The answer to life and to godliness is still the gospel (2 Pet 1:3). But specifically, for this post, the question is: what is the answer to our incredibly fragile egos? And I am saying with certainty the answer is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Some people are more aware of their shortcomings than others. Some people have spent many hours, and even years, soul searching. And sometimes that is beneficial, while other times it can cause us to turn inward and never move forward. I am sure you are familiar with David’s prayer in Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,” (Ps 139:23-24a). That is an incredibly valuable prayer and one we should pray often! But right now, I want us to take a moment and consider why exactly it is that humans are so afraid to confront their fragile egos. Do you think that Adam and Eve possibly set the tone for us by “hiding behind a tree” so as to not be exposed in their shame? And what is shame anyway? Shame is not living up to a standard of expectations. We may have put this expectation on ourselves, or someone else may have. But either way, we experience shame. So, if I told you to live perfectly, how would you respond? You might say, “no one is perfect except Jesus.” Oh, and now we are getting somewhere. We all have “fragile egos” because we all carry a sense of shame due to not living “perfect” lives, the kind of lives we were originally to live from the beginning. So then, we need to ask, what are we doing to “make up for” our feelings of shame? What are we doing to cover this problem up? I know you might insist that you do not carry a sense of shame because “Jesus died for your shame on the cross!” And I would say, yes, He did. But then I would like to follow you around for a couple of days, listening to your conversations, what you post, how you live, etc, and analyze whether you “truly” believe that.
Allow me to make my point clearer. If you were to get in a time machine and travel back to your teen and college-age years, moving through time up to the present, would you be able to pick out a pattern? Would you be able to examine why you sought to excel in this or that, why you sought the career you did, or why you strived to get to the top of this or that ladder; and why you shop where you shop, why you wear what you wear, why you go to the gym, why you hang this or that in your house, why you post what you post on Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram; why you post the photos of yourself; why you joined the military, why you strive so hard in your job, why you care what you drive, etc., etc., etc. Some of this is convicting me right now. My point is we are “fragile” and more specifically, our “egos” are fragile! Who are we comparing ourselves with anyway? Why do we even care what they think? And “if” we were honest with ourselves we would know who we compare ourselves with, and why we care what others think about us. The interesting thing here though is that God actually designed us to experience the need for “approval and affirmation.” And I will deal with this more below. But for now, just know it is “normal” to seek approval and affirmation.
What inspired this post was a couple of things I wrote on Facebook about “pride and ego,” and I reaped the fruit of my labor. I think I lost a couple of friends though. And yet, if my observations and convictions are correct, God will use them for His glory and for their good, eventually. But if I leave the problem open like a gaping wound, without any salve, then I have done harm without offering any healing. So, let’s just get to the root of the problem then so we can address the solution: The root of the fragile ego problem is “pride.” Regarding this, Timothy Keller in his book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” says that our ego is like a balloon. We may have “inflated” egos or “deflated” egos, but both are from the same root. Both have at their root “self” -esteem. And the problem with self-esteem is the self. In other words, the problem is pride. And the sooner we acknowledge our pride the quicker humility comes, along with the blessing. Pride is our foe; humility is our friend. So, the GOOD NEWS here is that Jesus Christ dealt with our fragile egos on the cross. Let us explore this: The scriptures are clear that anyone who has associated themselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a New Creation (2 Cor 5:17). And the term, “New Creation” brings us right back to the Garden of Eden, to the very beginning, to “before” our shame. Also, through the cross, Jesus Christ became “our perfection.” And through the cross, we died to our old selves, to everything associated with our old selves, to everything associated with sin, such as pride. Everyone reading this I am sure is familiar with the “great exchange” that took place at Calvary. Everything that belonged to our sin nature, our egos, our pride, our “self” centered lives, died with Christ. And this means that “if we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him,” as New Creations (2 Tim 2:11). Now I know you know these verses. But I have discovered that many believers do not “know” what they mean. What I am saying is that if they knew what they meant they would not be responding to life with “fragile egos” and with “hidden pride” in their hearts. They would be able to accept their faults, acknowledge their shortcomings, face their pride, and “confess their sins to one another and be healed” (James 5:16). But for some reason, this is incredibly difficult for Christians to acknowledge to one another. For instance, we act one way at home and a different way at Church; we fight with our spouse at home but never at church; we watch shows at home that we would never watch at church and listen to music that we would never suggest for our pastors to listen to. Why? It’s due to “pride.” It’s an ego thing. And one more thing here: “it’s because of shame.” But really, what does this tell us about ourselves? One thing it certainly tells us is that we are not living according to the truth. What I mean is we are not living according to our “identity in Christ” as a son or daughter bought with the blood and born from above. If we have allowed Christ to take our egos, and our pride and shame through reconciling ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, then we are also able to experience freedom from the things we “hide behind” in order to cover up our shame. The sooner we come to terms with our inability to be perfect, to “perform,” trying to be accepted by people, the better it will go for us. We do not have to be “approved” by anyone but Christ! And according to Christ, we are already approved! So, the answer to our pride is grace because a correct view of grace leads to humility. “If,” and that is the keyword, if we understand God’s grace for us, we will be free. We usually only think about grace in terms of what happened at the cross. But grace encompasses everything, every day, for the child of God. Grace is given to us in the form of strength, power, love, joy, and peace; grace is given for daily needs and is the power of God to overcome our struggles. Grace is given for our education and for our careers; grace is given for our relationships at home and at work. Grace is literally the power to live life on earth and yet it also takes us to heaven. And the greatest way this grace is experienced daily is through the power of the Holy Spirit inside us. For Christ has given Himself to us in the form of His Spirit so that we might be “one” with Him united in love.
It is the gospel alone that gives meaning, value, and purpose to our lives. It is the gospel that takes our fragile egos and our pride and exchanges them for eternal rewards and for a crown of righteousness. Paul the Apostle says that because “he,” by his will, and through Christ’s grace, has gone after that which is truly “worth” going after, makes the point that: “I” have fought the good fight, “I” have finished the race, “I” have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8) This is God’s “design” for us. He designed us to seek rewards, approval, and affirmation. But not from others, but from Him. Even Jesus, in His flesh, needed affirmation and His Father gladly announced this commendation in front of everyone, saying: “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased and delighted!” (Mk 1:11 AMP) And finally, Jesus affirms us His servants by saying: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matt 25:23). These things satisfy our longing to be recognized and rewarded; our longing to be noticed, affirmed, and approved. And they are right and worthy to aspire to. God designed us this way and so it is good. We only run into a problem when we look to the “world” for our emotional and psychological rewards of affirmation and approval. Therefore, let us lay aside every sin and hindrance that tries to trip us up (such as looking to the world for approval) and that keeps us from running our race of faith, and from looking to Jesus for our accolades and affirmation on the day of His return. And in this way, we will be free. We will be free of the pressure to “perform” and from the need to receive approval from the world. And I am convinced that if you are living to please your Savior and Lord, then you are already being affirmed from heaven and hearing “well done.”