January brings with it an influx of self-improvement messages. We are bombarded with ‘New Year – New You’ thinking. Eat less, get to the gym, detox etc. This continuous flow of information encourages personal upgrades and enhancement.
Individualism is greatly esteemed in Western culture. From our early years, we are taught to paddle our own canoe, do our own thing, and look out for number one.
This pressure to be totally independent, pushes a mind-set of self- reliance, self-sufficiency and self-government.
Looking at our society, we can see that too much self-focus makes us very miserable, isolated and lonely people. We might become outstanding human beings in some capacity but at what cost? So that we can stand on our personal island of achievement and be self-satisfied?
There are many ways in which self-centeredness is unlovely.
The beauty industry thrives on promoting the whiter our teeth, the longer our hair extensions, the more toned our bodies, the happier more fulfilled we will be; Super-beautiful, attractive winners! But if we use all this to draw to ’self’, we just become more and more miserable in our vanity and arrogance. In fact, it can all become very ugly and condescending.
Now, I’m all for caring for ourselves. I enjoy getting my hair done, following a good skincare regime and fitness programme. I’m not saying ‘let yourself go’. But I am saying ‘let yourself go’! If you are blessed with being attractive, gifted in certain areas, don’t let the ego of that become your god. If you receive praise and admiration, pass that on to your Creator and don’t be seduced by flattery.
Getting our identity out of our employment / ministry/ talent, can be equally idolatrous and unfulfilling. We are not, ‘what we do.’ Those things are the gifting that God has blessed us with to serve Him and help others.
The Christian Gospel brings good news into this ‘me, myself, I’ state of separation. The essence of giving our life to Jesus means that we no longer sit on the throne of our lives. He does.
In baptism, we say, ‘No longer do I live, but Christ lives in me. ‘
To have a healthy sense of self is very important. To know that we are cherished, loved and brought into the family of God is essential. The fact that we are each unique and precious to our Heavenly Father is crucial for our sense of identity, value and calling. However, we need to be very aware of the over-emphasis from worldly thinking around us, of ourselves being the centre of the universe – the wrong love-of-self that drives us to be lovers-of-self rather than lovers-of-God.
It is only when we are connected to God’s love that we can let true love flow through us to our family and friends. For this, we need our ‘self’ to be loved and immersed in His love so we can be free from the hardness of self-love!
Kerry is married to Chris Cole who is a trustee of GOD TV and together they founded Cross Rhythms Media Ministry. She is author of The Purple Veil, an art style book, and Exit Darcus. Through these books Kerry offers deep insight into the whole area of relationships.