It was an interesting moment.
I was a freshman in high school. A photographer was present to take school pictures. That morning, he was taking pictures of our high school basketball team. I was in the gym and for a few minutes watched as the photographer first took a team picture and then took individual photos. Off to the side was an older kid waiting his turn, along with several others on the team. He took a jump shot and then turned to one of his friends and asked:
“How did I look?”
It struck me that not only did he want to have his picture taken but that he also wanted to have a certain look. He was self-conscious.
Yet, self-consciousness can actually work against you. Jesus said that to follow him meant that one must “deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (9:24).
In fact, it is possible to think so much about myself that I actually lose or forfeit the self in the process. Again, Jesus says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self” (9:25)?
When I am overly self-conscious, I am very, very focused on what is happening to me. Being overly self-conscious is a skewed way of looking at one’s self.
Am I preoccupied with what another thinks about me? (I am not really focused on that person but on myself.)
Am I preoccupied with the image that I am projecting to others? (I am more concerned with what that person thinks of me than on loving that person.)
Am I preoccupied with keeping score in my life, comparing myself to another? (I am thinking about whether or not that person has a bigger home, better car, than me, etc.)
When I first started working in my role as a minister, I felt behind. I felt as if other ministers knew more, had better skills, and were probably doing better work than me. Now I had no reason think this way. Yet, I did. I was overly self-conscious. Consequently, receiving a compliment or a word of affirmation meant far too much to me. It was almost as if receiving these words validated my existence. If no one expressed a word of affirmation or encouragement after I preached, I would sometimes wonder what was wrong with me.
Whether or not I received invitations to speak at special events or at other churches meant far too much to me. If I received an invitation to speak somewhere, it seemed to validate my existence. However, if I did not, I would again wonder what was wrong with me. Or, I would simply assume that I was lacking or did not measure up in some way.
Now I realize that I was finding my identity and sense of well being in some source other than Jesus.
Today, I want to remember:
I have been called to love others rather than constantly be preoccupied with myself.
My greatest sense of well being and completeness comes from Jesus.
Human affirmation is nice but it comes and goes. The most consistent and meaningful affirmation that I will ever experience comes from God himself.
What helps you to be more God-conscious and less preoccupied with yourself?