I have Batman Syndrome.
I wish this meant I were as cool, skilled or accomplished as Batman. It does not. It most certainly does not. What it means is that Batman and I have something in common: we obsess over our mistakes.
I like fictional characters who overlook their victories and overemphasize their failures. There’s something compelling about characters who are heroic without realizing it. Take the Doctor from Doctor Who, who has saved every planet in the universe roughly twenty-seven times. In all his travels through space and time, he never leaves behind his insecurity, self-loathing or guilt. Consider Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, who atones for a few petty crimes by spending years serving the poor and helpless. They bless him as a saint. He despises himself as a criminal.
Then we have Batman, the eponymous sufferer of Batman Syndrome, who is so blinded by guilt that he fails to recognize one all-important fact: he is freaking Batman. No matter how many thousands of people he rescues, he remains obsessed with the two he failed to save.
I’m not a savior like the Doctor or a saint like Jean Valjean. I’m certainly not a superhero like Batman. Even so, I occasionally do things right. I also do things wrong. In my mind, the wrong things eclipse the right ones. A mistake cancels out all successes.
This isn’t always such a bad thing. I feel driven by my mistakes to try harder, to be better, to get it right. In the short term, it helps.
In the long term, however, Batman Syndrome wears away my confidence. It also makes me anxious. Dash it all, does it ever make me anxious. Doing anything is hard for someone desperately afraid of making mistakes. Perfection is a lousy minimum standard.
Batman Syndrome haunts me with one dreadful question.
You’ll never get it right, so why even try?
I write a lot about grace and stuff. In the end, I suppose it’s because I’m amazed (and sometimes incredulous) that God loves me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. More to the point, I make a lot of mistakes. It’s easy for me to accept God’s forgiveness for a sin committed ten years ago. What’s hard for me to accept is forgiveness for a sin committed ten minutes ago.
It can also be hard for me to acknowledge my victories. I want to be humble, but there’s a difference between true humility and false modesty. I’m often reminded of my weaknesses. I think I must also allow myself to be reminded of the strengths God has given me. I’ve a long way to go, but I mustn’t overlook how far I’ve come.
I’m not Batman, and I think I’m finally beginning to accept that I don’t have to be.