Breaking the Obsession with “ME”

NarcisiThe Obsession of “me”…have you ever considered how much time you think about yourself?  Wander by a mirror and catch a quick glance to check the “cool-ness” factor of your existence?  Browse magazines and circulars on fashion and imagine for hours how you would look in some snazzy new outfit?  Cut out your picture and hold it up so you can imagine yourself sitting behind the wheel of that impressive car?  How many of your sentences begin with “I” or end with “me”?  “I want…I need…I feel…give me…want me…look at me”.  When you are upset or worried or angry or depressed, isn’t it really all about you?  Aren’t you angry because someone wronged or betrayed you?  Aren’t you depressed because life isn’t going the way you want it to? Aren’t you feeling helpless, hopeless and hapless?  Isn’t it irritating when your will and your opinion isn’t automatically the opinion of others?  When there is something wrong on the job, isn’t it the bosses, or your co-workers, or your technology’s fault?  When you get a ticket from a cop, wasn’t he the one who got it wrong because YOU could never break the law?  When you get caught red-handed in some lie, manipulation, some sticky situation, isn’t the first thing that you are tempted to say or think is, “who, me?”.

The Obsession of “me”:  it starts early.  Moments after birth, the self demands its own way.  A baby will scream, pout or keep their unsuspecting parents awake for hours at night asserting its obsession with self. Many of us in my family laugh when we hear a powerful worship song, “It’s all about You”…not because we don’t like the song or are in some way mocking it…rather, the running gag is that the song has nothing to do about Jesus because life really is “all about me” (see the embedded video).  Life would be so much better for all of us if the world revolved around us…at least that’s the way we feel.  

There are not too many examples of lives focused on anything else but an obsession with “me”.  In other words, we don’t get much reinforcement in our culture beyond that of being compulsive narcissists.  Turn on the television set and you see talking heads obsessed with their own opinions.  Read a good newspaper (if that is possible) and follow the lives of your favorite sports teams being inhabited by players who are having a hard time accepting a paltry $20 million dollar salary.  It’s not enough money for them!  They don’t get the ball enough…they have to play second fiddle to a lesser player…the camera isn’t on them enough…the management doesn’t understand their fragile feelings…they don’t get the right opportunities…the doctor misdiagnosed their injury. “I want to be THE man”. Come on!  Get with MY program.  I work with college students who don’t like it when they receive a grade they deserve because of their work in class.  Many think they should get an A or B just by showing up and blessing the world with their presence.  How about one more…I can’t help it…how about the parent whose cooking at home resembles more of a diner; who caters to the individualistic needs of children as they yell in full force, “I don’t like that, I’m not going to eat it”.  I heard those phrases a few times when my kids were growing up.  It isn’t an astute observation to notice that there is only one word that gets repeated often in conversations with kids…”I”…and even the concept of “fairness” is interpreted through the “obsession with me” lens…because in many people’s minds – what is fair is only that which benefits “me”.   
 
Scientists should really drop the search for the origination of the universe…theologians should just stop their insistence on the existence of God…philosophers should give up the pursuit for a higher understanding of the meaning of life.  For most of us, life is all about us.  The solar system doesn’t revolve around the sun; it revolves around “Me”. The only god in this world isn’t the God who created me but the god who is “Me”.  The only meaning in this world is the meaning that I get when the world gives “Me” what I want. 
 
Had enough?  Gets sickening after a while, doesn’t it?  One of the most compelling sermons that I ever heard was one given years ago by the head of Moody Bible Institute, Joe Stowell.  I don’t know Joe but I think if Joe were to write something about himself, he would insist on him being your “average Joe”…someone just as stuck on himself as the next guy!  That’s why what he shared in the message I heard (and later in a book called, Simply Jesus) hit me at the core of my being.  One day, life won’t be about “me”…it won’t be about you…it won’t be about the guy with the $40 million salary or the house in some expensive suburb or the new 7 series BMW or the name on the science building at the local university. It won’t be about the covers of magazines, or CEO status, or diplomas or anything else that has to do with “me”. Life will come down to Jesus. Here’s a snippet from Joe’s message…maybe it can be your prayer on this day! 
 
“I’m only fifty-seven, and I already find myself weary of the hollow thoughts of what few accomplishments I may have mustered in my life.  My failures continue to embarrass me. The inadequacies I have carried with me since my youth still frustrate me.  My insecurities still trouble my soul.  And the praise of others has an increasingly hollow ring.  I am tired of worrying about whether or not the sermon I preached was good enough or whether or not someone will pat me on the back for a job well done.  I’m tired of worrying about what people think about me.  I’m weary of the carnal feeling that sometimes haunts me when someone talks about his favorite preacher and it’s not me.  Bottom line, I just get flat out tired of me. BUT I NEVER GET TIRE OF JESUS. After all these years, I still find Him more compelling, more engaging, more awesome, more surprising, more fulfilling, and more attractive than ever before.  I never get tired of singing His praises or of watching Him perform.  I find Him to be gripping.  Absorbing. Beyond comprehension.  And that’s why – along with Paul, my grandmother, Billy Graham, and countless others through the years – I find myself longing to know Him better.  I am becoming increasingly away that life doesn’t go on forever.  When we’re young, we think we’re bulletproof. We live like we’ll never die. But when your knees protest certain movements and your eyesight and memory begin to grow fuzzy, reality sets in.  I can see the day coming when there’ll be another president of Moody – and a better one at that. There’ll be other preachers who bless hungry hearts.  And me?  I’ll be sitting in the corner of some nursing home waiting for them to ring the lunch bell. And if life up to that point has been about me, that is going to be a sad and empty day – no matter what they’re serving for lunch.  Why?  Because all I will have will be me.  Which at that point won’t be much.” 

Doing life with Jesus and others is the best way I know of breaking the obsession with “me”.  Allowing Jesus and others to have access to your heart…inviting Jesus and others into recesses of your soul that even you haven’t explored.  Submitting to Jesus and others is an ancient spiritual discipline for one reason and one reason only – it is ONE way that God can break the “obsession with me” (if you haven’t read Richard Foster’s work on the Spiritual Disciplines, here’s your encouragement to do so).   But there are other ways…many ways that God can break the obsessions that we have with self.  Pray for a new focus on life.  Pray that life can truly be “all of You, Jesus”.  Pray and seek the Lord in the stillness of your heart for a new obsession that would parallel that which causes the heart of God to stir…that is, loving people and seeing the realities of God’s Kingdom break into their/our lives! Then enter your life and relationships with a new perspective.  You will be amazed at what happens when life is no longer about you!  You will be astounded how losing a bit of that obsession will make a difference in your life with and for others.  Take a new step! 

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