where did my little boy go?,” the child does not feel free to be himself. He must watch everything he does for fear of not being acceptable. The need to feel like he belongs pushes the child to act out what he is not, and his real self dies. The child is essentially told or feels that he will not be loved unless he deserves it by acting correctly.
Once this belief is instilled in a child, then even if he is then given unconditional love and acceptance, he thinks that he does not deserve it and cannot accept it, or he feels guilty if he accepts it. Behaving well and being loved become entangled when they should be separate.
We cannot be righteous and loved by God by obeying rules (the law) and at the same time be under the grace of God.
3. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ (Ye are severed from Christ); you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:4
4. You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you; Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:1-3
This causes the child and eventually the adult, to try to be the person that they think others expect them to be. They feel compelled to behave in whatever way the people that they are with are behaving so that they will fit in. They may end up being several different persons depending upon who they are with. As a result they grow up not knowing who they really are. When they are in a new situation their silent cry is: “Tell me what to say and I’ll say it; tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I don’t know what is expected and what the rules are here.”
Such a teenager may freely go with friends and join them in some actions that they have been taught is wrong because they have such a strong need to feel accepted by others.
5. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
6. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment (torment). I John 4:18
When a person caught in performance is invited to come into a church, they now feel that they must perform even better to please God. This is a religious spirit. They strive to be perfect, not out of love for God, but out of the same old fear of rejection by God, and they expect the others in the church to do things according to their expectations. Such a person criticizes others, but cannot receive even the most loving correction because they hear it as rejection. They feel condemnation from their critical conscience if they dare do anything wrong.
7. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
8. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
If there is anywhere that a person does not have to perform to be accepted, it should be in the church, because Jesus has given us His righteousness; we do not have to earn it. We are loved by God no matter what mistakes we make, so we are secure. Others are not obligated to behave in a certain way toward us. When our hearts believe this, performance dies in us. We may now serve in the church in exactly the same way, but our motivation is love for others and for God; we are not afraid of being rejected.
9. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Persons caught in the trap of performance will work hard for long hours so that other people will think well of them and accept them. They believe that their worth as a person is tied to their performance. As a result of their hard work, they may be very successful in what they do. However, they are very hard on themselves and never believe that they have done enough. It is difficult, if not impossible, for them to take a break at work, or to stop thinking about what needs to be done when they go to bed at night.
Performance orientated persons do not give out love and acceptance unless they believe the other person deserves it. (This really wrecks havoc in marriage.) They are afraid to try new things because they might fail. They are always trying to behave correctly, especially in public, so they cannot be spontaneous. They will work really hard to reach whatever success they are striving for so that they will feel acceptable to themselves and others, even if they are unaware that that is their true goal. They expect to be loved and accepted if they feel that they have done well.
It is not easy for a person deeply into performance to escape. If you try to explain to them what they are doing, they will not understand what you are saying. They will hear you saying that they need to be irresponsible or lazy.
It is difficult to distinguish between doing your best and slipping into performance. Where is the line between the two? Here are some things to look for.
(a) Expectation - Best compared to others
(b) Motivation - Avoid negative, fear of failure
(c) Self Talk - I should, I must, I ought
(d) Striving - Want perfection
(e) Results - Disappointment and frustration, feeling a failure
(f) Outlook - It should be
(g) Stated End - A demand
(h) Focus on - End product
(i) Life View - Dreaded curse
(j) Position - Slave
(k) Live in - Fantasy world
(l) Belief - People can be perfect
(m) Want - Perfection
This burden to perform and be perfect eventually can create a hidden anger and a desire to blow the whole performing image and do something really despicable to shatter the perfect image others have of them. They desperately want to know that they will still be loved and accepted if they are not perfect.
How much better it is to have the following mind-set.
(a) Expectation - Best of self
(b) Motivation - Desire for success
(c) Self Talk - I want, I wish, I would like
(d) Striving - Accepts the possible
(e) Results - Acceptance and fulfillment, success
(f) Outlook - It is
(g) Stated End - A request or desire
(h) Focus on - Process
(i) Life View - Welcome challenge
(j) Position - Free
(k) Live in - Real world
(l) Belief - People cannot be perfect
(m) Want - Personal best