4. The ego hates change above all else.
If you asked the ego to rank its greatest fears, change would take the top spot. When your ego is in charge, you love comfort and the status quo. It should come as no surprise that Jesus’s first sermon is “Repent!” (Mark 1:15 and Matt. 4:17), which means “change your mind.”
The ego hates that message. But it’s difficult to explain away Jesus’s desire for us to change. So, most ego-centric people project the message onto a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend or life’s circumstances. As long as the ego can find someone else to change, it’s off the hook.
Your ego doesn’t want you to grow or change. It doesn’t want you to let go or stretch yourself beyond your current theological understanding. So, rather than accept the radical message of Jesus that essentially says, “You change. You’re the problem, not your spouse, child, or co-workers,” your ego searches for a place that loves the status quo.
I’m convinced the most loving thing your spouse or church can do is patiently challenge you to change or grow.
When you know whose you are, when you’ve uncovered your divine identity, change isn’t threatening. Change is no longer an indictment on a particular generation, race, or leader. It’s an indictment on your ego.
5. The ego minimizes sins of the heart and focuses on sins of the flesh.
Because your ego is formed by external stuff (validation, opinions, job, education), it focuses on eliminating external sins, the ones you can tangibly measure. So, all types of sexual sins (porn addiction, sex before marriage, prostitution, etc.), church attendance, and right theology become the measure of a true Christian.
Jesus seems to address this ridiculous attitude from the beginning (see Matt. 5-7), and somehow I missed it. Jesus knows external sins are shadows of true transformation, and we’re merely reshuffling the deck until we address what’s underneath.
Greed, envy, pride, hatred, prejudice and vanity affect the heart. And, sadly, America not only accepts these sins, but often celebrates them.
6. The ego needs to feel special and it’s reluctant to give others praise or credit.
“It’s just me, myself, and I,” says your ego. Your ego, your flesh, your false self needs to feel separate and special. It needs the spotlight and isn’t afraid to manipulate people, even God, to attract attention. The ego says, “Look what I’ve done. See what I accomplished.” And it’s always looking over its shoulder because it believes attention is a finite resource. Usually not openly, but almost always privately, the ego resents any person who threatens its platform or reputation.
It wasn’t until I lost a job writing full-time that I realized how impure my motives were. The ego can, and often does, stand in place of God’s voice, and you don’t realize this until the “fit hits the shan.” I remember losing this job and wrestling with the reality of pursuing jobs in other fields. I was freaking angry with God. I might have even cursed a few times. Stop judging me.
Your True Self doesn’t attach to accomplishments or titles. You no longer need to be who other’s want you to be. Climbing mountains and ladders no longer seems important either. Even a small taste of this radical shift liberates your heart and mind. This has been my experience, at least.
7. The ego romanticizes the past and idealizes the future, but rarely lives in the present.
Depending on your position in life, the ego has an unhealthy attachment to either the past or the future. For some, the ego obsesses over the “good ol’ days,” you know, the way things used to be. It agonizes over what this world has become and believes restoring the old way or system of doing things would solve our problems. This same group is fearful about the future. It’s unknown, so why take a risk?
But there’s another diversionary tactic the ego to avoid the present, idealizing the future. Most people who idealize the future are cynical towards the past. There’s nothing redemptive or useful about what happened “back then.” For this group, the ego has convinced them to hold out for some some future version of life, when things will be better. It embarrasses me to admit this is my story. And it’s both painful and liberating to admit that future life where everything is perfect never comes.
Let me say this: the past, present, and future matter. God comes to people in their present situation. He comes to us this way as well, right now. I’m convinced our experience of God is tied to how fully we live in each moment.
At the same time, the past reveals a larger narrative of God’s work and interaction with his creation. Your experience will be limited without knowledge of the past. Your faith will also be limited if you fear the future. God leads people forward, not backward. Those who allow the Spirit to lead know this.
8. The ego seeks immediate gratification and despises anything hard or uncomfortable.
If it’s hard, requires effort, or makes you uncomfortable, it’s not worth pursuing. So says the ego, at least. But if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know these situations are unavoidable. Rather than wrestling with discomfort or anxiety, the ego seeks a quick fix.
Most Christians like everything about Jesus, except the hard parts. Like losing your friends, being rejected by your own people, and, of course, dying on a cross. Again, I’m guilty. I couldn’t imagine loss leading to life. It’s still hard to believe.
In a culture built on power and progress, the ego has plenty of fuel to fan its flame. Could it be our ego insists there’s no meaning in suffering because it knows something exists on the other side, something like God? Could it be that suffering isn’t bad but necessary? For years, American Christians have tried to re-wire the Motherboard, believing we can find true love and peace and joy another way. We remain deeply angry, racist, and materialistic.
9. The ego is sensitive and easily offended.
If you want a practical point for inspection, here it is. How easily are you offended? When the ego is in charge, almost any disagreement or opposing viewpoint feels like a personal attack. In response, the ego gathers likeminded people to affirm itself. Although I’m not against technology or social media, I believe it’s stunted most Christians’ spiritual maturation. It has stunted mine. In a former world, huddling around common viewpoints was much harder. But today most people go months or longer without engaging a different perspective.
For proof, look no further than most churches. Are they not glorified pep rallies? I wish this weren’t true, but when you ask Christians why they attend a certain church, you will inevitably hear, “I agree with what they teach.”
Look at the political landscape. We’re more polarized than any time I can remember, and I’m just referring to Christians. When it comes to Trump or Hillary, I’m not sure whether people are concerned about the future of our country or just being right?
I write this from experience. When I received a nasty e-mail or encountered someone who saw the world differently, I ran to social media or called a friend because my ego needed to be pampered.
This stems from the ego’s desire to be right, special, and separate. Notice Jesus was never offended. The spirit of God is un-offendable. I write these words with humility. I sincerely hope you receive them this way. I’m only 31. I haven’t figured God out. I’m not holier or closer to God than you. I just want to share what I’ve received.
Maybe this sounds like nonsense. That’s ok. Maybe you think I’m high on something or a heretic. That’s ok too. But I believe everyone has divine DNA. The Maker places his essence in you. I believe some of you know this, but aren’t sure why you’re still battling bitterness, greed, racism, etc. You’re tired of looking “out there.” You know it doesn’t deliver what it promises. For me, catching a glimpse of my True Self, even if it’s a small one, feels like freedom. I no longer need to be anyone other than who I am in God.
My Christian ego (and yours) never fully dies. But its authority over our lives can diminish.
The first step to finding who you are, your identity, is recognizing what keeps you from it. Maybe I’ve accomplished this for someone.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.
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