I often feel like I'm running around in this life trying to prove myself to someone. I want to be the smartest, funniest, most likable person that you know. If you tell me about someone else being smart, funny, or likable, I'll probably get jealous and try to think of ways to tell you that in fact I am smart, funny, and likable. And you don't want to see me when we're talking about spirituality.
I'll do almost anything to avoid bearing the brunt of jokes, insults, or accusations: even if they're true. If something I say or do gets me into trouble, I'll try to spin it so that someone else ends up looking worse. If you tell me it looks like I've been gaining weight, I'll quickly inform you that in fact I have been working out recently, and it's probably muscle you're noticing in those chins.
It could be that I'm trying to protect myself against losing something important to me. Or it could well be that I've lost that something, and I'm trying to get it back. Or maybe it's that I'm trying to get something I never had in the first place.
Okay, so it's pride. It's the praise of men. It's the fear of men. It's wanting to be able to live with myself on my own terms. It's wanting to live before God on my own terms. Whatever you want to call it, it's there, making me feel insecure, driving me to prove myself to anyone and everyone. It's threatened or injured or just beyond my grasp, and I could easily live my whole life trying to safeguard or restore or claim it for my own. My preciousâ€¦.
These wounds are self-inflicted. This is sin. I choose to live this way, and prefer it to all other ways. I love my pride, whether or not I actually have anything of which to boast. Living in a world that would tear down my pride (indeed, having personally contributed to making it that sort of world), under a God that would have me jettison my pride in order to find real life in his Son, yet continuing to clutch at my pride with every breathâ€¦ this is the essence of foolishness.
When I live like this, like a wounded animal fighting to preserve my way of life, I obviously don't care about others. I don't really appreciate the fact that others are smarter, funnier, or more likable than me, and I'm likely to be annoying about it. And I just want to use others who are apparently lesser than me to feel better about myself. All I can think about is what others think of me. All I care about is whether I feel good enough about my performance that I can rest at night.
So how can someone like me become someone who cares about others? How can I turn from licking my wounds to helping my neighbors through life? How can my fixation on my reputation shift to a genuine selflessness? How can I relinquish foolishness for wisdom? What will replace my insecurity with lasting confidence that I no longer need to prove myself to the world?
"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turnedâ€”every oneâ€”to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)
When I find my identity in Jesus Christ, I no longer need to worry about my reputation or feel like my pride is under constant threatâ€”I no longer need to care about my pride! I'm secure in him. I don't need to impress anyone; God is impressed when he looks at me because he sees the perfection of his Son.
My wounds are healed by his wounds. He is all my boast. His life and suffering and death and resurrection purchase my confidence before God, angels, and all men forever. That thing I'm trying to find or preserve, I find in his self-sacrificial grace toward me. He knows me, loves me, forgives me, heals me, and sets me on his path.
This new path is one of selflessness. I can care about others in ways that make me look foolish, because my eternal reputation is secure in heaven with Jesus. I can stop expending energy getting people to think well of me (because, in Christ, God already does), and start working to lift up others. I can own my faults and shortcomings, and start appreciating the good in others that surpasses my own, because the truth becomes bearable when my identity and confidence are unshakeable in Christ. I have peace with God and with myself, which enables me to work on peace with others from a firm foundation of love that doesn't seek its own.
Sorry, I've been talking about myself the whole timeâ€¦. The same goes for you, too, if you're in Jesus by faith.