I took a breakdancing class when I was in the third grade.
In Ipswich, Massachusetts, a beautiful, little New England village, our elementary school offered breakdancing lessons.
Maybe they were swept up in the hype of Breakin’ 2, Electric Boogalo, in the same way all your friends took swing dancing when the movie Swingers came out.
I’m not sure. I was in the third grade and not focused on pop culture trends. I was focused on making sure I brought my square of cardboard to each class. That was our version of the yoga mat. Unless you grew up on the mean streets of coastal Massachusetts, I’m not sure you can relate.
My signature breakdancing move was the worm.
Recognizing that I couldn’t windmill to save my life, and fearing that if I spun on my head long enough I’d develop some crazy skull callus like wrestlers with cauliflower ear, I focused on the worm.
It worked. My worm was ridiculous. It was the one move I was the best at. And it should have been because it was my signature move.
Now, a bajillion years later, surveying my life, I’ve started to realize I have “signature sins” too.
A signature sin is something big and bold and neon in your life. The moment you look at it, you know, “Oh yeah, that thing? That’s a sin.” And so you focus on it. You work on it. You get serious about it.
And I have a handful of those things in my life, things that I struggle with that are pretty easy to identify. But something really dangerous has started to happen lately.
Let’s say I mess up. I fail at one of my signature sins. I blow it. The next day, I feel separated from God. I feel far away. I feel like I’m no longer righteous. I committed the signature sin. Time to confess. If I messed up on Friday, then on Saturday I need some grace.
The flipside is that, when I’m not committing those signature sins, I feel holy. I feel connected to God, as if he is happy with me those days. As if, on those days, I am perfect.
Over the last few years, I’ve defined righteousness as not committing my signature sins.
That is ridiculous. Why?
Because on my greatest days, on the days when I don’t commit a single one of my signature sins, on the days I feel “perfect,” my own definition of righteousness is a million miles from God’s.
Theologian C.H. Spurgeon once said, “It is easier to save us from our sins than from our righteousness.”
That quote is starting to make sense to me. It’s easy to believe signature sins are bad. That makes sense. But, in working on them, I’ve swung the pendulum over into self-righteousness.
You see this happen with guys sometimes. You’ll ask them “How’s your walk with the Lord going?” And they’ll answer, “Great! I haven’t looked at porn in a week.”
That’s great that they didn’t look at porn, but that’s not really an answer to the question. But if you secretly start to cultivate some signature sins, you’ll end up in the same place. If gossip is your signature sin and you didn’t talk trash today, you were holy. If envy is your signature sin and you didn’t covet anything today, you were pure. If lust is your signature sin and you didn’t look at any nudity online, you were righteous.
It’s not true, though. Your self-righteousness is every bit as disgusting and damaging as your signature sin. It might even be worse, because at the heart of self-righteousness is the belief that you don’t need God.
Beware the temptation to make an idol out of your signature sins. Our understanding of grace gets destroyed when we do. The reality is:
On my worst days, when I’ve broken every signature sin, I am in desperate need of God’s grace.
On my best days, when I’ve avoided every signature sin, I am in desperate need of God’s grace.
I’m not asking you to name it, but have you ever had a “signature sin?”