I normally don’t use this space for writing book reviews, but there is one that has really been working on my heart lately: “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Timothy Keller. It’s short enough to read in about an hour or two. Because of this book, I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection and trying to uncover the pride in my heart. And through this process of reading, reflecting and studying the scriptures, I have found out something that I dislike about myself.
There is an enemy fighting me, and his name is Ego. Let me tell you about Ego. Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. And every person, to some extent, struggles in an inward fight with their ego.
The beginning of this fight starts with our flesh. Everything in us wants to praise ourselves, exalt ourselves and live for ourselves. There is a reason why pride is the root of all sin: All sin is self-seeking behavior. Our ego is the personification of our pride. Our ego is the way that our pride manifests itself.
Ego is about the way that we look at ourselves. An egocentric person is a person who only thinks about themselves, even in conversation with others. When they walk into a room, they want others to see them a certain way. Every decision they make incorporates how it will affect their image.
An egocentric person will have to insert themselves into every conversation. On the other end, someone who lacks self-esteem is still egocentric. If someone inflates themselves or deflates themselves, it’s because they are only thinking of themselves. But if we strive to improve our ego, it will always leave us deflated.
There is an emptiness in the center of human ego. It gets puffed up and over because it has nothing at center. It is empty. An over-inflated ego is painful. If someone has said something wrong about us, our ego is hurt. Or if we get embarrassed, we might receive it as an identity problem. The reason that shame is so damaging is because shame is all about our ego being hurt.
In a copy of Vogue magazine, Madonna once said this: “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it, and discovered myself as a special human being, but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because, even though I have somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended, and I guess it never will.”
Madonna knows herself better than most of us know ourselves. There is a sense of pride in all of us, where we are constantly focused on trying to make ourselves look better in the eyes of the world. The way this is cured is by humbling yourself and living for God and others.
However, this is the most difficult thing to do in the Christian life. Consider this scripture from Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you not look to his own interest, but to the interest of others.”
When we come to an end of ourselves, and we realize that the world is not about us, we will experience the true freedom found in humility. Humility is the path to true Christian joy. It relieves us from the pressure of pleasing others, and it lives solely for the purpose of pleasing God. We must rid ourselves of our fight with ego, and instead of trying to win, we should throw in the white towel and let the Holy Spirit fight ego for us. He will win where we cannot.
Caleb Duncan is the Director for the West Florida Baptist Association in Chipley and holds an M.A. in Ethics, Theology and Culture from Southeastern Seminary. Email him at [email protected] or follow his twitter @calebtduncan.