Why You’re Afraid to Pursue Your Art (And What to Do About It)

{Guest Article by Mark Casper}

When I was a kid, I was fearless. No hill was too steep, no tree too high. Ok, so maybe my dad was a safety freak and made me wear a six-inch-thick Styrofoam helmet whenever I rode my Big Wheel. But still, when it came to life, nothing seemed too risky or too dangerous. I didn’t care about the opinion of others, or about the consequences of failure. I lived fully and whole-heartedly in every moment.

But a funny thing happened as I got older: I became less and less inclined to do anything that could result in failure, rejection, or mediocrity. I even shied away from pursuing things I was supposedly gifted at, like writing. It just seemed too risky, like putting all your chips on the table.

The Fear of Failure

The uncomfortable truth is, I’ve spent most of my life either seeking the approval of others or fearing their disapproval. This is especially true when I’m faced with the thought of a new artistic endeavor. I’m haunted by certain questions:

What happens if I fail? What if no one likes what I’ve created? What if no one buys my art?

As a result, I often avoid the project altogether, preferring the safety and comfort of thinking about what could have been if I had really tried. I know I’m not alone here. Most of us try to justify ourselves by our performance, so we’re terrified at the thought of failure.

art and the gospel creative christians

The Safe Route

Ironically enough, sometimes we’re even afraid of pursuing the calling we have a natural ability for. At first this seems counterintuitive—you would think pursuing your gifts would be the path of least resistance.

But I’ve found that it feels much safer to do things I’m not naturally good at or haven’t put much time into. For those reasons, I give myself lower expectations in these “ungifted” areas. Failure isn’t as soul crushing because it wasn’t “my thing” in the first place (see my performance on the golf course for a real-life example of this).

This is the biggest reason why I’ve been afraid to write. Since I have some natural ability in it, I expect more of myself. I fear what will happen if I actually pour my heart and soul into a piece of writing. What if it gets rejected? What if people say it’s garbage? What if someone is much better? If I’m not approved or affirmed in the very thing people say I’m “good” at, where does that leave me?

The Gospel and Your Art

In my counselor’s office a sword hangs on the wall (intense, I know). Beneath it lies one of my favorite quotes from the film Braveheart:

“All men die. Not every man truly lives.”

Whenever we listen to our fears and cease to pursue the risky art we were called to create, we cease to truly live. And the only way we can find the freedom to recklessly pursue our art is to place our identity, worth, and value in something else–namely, the gospel of Jesus.

Though our culture tells us that our identity comes from our performance, the gospel tells us that our identity stems from Jesus’ performance. Because I trust that Jesus lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died, I have been adopted into God’s family. The Father now looks at me with a smile and says, “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Do you see what this means? If your identity doesn’t come from your work, you are free to live, love, and pursue your art whole-heartedly, knowing that your worth, future, and identity are perfectly secure in Christ. You are free to fail. You are free from having to prove yourself to others. You are free from comparison. You are even free to produce your art in obscurity, knowing that whatever becomes of your life’s work is the perfect, loving will of your Heavenly Father.

Consider this quote (one of my all-time favorites) from Donald Miller’s book, Searching for God Knows What:

“Imagine how a man’s life would be if he trusted that he was loved by God. How he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really.”

So friends now I put the question to you: how would your life and art be different if you had nothing to lose–if you trusted that you were completely loved by God?

 

mark casper

 

Mark Casper is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife. Find him online at markrobertcasper.com and on Twitter here.

 

 

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Just this morning I had a break down after putting a lot into a piece of writing I was thrilled about. I got some criticism on it and I couldn’t take it. This writing was like my baby and it hurt to hear someone not see it the way I did. I hadn’t been this excited about my writing before getting this idea and I was expecting a lot more excitement from others as well. This post was just the words and encouragement I needed today. :)

what do you think? share with us:

%d bloggers like this: