Posts Tagged ‘Self Image and the Mind of Christ’

Shrinking, Shirking and Shutting Down

20130726-181414.jpgSo this whole self-image and self-importance thing has been a theme here lately on the blog. What I thought was going to be a simple post about a little snippet of The Deaconess Litany has turned into a mini-series complete with lots of my own drama.

Dana Hanson, one of my fellow contributors at Life and Liberty had a sermon about “Self-Forgetfulness” that made me really wish I could get myself out of my own way! (Have I mentioned what an extraordinary tribe it is that I’ve found there?) But I’m not quite able to forget myself just yet.

I gotta keep writing about this stuff because it is exactly what God is doing in my life right now. And working through this is part of how I am living out my faith (which, of course is the tagline of this very site). Also, I think that awareness and mindfull release of unhealthy self-focus is better than pretending I’ve already got this figured out.

So far I’ve shared about my desire for fame and glory (that bit from The Deaconess Litany about thinking too highly of myself). But I haven’t said as much about the other side of me that wants to hide, to shrink away from what God has called me to do.

The Deaconess Litany requests “the mind of Christ” that we not “deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.” The temptation to dismiss my own gifts has been all too great over the years.

I’ve found myself relegating my creativity to paper crafts that hardly anyone sees instead of putting words on paper to share as widely as possible as God put on my heart in high school.

I have kept many of my ideas quiet instead of using the speaking ability that God has given me.

Why? Because I didn’t think it mattered. I didn’t think I mattered. What good is it to write if nobody wants to read it? What good is it to speak if nobody wants to hear it?

In a lot of ways, I just shut down. I shirked my calling because I decided for the world that my voice was better off muted.

A funny thing happens when you don’t write or speak, nobody knows that you have something to say. And if you’re not saying it, they’re not listening because there’s nothing to hear!

It is only in daring to share that you can have any sense of whether what you want to say matters. So for my lost years when I was busy hiding and assuming nobody cares, I was getting zero actual feedback.

There may have been a time or two that I tried to pipe up but was given a gag order. But to universalize that negative feedback was to do myself and my gifts a disservice. And ultimately to not do what God was calling me to, was indeed an act of “unbelief.” I was “calling common” or unimportant what God had already blessed and set before me.

So then, if I am walking with God, submitting my will and my ego to Jesus, and praying in the Spirit that other people will hear the Gospel through me, maybe I will indeed soon forget myself after all!

Thanks be to God!

What about you? Are there things that you feel drawn by God to do, but you’re dragging your feet? What is holding you back?

Sifting Out Selfish Pride

photoI recently posted about my own vacillation between longing for greatness and totally dismissing my own worth. In that post, I promised I would write more about how “the mind Christ” can help us avoid these extremes. But before I do that I want to go a little deeper into the struggle.

I was afraid I would scare everyone away with admitting how my pride tends to puff me up. Instead, I was amazingly encouraged by comments here and on Facebook, and by private contacts from close family and friends. I don’t take that encouragement lightly.

I don’t want to let that encouragement give me an excuse to cover up the ugly pride that is in me. Instead, I want to lean into the support I’ve been offered. I want to put my longing for greatness under a little more scrutiny. I want to sift the good intentions from the selfish pride.

Sifting Through the Feedback

Some of the feedback was from folks who seemed to resonate with the pendulum between thinking too highly and thinking too lowly of ourselves. So, I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes back and forth! I was relieved to know that other people seemed to understand the need to hold both extremes in check.

Much of the feedback I got was more directly related to my longing for greatness. One person related the idea of “greatness” to a quest for excellence. I thought that was brilliant! I admire people that have that drive. I kind-of wish I could say that is what my desire for greatness is about.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intentions of trying to get by with poor writing or half-baked speeches. I want to do well what I do, but that is a matter of integrity for me and I don’t think it quite relates to my urge for greatness. It may for some people be their drive to be “great,” but that’s not primarily what this is about for me.

Another angle of feedback from multiple sources was the acknowledgment of the mixed motives involved in wanting to be great. Folks were extraordinarily gracious in pointing out that there are some good reasons to want to be great–like the opportunity to touch more people’s lives.

That is part of why I want to be “great.” I want to write and speak in order to help other people. I want to make my story available to others so they can be encouraged. The more well-known I am, the more people I can reach with what I write and say. This is true, but there is more to it than that.

The Zinger

One of the bits of feedback I got was from David Housholder and he said simply, “Make the big time where you are” and provided a link to reflections about and recordings of his college football coach, Frosty Westering. I popped over to Housholder’s site and listened to his podcast about his coach and part of an interview with Coach Westering’s own voice. I urge you to go listen too.

