Death to the Checkmark!

Check MarkHi.  My name is Shane and I’m addicted to check marks.

Oh, sure…I struggle with other vices. This one, though is probably at the root of most of my failures and is a huge obstacle to the life of abundance that Jesus promised us.

Let me explain.

Everywhere we look, there are HUGE opportunities waiting for us.  Self-improvement opportunities, career opportunities, family opportunities and KINGDOM opportunities.  The hard thing about most opportunities is just that.  They’re hard.  They require hard work, goal setting, motivation, initiative, and a whole bunch of other cool words that would look great on a motivational poster.

I have a tendency to approach these opportunities with an absolute, all-or-nothing approach that feels really good at the jump, but sabotages my long range success and motivation.

  1. When I try to eat better, I go hard-core on the diet plan (you pick it, I’ve tried it).  24/7…all in.
  2. When I start exercising, I set a plan.  No less than 6 days a week.  30 minutes – an hour a day.  24/7…all in.
  3. When I try to lose weight (usually the ultimate goal of #1 and #2), I set a weekly weight loss goal of X LBS per week. 24/7…all in.
  4. When I try to grow my knowledge of scripture, I sign up for an online plan for daily reading and/or establish a routine of daily quiet time.  24/7…all in.

When we set up such regimented structures in our lives, we replace the freedom that God has given us with a legalistic approach. History has proven we aren’t capable of living up to such rules/laws…that’s why we need Jesus and the freedom he gives us.

Please understand that I think a daily quiet time in the Word is crucial to our spiritual growth…but, if we’re doing it for the sake of staying on track with a plan or to avoid the guilt of missing a day, we’re doing it for the wrong reason.

Eventually, the inevitable unknown of life creeps in and robs us of an opportunity to work out because we have a cold.  We eventually oversleep and miss our morning quiet time.  We land in an all-day business meeting with lunch catered and NOTHING fits the diet plan.

That pretty little checkmark that we love to see show up every day on our planner calls in sick.  Because of our regimented approach, that blank spot where the checkmark SHOULD be is a HUGE hit to our motivation. We resign to failure and abandon our mission.

Does it really have to be failure?  Absolutely, not.

Goals are good place markers to check the pulse on our progress.  They shouldn’t be used as a pass/fail metric.

I’m working to change my perspective.  I’ve just begun my latest attempt to get healthy.  This time, I’m not keeping a planner.  I’m not setting rigid goals.

I’m not making check marks.

Instead, I’m going to live freely, knowing that every decision I face is an opportunity.  Sometimes I’ll make the right one, sometimes I won’t.  As long as I’m making more good decisions than bad, I should be trending in the right direction and can feel victorious.

God has a plan for us…there’s no need to tie ourselves down with our own.

Live a life free of check marks.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Train

    It is amazing how structured faith becomes I we let it.

  • Andrew Clark

    Dood! That hit me square between the eyes!

  • Amy

    I am right there with you. It’s a control thing for me. If I have a to-do list to check off, that validates me that I’ve made the most of my day. Or it used to. I stopped with the lists, stopped counting calories, and stopped reading my Bible for the sake of saying I did it.

    I think it was Louie Giglio (or maybe Andy Stanley) who talked about the difference between seeing Christianity as a religion and as a relationship with Christ.

    If we see it as a religion, we see reading the Bible, going to church, giving, and doing service work for others as something that we have to do and once we check it off the list, we feel like we’ve done our good deed for the day. That God is pleased.

    But if we do all of those things out of a love for Christ and because we want to know Him more and we want to share His love with others, we see Christianity as it is: a relationship with Christ. Full of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

    I grew up in a very fundamentalist household. We HAD to read our Bibles, go to church every time doors opened, say our prayers, and etc. I was taught to confess my sins every night. In “Enemies of the Heart,” Andy Stanley writes about being raised the same way, but it turns out, that’s not what confession is about either. It’s about confessing your sins, yes, but with the intention not to act the same way again. It’s not like a dumping ground for all of your sins so you can go sin again.

    That’s not what grace means.

    But growing up in this environment where I was told to be “perfect” and guilted into the “religious” view of Christianity, I never learned grace. I didn’t begin to even understand the concept of grace until I was 28 years old and I had moved away from my family. And I grew up in church and got saved and baptized when I was 11. (I’m 30 now.)

    So sometimes, I still feel like I “have” to read my Bible and feel guilty if I don’t. I’ve gotten to where I love to go to church and rarely feel like I “have to.” I still don’t tithe like I feel I “should,” but even thinking I “should” is taking on the more religious view.

    God’s grace covers all. We don’t need a checklist. We don’t need something to hold on to that will make us worthy of God’s love or make us measure up. We already do. But this is still something I struggle to grasp.

    I don’t want to follow a religion. I want to have a personal relationship with Christ. And that can happen even on the days I don’t read my Bible or fall asleep saying my prayers. The guilt I feel is not from God but from satan who is doing all he can to pull us away from God and make us feel like we’ll never measure up so why bother.

    • freec78

      Amy- Thanks for being willing to share your story and in doing so, adding insight to this tool satan uses to drive a wedge between us and the freedom that Jesus has given us.

      I visited your blog this afternoon. Great work! For those who are reading this and need some encouragement…of any kind…Amy has plenty over on her blog at

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