As I travel to exotic and historic sites, I’m constantly observing “selfie models” taking pictures of themselves, wanting to be seen and to become “influencers” online. The Bible calls it our “flesh.” but we call it “selfie” in today’s language. It’s a visual reminder of how much social media has affected the culture and how it feeds our insatiable egos.
The bottom line is that we are all afflicted with self-centeredness.
None of us are exempt. It’s part of living in our fallen world because of sin’s entrance. Paul tells us that our “flesh” is often in conflict with our spirit, which wants to break free from selfishness but continues to see it rear its ugly head (Romans 7:15). As we mature as believers in Jesus, we become more aware of how our egos get in the way of becoming all that He wants for us, and how our self-centeredness separates us from knowing Him more deeply. Confronting our ego issues can be excruciatingly painful, so we deny our selfishness or make excuses for it. Overcoming self-centeredness requires facing ourselves honestly, choosing to change how we think, and sometimes changing whom we associate with. But if we want to know God deeply, which is His greatest desire for us, it’s a must. This is why the many self-appraising personality tests, including the Enneagram, have become so popular. In many ways, though they seem enlightening and beneficial, they can be dangerous and self-elevating.
Our “flesh” hates change.
Change rattles our sense of who we are – our identity. We don’t want to go to those uncomfortable places because it may cause suffering and pain. John the Baptist was known for calling out people to repent. The word “repent” means to change your mind. Jesus tells us in Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17 to repent; to adopt the mind of Christ in exchange for our own minds and hearts’ desires. In today’s culture, we like to point fingers at other people. It gets us off the hook and feeds our self-righteousness. It’s easier to see someone else’s sins than our sinful internal choices, and it feels good to call others out for their poor decisions and actions. Our ego wants others to see how accomplished or better we are than the next person.
Over the years, God’s taught me through the loss of opportunities, jobs, and relationships how my foolish, self-centered choices got in the way, and I am still learning. It’s part of living in our broken world and our in-escapable sinful nature. But when I have stopped and examined why I made a judgment on someone or let my self-centeredness get in the way (and if I am paying attention to Jesus), He’s been able to teach me some of the most important lessons I have ever learned. They matured me and brought a refreshing change of perspective.
To make needed changes, we must accept that it will be uncomfortable.
If change feels hard or difficult to pursue, it can be a sign that our selfish nature may be taking charge of our decisions. Quick fixes will not always work, and they may get messy. It may mean walking away from a long-held relationship, job, or living situation. It may mean turning away from sin-binding thoughts, consciously turning off what we listen to or watch on our screens, and choosing new thought leaders who can encourage and mentor our thinking. In our media-driven world, examining who is feeding your thoughts becomes essential to making needed changes.
Our egos will never die. But we can take charge of our thoughts and minds and take on the authority of Jesus when ours fails. He has promised to give us His strength and power if we ask, and will become our strong tower when we are weak.
“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control (I Timothy 1:7).