I have been posting devotional material from my out-of-print book (2006), “When God Gives a Time Out.” Today’s post contains chapter 8, but you can read chapter 1 here: “An Introduction to Time Outs” and then catch up on the other chapters. Today’s chapter focuses on our compulsion to keep up whatever image our sub-culture most highly prizes. In so doing, we present a “false self” that inhibits our relationship with God.
Image is Everything
What we do for esteem depends on what subgroup or culture we belong to. This truth became clear when I attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension center outside of Boston. I was required to go to the main campus in Louisville about once a year. At the main campus I noticed many people always took up the most conservative position. They took pride in being esteemed as the most conservative. Many of my peers didn’t realize that what they were saying and doing was a knee jerk reaction to keep up their image. For a time, I looked down on my peers for seeking the esteem of men. I wasn’t so haughty when God convicted me of engaging in the same esteem seeking in a different way. Being from New England I live in a bastion of liberalism and many of my neighbors consider me a conservative. Down South, however, and especially in Seminary I took pride in being on the “cutting edge.” I thought these hicks from the Bible belt were stuck in their unbiblical traditions while I was living in a cutting edge mission area. I always spoke up for considering people who aren’t from a Christian culture and for reaching the lost. I made sure everyone knew that is what I had to do in ministry. Whether I was right or wrong was not the issue. The issue was I acted a certain way to keep up an image. I liked advertising myself as a cutting edge church planter in a mission field. This image brought me esteem from the subculture that I valued most. I realized that some of the classes I took, and the ministry tasks I chose, were based on keeping the cutting edge image that brought me the rush of esteem from my peers. Continue reading
For a couple months I have been posting devotional material from my out-of-print book (2006), “When God Gives a Time Out.” Today’s post contains chapter 7, but you can read chapter 1 here: “An Introduction to Time Outs” and then catch up on the other chapters. Today’s chapter focuses on our compulsion to do things because of our desire to be highly esteemed.
The Esteem Rush
Our compulsion to do is not only driven by our quest for an adrenaline rush. We are also esteem-powered engines. Our actions are often chosen and powered by esteem. When we perform at a high level people take notice and praise us for it. We all prefer commendation to condemnation. This preference is normal and healthy. When we begin to do things to get that praise we start to become compulsive doers. Much like chemical addiction we start choosing what and how much we do based on the esteem rush it will bring. This tendency can be found in abundance in our culture. Why do boys put so much more effort into sports than academics? They receive a larger esteem rush from sports in our culture. Both boys and girls buy clothes based on the esteem it will bring or take away. And if you think you have grown out of looking for the esteem rush why does it bother you so much when your kids act up in the store? Aren’t you afraid people may esteem you less as a parent? Most sports and luxury cars are sold to adults because adults like the esteem of having a nice car – as if that has any reflection on them as a person. We may think that the esteem rush is something for teenagers but it is just as prevalent in adults, adults are simply more discreet. Children, at least, have an excuse. Children are trying to form an identity and are exploring what brings them self esteem and esteem from others. Children are testing to see if what they do has any effect on the people around them. In short, part of the maturing process for kids is to do things to receive esteem from their parents and from others. While a child’s need to receive esteem may be compulsive at times, it is a part of the process of developing independence and the confidence to one day live in the adult world. The problem is that many Americans never grow out of this phase. Many Christians are also stuck in this pursuit of esteem. We claim to “fear God and not man,” assuming that we don’t pursue this esteem rush, but Christians are not immune to the addiction to esteem. Continue reading