Archives For ego

The Prison of Approval

Erik Cooper —  October 27, 2010 — 3 Comments

Millions of Christians are imprisoned all over the globe today. And I’m not talking about China or Iran.

These Christians live in our communities.  They attend churches.  Some of them attend my church. They even inhabit my home (and some days even my own skin).

How does Christianity, this bastion of eternal hope and freedom over enduring generations, become a subtly enclosing detention center for so many?

Performance is our prison. We innately know every choreographed step in the dance of acceptance (my fundamentalist friends will be happy to know that this kind of dancing really is a sin).  It’s wired into our DNA, our lives feverishly focused on earning the approval of everyone around us.

And of God.

Even those who cognitively understand the beauty of the Cross can easily revert.  Because somewhere we still believe Jesus  sacrifice was all about making us behave. Fit a mold.  Look at certain way.  Play a part.  And our obsession remains squarely on self.  To impress.  To bring applause (or avoid shame) from others.  To bring God to us.

And it’s flat out exhausting.

Because it can’t be done.  It can’t be earned.  Yet so many of us still inhabit a prison of self disguised in a costume of Christianity. And it was never intended to be that way.  Check this out:

“My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” (Gal. 2:20 MSG)

“My ego is no longer central…”

Ego wants to be liked

Ego wants to be popular

Ego wants to be respected

Ego wants a good reputation

Ego wants to be in control

Ego wants to earn

Ego filters every conversation, comment, opportunity, and interaction through how it affects…me. And that is the worst prison.  Ironically, a prison so many who claim freedom in Jesus choose to enclose themselves in every day.

Not me.  Not anymore.  My ego is no longer central. Christ lives in me, and the beauty that emerges from my life is simply because I’m responding to Him.

Is the center of your “Christianity” still…you?

Ashamed

Erik Cooper —  May 26, 2010 — 3 Comments

Shame comes in all shapes and sizes:

A big zit on your nose.

A past full of brokenness and abuse.

A rip in the seam of your pants.

A failed marriage.

Silly or serious, we’ve all felt it. The exposure of a vulnerability or apparent shortcoming that drives us to run away. To cover up. To hide. And unfortunately, The Church (my church, even me personally) can foster environments of shame, even when we’re not intentionally trying to.

It makes sense. The Church, a place of grace, hope, and unconditional love, is also an environment full of expectations. Standards of behavior naturally emerge in any culture, but engaging in Church culture comes with a built-in assumption of moral superiority. We profess faith in God and innately feel our lives should reflect that (even if we don’t).

And while some shame is understandably innate, some is undeniably overt. We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit there are many in the Church who willingly use shame as a means to control. To maintain power over people. To protect their personal preferences. To manipulate others towards their desired outcomes.

Innate or overt, when we fall short (which we always do), shame moves in. Becomes a constant companion. And shame is a horrific house guest.

God deals in conviction, not shame. Shame is based in condemnation, in pointing out deficiencies with the intent of rejecting, judging, or looking down on another. And Jesus didn’t come into the word to do that:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NLT)

Yet in so many church environments shame is still a primary motivator, filling our sanctuaries with guilty people. Hiding people. Manipulated people. Self-righteous people. Frightened people. Fake people. Or in more and more cases, empty seats.

So how do we know when God is convicting or when shame is condemning? Here’s some thoughts:

Shame is an ego-protection mechanism that focuses on how we appear to others.
Conviction is an inward re-alignment with who God is and has called us to be.

Shame conforms us to man-made expectations.
Conviction leads us to repentance.

Shame causes us to create false perceptions of reality.
Conviction leads us to openly face who we really are.

Shame manipulates and imprisons.
Conviction heals and frees.

Shame misuses aspects of truth to manage and control.
Conviction reconnects us to absolute truth.

Shame formulates outward behavioral modification.
Conviction births true inward transformation.

Shame pushes us towards self-protection.
Conviction pushes us towards Christ.

Shame asks us to do the work.
Conviction drives us towards the One who already did it all.

Which one is driving you? What is being fostered in your environments? What do you think?

Probing Question

Erik Cooper —  March 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

Here’s a hard question.  If you’re a leader (and I dare say all of you are in one way or another), are you driven more by helping those you lead or by impressing them?  Do you view your position through the lens of what you can do for others, or are you addicted to what you need from them?  Leadership is an incredible responsibility, but like a any old drug addict, the role that should be seen as an humble honor can easily become our own personal ego fix.

Pastor, teacher, business owner, mother, mentor, coach, grandfather, community organizer…you name it. Help or impress?  What’s driving you?