King of the Crap Pile
Do you like music? It’s funny how the lyrics of a song get into our head, they stay there. In fact, I’ll bet you can name most of the artists who sang these lyrics:
- “In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man. Now I’ve reached that age, I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can.”
- “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world / She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”
- “I’ve got all my life to live / And I’ve got all my love to give /And I’ll survive I will survive, hey hey”
- “All you need is love / All you need is love / All you need is love, love / Love is all you need”
But, my point isn’t who sang them. It is how lyrics stay in our heads.
A number of years ago, I was feeling really low. So, I wrote down a bunch of the lyrics – or messages – that I kept playing in my head at the time:
- I am mediocre at everything
- I don’t have the ability to persevere
- I cannot provide for my family
- I have nothing to say of value to anyone
- I don’t know what I should be doing
- I don’t like what I am doing now
- I have no consistency
- I don’t seem to fit anywhere
- I don’t see any hope for me at all
- I’ve ruined my family
- I am worthless
And, as I played them over and over in my head, they spilt out into my life and played out there. I believed them. Those self-scribed lyrics oozed out to other people’s lives too, including people I love. Other men have experienced this oozing from me.
When you come from a broken home like I have, you may hear literal statements like the ones I wrote. And here’s the painful part: They might have been expressed by family members and other people you trusted. Perhaps the messages weren’t literal. In other words, those lyrics didn’t come from the lips of someone you love. The lyrics I identified in my life were spoken and unspoken messages that I received from others. Maybe you can relate.
We’re not alone. Many of us have lived with similar messages playing around in our heads most of our lives. Storyteller Hans Christian Anderson said, “Life is like a beautiful melody. Only the lyrics are messed up.”
Does this seem extreme? When I look at my messed-up lyrics all together, it seems to be extreme. I look back at these messages and recognize them for what they are. They are value statements about me. Scratch that. They are de-valuing statements about me
As I have looked back at my life, I’ve realized a few things:
- My value & worth affect my decisions. For most of my life, while hearing those devaluing lyrics in my head, I’ve made a pile of poor decisions. In my relationships, in my career and in my faith walk with Jesus. For example, I was hired by a company, where in the first few weeks, I was literally treated like a piece of crap. Instead of standing up for myself, I stayed passive. FOR SEVEN YEARS. I stayed and took all the crap, because I believed those devaluing lyrics.
- As I reviewed my career choices, I was confronted with choices of where to work. I’d see a potentially healthy work environment, and get scared that I would be lost somewhere in the middle. My other choice was usually a crap pile of toxicity. And so I’d choose to be King of the Crap Pile. Believe me … you can really stand out in a crap pile.
- My value & worth affect my sustained efforts. Have you ever “settled” for something, only to realize that it totally wasn’t worth it? In work I’ve done with some brothers-in-arms, I’ve realized something really important: There is persevering power in value. I’d devalue myself in my work. And when I settled, then I wouldn’t give my best. Ever gripe and complain that you aren’t being paid what you’re worth? The problem is that I didn’t believe I was worth that much.
One sage man in my life told me this about value as it pertained to my work: “People pay for value. I have to charge what I feel that I am worth so that I can give my best.”
My value & worth have nothing to do with others who might say “no.” Here’s how this one works: When I was afraid of hearing “no,” the best strategy was not to ask at all. That served me (not well) for years. Now when someone tells me “no,” I can disconnect from that de-valuing message because I am not beholden to someone else’s opinion of me or my efforts.
So, where do I get my value & worth from?
Most of us know Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Ugly Duckling. A bird was raised by ducks and therefore considered himself a duck. However, as the bird grew up, and he saw his reflection on the pond, he realized he was royalty … a swan. “His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg.”
My value & worth comes from:
- Being in a community of supportive men called The Crucible Project
- Spending 15 minutes every morning in “the chair” with God’s word, and replacing those messed up lyrics of mine that tell me I’m king of the crap pile, with beautiful lyrics that reinforce God’s truth. I am loved. I am worthy. I am valuable.
By Tim White
Tim completed his initial weekend in 2013. He has staffed many weekends and leads L.I.F.E. Recovery for men at Willow Creek Crystal Lake. With an M.Div from Bethel Seminary, he’s a former senior pastor and now pastoral coach. Tim fulfills his mission by guiding men to greater connection through vulnerable transparency. TimWhiteCoaching.com