When I chat with university graduates who recently join the workplace, in the first 6-12 months the conversations are generally positive. They are excited about the big world ahead of them, their career prospects and though they might be doing tedious work at the moment, they expect it to get better.
Fast forward to 12-24 months after they have entered the workplace, some will start to become jaded and begin asking questions such as “What does the Bible say about work?” and “What should I be doing for work in the long term?”
The reasons, I gather, vary from jobs not meeting their expectations, long working hours, bad culture or other life pressures on top of work. As a result, some people dread going into work and sometimes wish they would fall sick so that they do not need to attend work.
One common reason for this is an unhealthy spiral of self-defeat. They turn up to work hoping for a better day, but the circumstances do not change and they go home feeling defeated and overwhelmed in all their work - and it repeats!
Of course, this spiral is not exclusive to people who work. The same spiral of self-defeat can be seen for those unemployed and struggling to find a job. It can also be seen with other issues such as an alcohol, drug or porn addiction.
How does one break free from a cycle of self-defeat with the struggles we face in our lives? I think we know in theory how this can be done, setting a goal and building momentum towards it. What if we re-framed it slightly differently?
As Christians, we strive to better ourselves by reducing and eliminating sin in our lives in response to God’s grace and love to us. (Romans chapter 6, verses 1-14).
As God is gracious to us, we also need to be gracious to ourselves and forgive ourselves for past failures. This is because today, we can choose to change ourselves and act to prevent or minimise past failures from arising again.
When we choose to act, we should be making steps towards a vision of “greatness”; the goal. In Christianity, we move from sin to being holy. In taking the concept of self-forgiveness and working towards a goal, it can be applied to other contexts which are not necessarily “Christian” in nature.
For example, a discouraged job seeker may have stopped for a few months due to unsuccessful applications. Through self-forgiveness, they can say to themselves “I forgive myself for past failures and will stop beating myself up and try again”. In choosing to act, they are asking “how can I be better”, which in turn, may open other paths and solutions such as volunteering, upskilling or entrepreneurial activity to overcome unemployment.
Choose to win
Having a vision of “greatness” is a good start. However, a defeatist attitude is one of the worst one can do for oneself as it promotes anxiety, pessimism (not realism), negativity and poor attitude to things.
In the book of Numbers chapter 13 to 14, the spies, when giving a report about the inhabitants in the land of Canaan said: This led Israel to fear and have a defeatist attitude.
This is after Israel had been rescued by God from Egypt, and witnessed the once-in-a-lifetime miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea or the Passover. Israel’s lack of faith in God, along with their defeatist attitude, led to their generation being unable to enter the Promised Land.
With faith in God’s promises, combined with choosing to “win” (a relative term), one can achieve great things. We see an example of this in the story of David and Goliath. David convinces Saul to let him take on Goliath with a winning attitude in 1 Samuel chapter 17, verse 36 to 37: David’s faith in God combined with his “let’s go and win” attitude saw the defeat of Goliath and a major military victory for Israel against Philistine that day.
But, what does winning actually mean?
In general, it is a “step forward” in the right direction. For example, if I am trying to overcome a smoking addiction, a “win” for me is one day or one instance of temptation that I did not choose to smoke. It is taking you one step towards the goal of quitting smoking. The aim is to build a momentum of winning, all whilst relying on God.
God’s will be done
The addictions and situations that people face are very difficult. When caught in a spiral of self-defeat, it is very hard to get out. Thankfully, we can take encouragement that anything is possible with our supernatural God, meaning it does not only rely solely on our willpower. Intentional choosing coupled with knowing that God is (Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20) becomes a very powerful tool in moving forward to climb out a self-defeatist cycle.
For me, one of the best things about being a Christian is knowing that everything is possible, everything is under the sovereign will of God and that we can fully rely on Him for everything.
What it looks like in combating a self-defeating cycle is this - while I might have my own personal idea or vision of what “greatness” looks like, I know God’s vision of “greatness” is even better than what I can dream of. So no matter the outcome of what I do, I can rest assured that God is looking out for me.
In turn, we should be striving to do our best to live lives that glorify God, in whatever situation that God has placed us. It is not going to be easy, as many of us are in tough situations. But we can be confident and say “I choose greatness and I choose to win for the glory of God” because that attitude is always better than a self-defeatist attitude.
Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at
Brandon Tsang is a Sydney-based writer currently working in IT. He studied Marketing and Economics at UNSW and loves to spend his spare time hiking, playing volleyball or watching Netflix.
Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brandon-tsang.html