As a GenXer, I learned very early the expectation to "do" something great. I am a part of the achievement generation, the generation that prioritizes a sense of accomplishment. The motivation to achieve drives what we do. The motivation to succeed drives us to do great things, but it comes with a price.
When we were asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", we knew the answer was a function or role instead of character or values. When we ask others that same question we never expect the response to be, "I want to be honest when I grow up." or "I really want to be kind when I grow up." Without intention, we were taught to assess our future in terms of a function or role. We all want to be nurses, doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Occasionally, someone responds with fireman or police officer.
There is so much pressure to appear successful. We completely exhaust ourselves trying to paint the perfect picture of success. Before we know it, we are experiencing failure fatigue.
Failure fatigue occurs when we are under overwhelming pressure to measure up to some idea of success. We stress ourselves to the limit with an incessant infatuation with the perception of success. This happens in ministry as well. Have you ever noticed that we are going to unreasonable extremes to look like the cool, savvy, trendy church? We want to measure up to the idea we think people associate with success in ministry. Our social media church is hardly recognizable when guests experience our real church.
I knew this was indeed a problem after learning of a ministry flyer design where the pastor's head was transposed onto the body of a model. Someone familiar with the model noticed the bad editing and posted the flyer and the original post by the model side-by-side. Why? I can only guess that the fit, well-dressed model is the image the pastor associates with successful ministry or an influential leader. He valued perception over authenticity.
When we are anxious about perceptions of failure, we literally wear ourselves out trying to measure up to a false balance. (Bro! The model's photo was edited. He doesn't look that dewy all day. And you are two shades lighter than this guy.) When avoiding failure becomes your focus it creates an anxiety that corrupts your purpose, power, and posture for ministry.
Don't let failure fatigue drive you to make dishonest misrepresentations. What you do is not more important than who you are. Let's stop trying to become what you do and begin focusing on being who you are.