I am my biggest hindrance to missional living.
When my desire for personal time outweighs the needs of my neighbor, missional living dies.
My need for a substantial 401K ties up my God-given resources from their use for Kingdom needs.
When my focus is on ME … the Lord blurs into the distant horizon.
The decades-old L’Oréal marketing slogan “because I’m worth it” captures the me-ism of today. We all want to have it our own way, be all that we can be, and be able to just do it.
On the surface, these pearls of cultural wisdom sound encouraging and even edifying. With a slight scratch of that surface, however, we find a growing self-absorption. Everything and everyone around us become ornaments and decor in our self-central realities.
Missional living is replaced with satisfying our own personal “needs”. Self-care does indeed remain critical for healthy Kingdom life. In too many instances, however, me-ism moves healthy choices beyond self-care into missionally destructive narcissistic behavior.
- What’s in it for me?
- What will I gain from it?
- If I don’t benefit from it – what’s the purpose?
Me-ism in Scripture
Scripture tells of men and women who clung to God in times of turmoil, fear, and great trial. He called His people into difficult places, on challenging paths, and to give unpopular messages. Not a calling for a me-ist.
King Saul, Jonah, Ananias and Saphira, all began their calls focused on God. Insecurities and selfishness gradually took root and grew. They ceased their 2o/20 gaze upon the Lord and redirected their vision to their own paths and desires.
It ended badly for all except Jonah whose whale-sized course correction saved his life…and the lives of the people of Nineveh. The missional life.
Me-ism in Our Community
I don’t believe that anyone would admit to caring more for their own interests or happiness while forgetting the needs of other people. This sense of self-importance, nevertheless, pervades our community.
Symptoms of me-ism emerge…
- as we drive aggressively (“Get these people out of my way!“),
- church hop (“I’m not getting anything out of this church anymore“), and
- arrogantly criticize leadership (“They know nothing! I’ll tell them how to fix _____“).
A recent USA Today article notes that more and more Americans are even creating “religions” that fit their own personal preferences. We blend and merge experiences. “Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for ‘310 million people with 310 million religions.’ ”
The selfless life as a follower of Jesus remains unattainable when me-ism, discreetly veiled as “self-care”, remains the acceptable focal point.
Indeed … me-ism remains the single greatest hindrance to missional life.
Ways to Overcome Me-ism
1. Share and Borrow. Reduce the amount of large and limited-use items that you own. Rarely do people use lawn mowers, chain saws, bicycles, snow blowers or even sewing machines on a daily basis. Forcing interdependence and cooperation with others develops humility and encourages communication.
2. Barter and Trade. Recognize the gifts and talents of others. Offer to help others with your gifts and abilities. Weed a garden with a neighbor, ask him to sharpen your shears. While you change the oil in your co-worker’s car, she can train your dog to sit and stay. For the price of a few homemade meals, refinish a friend’s dresser.
3. Give Stuff Away. Donate treasured possessions to a local thrift store or Habitat ReStore. Their sales will turn your stuff into a home or rent for someone in need. If, as our pastor noted this past Sunday, you do not have stuff to give then review your financial choices and re-evaluate in order to share.
4. Refocus before Interacting. Before entering a meeting or home, turn off your internal me-ism voice. Focus on the people on the other side of the door. What do I recall about the joys and challenges in their lives? What and who can I ask about? How can I be Jesus in their life?
5. Love like Jesus. Consciously make an attitude adjustment. When we viscerally comprehend that Jesus died for these “other people”, we develop more patience and a deep love. Kingdom growth and depth matters. Choose to love and live like Jesus.
6. Be in daily conversation with others and help create a we-ism culture in your community!
What ways do you strive to overcome the me-ism in today’s culture?
Photo credit: Shemer via photopin cc
Sharon R Hoover says
Indeed … loving like Jesus needs to be primary! I appreciate your input also on “we-ism.” I recently observed a group spiral down that tunnel… it was a bitter and sad journey. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation, Dave.
Dave Severy (@lambsev11) says
5. Love like Jesus How about that being #1? And watch out for we-ism becomeing group narcissism.
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.