Coach Westering was as much about building character as he was about coaching football. Coach Westering’s advice to “Make the big time where you are,” was essentially to not worry about how well-known you are, but to do great things wherever you are in life in whatever tasks are before you.

And that was it. Right there!

So much of my longing for greatness is I want to be well-known, I want to be famous! It is hard to be content with the right-here, right-now being my “big time.” It is wicked hard. Making the big time where I am? Where’s the glory, my glory, in that?

There it is, the ugly nugget that needs sifted out: my selfish desire for my own glory.

Of course I have good motives, but that self-serving desire for greatness sometimes takes on a life of it’s own. I don’t want it to take over. I want the good and right motives to take their proper place. I want to make the big time where I am.

But that nugget, it’s a heavy one…and there are parts of it that are kind-of shiny. It’s not an easy one to cast aside, my friends. Which of course, is all the more reason to write about it. And it is all the more reason why I need the mind of Christ.

Am I Destined for Greatness or Barely Competent?

20130531-111712.jpg

Bestow on us the mind of Christ that we neither think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, Nor deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.

The Deaconess Litany of the Lutheran Deaconess Association

~ ~ ~

We as Deaconesses receive a copy of the Deaconess Litany when we begin our Deaconess studies. We’re encouraged to pray it on Monday nights in our various contexts. Like many things in life I struggle to be consistent in praying this litany every Monday. But the portion quoted above is the one I know best and think about most often.

The two concerns raised–the pride of thinking too highly of ourselves and the timidity of thinking too little of ourselves are both distorted self-perceptions. They seem to be opposing views, yet I find myself falling into one then the other in short succession.

When I was in high school, one summer I went to the Senior High Week at Camp Mowana, a Lutheran church camp in Ohio. One of the afternoon activities was a creative writing session. I went to it everyday because I wanted to be a writer.

I loved those creative-writing sessions. I loved sitting on the veranda of the dining lodge with my feet up and my big red spiral notebook in my lap, just writing to my heart’s content. It felt so right.

I already felt I wanted to be a writer and that experience at camp just reaffirmed it. By the end of that week at camp, I was so bold as to tell my fellow creative-writing campers that I was going to be “a great theological writer.” I wasn’t just hoping to be a writer, I was certain I would be “great”!

I still think about writing. I still want to be a writer. And if I’m being honest, I’d still like to be great. Only now, I want to be a great writer and a great speaker. You know, I don’t ask for much.

Then, of course, I feel awful for this desire to be great. I’m a Deaconess–a woman with a heart for serving others–what am I thinking with all this talk of my own greatness?

So then, I try to look at my gifts objectively. And I try to think like a servant. How can I serve others with the gifts that God has given me? Are there less grand ways that I can use my gifts of writing and speaking to benefit others? Are there less public gifts of mine that I am overlooking?

But all too easily an “honest” assessment of my gifts turns into discounting everything that I think about doing. Maybe I’m not achieving greatness for the simple reason that I’m not really as good at writing and speaking as I think.

Maybe the struggle to find my voice on my blog is because I am not really cut out for this writing thing to begin with. Maybe I don’t get as many speaking engagements as I’d like because what I have to say just doesn’t matter to others.

Maybe I should stick to my less public gifts. But then maybe I’m not that good at those either.

So which is it? Am I destined for greatness or am I barely competent? The portion of the prayer I quoted is instructive on this: neither extreme is acceptable. Boasting about how great I am going to be is wrong. And disrespecting the unique gifts that I have been given is also wrong.

Trying to have a healthy perspective on who I am and what I have to offer is very much a work-in-progress for me. I don’t claim to have worked this out in the least. The prayer above asks for “the mind of Christ” as a means to help us avoid the extremes of self-image. In a future post I want to explore more what that means.

In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Do you struggle with too high or too low of a self-perception? Do you swing between the extremes?

The Mind of Christ: Your Thoughts?

Friends, I am working on a post about the following quote. I have been sick this week and am taking time to rest. In the meantime, I’m curious to hear your response to this prayer:

Bestow on us the mind of Christ that we neither think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,

Nor deprecate ourselves in unbelief, calling common what you have called clean.

From the Deaconess Litany

Do one or both of these concerns resonate with you? How so? In what way, if any, do you think they are similar? What else comes to mind when you read this prayer?

You can comment below or on Facebook. If you want to tell me your thoughts privately, you can use the form on my Contact page.