“I Am What I Am.” Getting Past the Disclaimers

“Good afternoon! I’m Dr. Smith. Call me Gus. I’ll be performing your procedure today. I’m usually unsure about what I’m doing with the patients I get, and I hardly consider myself to be a doctor–but, hey. Here goes nothin’. Ready?”

“Excuse me, ma’am, would you like to purchase a batch of my cookies? My skills in the kitchen are subpar, in my own opinion, and I don’t necessarily expect you to think my baking tastes good, but if you have any extra money on you, I’d appreciate your buying a batch anyway.”

“Sure, Mr. and Mrs. Brown, I’ll babysit your kids while you’re out! I’m not a great sitter, and your kids probably won’t like me–they may even get hurt or wreak total havoc under my rather helpless watch–but let me know how the banquet was, when you get back!”

“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” ~Paul, an apostle (I Corinthians 15:9-11, KJV)

I for one don’t think it’s Paul’s objective to debase himself or to disclaim his apostleship by calling himself the least of the apostles on account of his having persecuted the Church. One should definitely have a level-headed, rational view of oneself.

It’s okay to realize when you’re outranked or underqualified. You need to know where your weaknesses are, where you’ve needed someone else to cut you some slack, acknowledging that it’s taken someone’s help and patience for you to accomplish what you’ve accomplished. Paul’s dubbing himself as “the least of the apostles” is a part of his level-headed view of himself.

Paul acknowledges that, because of his mistakes, it’s taken grace to get him where he’s gotten. However, he doesn’t begin his addresses to the Church with habitual disclaimers. “I don’t consider myself to be an apostle, really. I’m not at all good at this, so you all probably shouldn’t listen to me. But will you listen to me anyway, please? Here goes nothin’.”

Instead, Paul opens up his discourses with words like: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle.” “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He asserts that by the grace of God, he is indeed what he is, and he isn’t afraid to declare that by that same grace, his work has borne good results. “We apostles preach, and you have believed.”

Would you entrust your health to a doctor who greets you by saying he’s not really a doctor? Are you all too eager to plop your hard-earned money down to buy goods from vendors who have no faith in their products? Would someone’s predictions of harm and havoc concerning your children make you feel inclined to leave your children in that person’s care? Not so much?

Then why would you spend a lot of time disclaiming yourself when it comes to your purpose or profession? When we’re unsure of our work, worried that we might get poor results, or afraid that we and/or our product won’t be favorably accepted, putting up disclaimers can serve as a superficial buffer. “Before they have a chance to ignore, reject, or shame me, I’ll be the first to say that I know my work isn’t great.”

But do we stop to consider that our disclaimers may be turning interested people off, turning them away, before they have a real chance to see what we’re about? That is no way to invite people to meet you, to taste your cuisine, to read your book, to download your music.

If you’re no scholar, then what are you in school for? If you’re not a good author, why are you publishing books for other people to read? If you’re uninteresting and dull, then why are you asking for a date, to subject someone else to an unexciting individual who may not be worth the time?

Your not being perfect doesn’t mean that you have to debase yourself. It’s healthy, honest, and more than okay to know and assert that, by grace, you are what you are. It’s all right to let people know that you’re worth consideration, that you’re good at what you do, that your product is worth a try.

“But what if they don’t like me? What if they don’t like what I put out? What if they pay no attention at all?”

You can waste hours, days, or years futilely trudging through what-ifs. Or, you can take pride in your work, doing your best. Then you can take a deep breath, put your hand to the plow, and go for it: go on and let folks know who you are and what good you have to offer them.

You never know who’s going to need what you have to give.


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