This is the first of a series on commitment, perfectionism, and faith. Check back this week for Part 2.
“Strike three! You’re out!”
The ball whizzed by my head, and my eleven-year-old heart sank as those four words from the umpire entered my eardrums for what felt like the thousandth time. I meandered slowly back to the dugout, hung my head to dodge the disappointment in my coach’s eyes, and reclaimed my still-warm spot on the bench.
For most kids at Central Springfield Little League, batting was the best part of the game. There was little more rewarding than the resounding crack of leather meeting metal. But throughout my six years playing little league ball, there was nothing I dreaded more than going up to bat.
As anyone familiar with baseball knows, every pitch requires the batter to make a harrowing, split-second decision: good pitch or bad pitch. Strike or ball. Swing the bat or let it go.
And frankly, I was terrible at making that on-the-fly choice. As the ball would sail toward me, I’d freeze. I’d just stand there, debating my options and changing my mind again and again. Paralyzed by my own indecisiveness, I’d waste those last crucial seconds at the plate. It wasn’t long before I’d developed a reputation at Central Springfield: the kid who always struck out.
From Little League to the Real World
I don’t tell this story in hopes of an internet pity-party or to use the FOCUS blog as some weird form of group therapy to process my childhood wounds. I tell it because it illustrates one of our generation’s most pernicious problems.
Let’s be honest, ladies and gents: we stink at making decisions.
Yep, young adults are commitment-phobes. We keep our relationships “open,” just in case someone better comes along. We wait until the last possible moment to declare our major (I’m looking at you, second-semester sophomores). We love the “Maybe” option on Facebook events. We bail on commitments to friends, shooting a last-minute text to avoid confrontation. And we do all of these things without showing a smidge of remorse or embarrassment for acting flakier than one of grandma’s famous buttermilk biscuits.
So what gives? Why is our generation so absurdly bad at commitment?
The answer is simple. We’re afraid to strike out.
The Batter’s Box Blues
As a little leaguer, each time I went up to bat, all I could think about was how much was at stake. In that moment, all that mattered was getting to first base. I was the master of my own destiny, the only one in charge of securing my happiness. And it all came down to picking the right pitch – to knowing when to swing. But with so much pressure to make the right choice – with so much riding on my ability to choose – it’s no wonder I froze.
Sound familiar? We as a culture have come down with a debilitating case of the “batter’s box blues.” We’ve bought into the idea that as long as we make all the right decisions, we can secure our own fulfillment. All we have to do is choose all the things that will make us happy. Swing at the good pitches, and let the bad ones go. Sounds simple enough, right? The problem is, the constant pressure to choose the “right things” comes with a steep price: the ever-present fear of making a mistake. And it is this fear that cripples us.
The fear that by joining the wrong club or student organization, I’ll miss out on all the other opportunities out there.
The fear that by choosing the wrong major, I’ll fail to become the successful adult my parents have always wanted me to be.
The fear that by dating the wrong person, I’ll never fall in love and will be miserable and alone for the rest of my life. And there will be cats – so many cats.
Too often, we are motivated by fear. We’re deathly afraid to constrain ourselves to opportunities, places, and – most worrisome of all – relationships. If we don’t break free of this fear, the resulting indecisiveness can have devastating consequences in our professional, social, and spiritual lives. We must put a stop to it.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll explore the relationship between indecision and faith, and expose the hidden culprit behind this modern plague of commitment-phobia: Perfectionism.