A Charlie Brown State of Mind
By Jeff Caudill
I am a fan of Peanuts™ cartoons and especially a fan of Charlie Brown. My favorite is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I love that it airs on television each year, and Linus quotes the Christmas story from Luke 2. As I watch, I secretly hope Lucy will finally allow Charlie Brown to actually kick the football rather
than pulling it away at the last minute to send him sprawling through the air.
The main reason I am a Charlie Brown fan is because I relate to him. For many things in life and ministry, I feel inadequate. One day Charlie Brown was talking to his friend, Linus, about the pervasive sense of inadequacy he feels all the time. Charlie moaned, “You see, Linus, it goes all the way back to the beginning. The moment I was born and set foot on the stage of life, they took one look at me and said, ‘Not right for the part.’”
I realize this sounds really bad. I also know that if this is how we feel all the time we may need professional help. However, for some of us, this is how we feel at least some of the time in various situations.
The quote I shared from Peanuts was used in my connection group at church for a lesson on inadequacy. It was that lesson that prompted me to think about some things in my own experience and ultimately write some of those thoughts down.
How can we deal with a Charlie Brown state of mind? What should we do with feelings of inadequacy? Based on my own experience, I would like to share three suggestions:
Surround yourself with the right kind of people.
Charlie Brown has Linus. Linus always tries to help Charlie Brown feel better about himself. He encourages him and tries to help him see that he is not nearly as inadequate as he thinks. For those of us who struggle with feelings of inadequacy, the people close to us can have a huge impact on us. We need honest people. We need them to tell us the truth about who we are and what we can accomplish.
My wife is one of those people in my life. Yes, I am not the best at some things. However, I can do some things successfully, and she helps me see that. Through her encouragement, she provides the confidence for me to accomplish things I would not feel adequate enough to do without her reassurance. Because she is honest, she does not just tell me all positives.
Since I know she is being honest with me, when she says I can do something, or that I did something well, I can trust her encouragement. Others through the years have come alongside with honest feedback. Through their encouragement, they have helped me move past my feelings of inadequacy and actually accomplish some things.
The key to all this is being intentional about surrounding yourself with honest people who will provide honest feedback, and who have your best interests in mind. They are invaluable to help you move past feelings of inadequacy.
Strengthen your abilities by honing your skills.
Don’t say you do not have any abilities or skills. God made us all with certain skills and abilities (gifts if you like). Find the things you are good at and work on them to become better. If you feel inadequate for something to which you are called, hone that skill to become better. If you have seen The Peanuts Movie, you may remember how Charlie Brown finally learned to fly a kite after many failed attempts. The point is, he kept working at it.
As a (much) younger person, I struggled to speak in public. When I say struggled, I mean that in a college speech class, I would be physically ill on the days I was scheduled to speak. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was miserable! As a pastor, (although not the primary preaching pastor) I am called on to speak from time to time. Over the years, I have worked at being less afraid and at being a better speaker. Sure, I am not the best speaker/teacher/preacher around. I am not even the best speaker in my church, but I have become better at it by not allowing my feelings of inadequacy to win, and by working to overcome fear and become a better public speaker.
What is it you feel called or compelled to do but feel inadequate to accomplish? Could you take a class to improve? Could you practice to become better? Maybe online demonstrations would provide the confidence you need. Trust me when I say I know how difficult this is.
Push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
I would like to make one disclaimer here: I realize some things are better left to someone else. That should never be an excuse, however. At times, there will be no one but you to get the job done.
Seek the presence of God through His Spirit.
This is the most important and effective way to deal with feelings of inadequacy. In the connection group discussion I mentioned earlier, someone reminded all of us that God uses the inadequate. He used a shepherd boy to kill a giant; a murderer to lead His people out of Egypt; a persecutor of Christians to write half the New Testament; and the list goes on and on. We have to realize that if we accomplish anything it will be because the God of the universe uses us to do it! You and I are inadequate to accomplish anything apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. He takes our inadequacies and makes them more than enough for the task.
We should seek out that power in our individual lives. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6a, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient ministers…”
Recently, I was called upon to serve as interim pastor. Talk about feeling inadequate for the task! When asked how people could pray for me, my one request was that I would find my confidence in God through His Spirit.
You know what? He answered that prayer. God working in me enabled me to serve as interim pastor for nine months. His confidence in me allowed me to say no when asked to consider the role of lead pastor. He provided the strength to choose His direction, which led to what was best. God provided the strength, and He made me adequate for the task to which He called me. His power working in us makes all the difference!
Too often, I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy says to him, “Charlie Brown, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the ‘Charlie Browniest!’” Maybe you are right there with me. No doubt some struggle with feelings of inadequacy more than others. We cannot allow these feelings to keep us from accomplishing things for God and His kingdom.
Surround yourself with people who encourage you. Strengthen your abilities and skills through hard work and by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Seek God’s power to accomplish His purposes.
Do I struggle with feelings of inadequacy? All the time! But I can’t allow those feelings to keep me from being the person God called me to be and from accomplishing His purposes. Neither can you.
About the Writer: Jeff Caudill is executive pastor for Cofer’s Chapel FWB Church in Nashville, Tennessee.