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Posts Tagged ‘ego’


Do you struggle with preoccupation with yourself? Do you find yourself caring too much about what others think about you? or what you think about you?

Perhaps this is the booklet for you. Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is adapted from a sermon of his on 1 Corinthians 3. As a result, this is a relatively short treatment of a particular question. As such it can’t say everything there is to say about the subjects with which it deals. Someone I know raised some questions about this booklet, and I hope to address them briefly toward the end. I will also make a short application for pastors (something Keller does elsewhere).

He introduces the passage with the stark difference between traditional and modern thought about people’s problems. Traditionally, pride (hubris) has been identified as one of our problems that creates other problems. Criminals think more of themselves than others, for instance, and this justifies their crimes. Something odd happened in the Western world in the not too distant past. The prevailing notion, still prevalent in education, is that people actually suffer from low self-esteem. If only they would have a better view of themselves they wouldn’t be criminals, poor etc. We now, statistically, have students who are progressively worse but feel better and better about themselves despite failure. Thankfully, this view regarding self-esteem is finally being challenged academically.

The passage Keller is handling is addressing the divisions that have been plaguing the church of Corinth. The factions have allied themselves to particular teacher. The factions are filled with pride and boastful of their relationship or adherence to their favorite teacher (Paul, Peter, Apollos etc.). I know, we would never do anything like that. This leads us into contemplating the ego.

The natural state of the ego, Keller argues, is that it is inflated. Paul does not use hubris, but a word he uses often in the letters to the Corinthians and in Colossians 2. It isn’t used elsewhere in Scripture. It does have that idea of over-inflated or bloated. This means that the human ego is empty (just filled with hot air), painful (stretched too far), busy (looking to fill that emptiness) and fragile (not this is not a special award). He draws on (surprise!) C.S. Lewis, Soren Kierkegaard and Madonna.

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I had been blogging through parts of The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders.  But then I became distracted from this very good book by a very bad book.  So I’m back with a less extensive review of this very good book by Roger Parrott.

I am not typically fond of books on leadership.  Particularly by Christians.  They tend to avoid the reality of the flesh which makes leading difficult in so many ways.

This is a book I wish was written long ago, for I found I could have used this book about 10 years ago.  I’ve made many of the mistakes he tackles.  I also found some of his advice counter-cultural, and more helpful than what you usually hear.

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“I’m just a big ego, and everywhere I  go

people know the part I’m playing…”

So went the lyrics on a spoof on David Lee Roth’s cover of Just a Gigolo.  It fit since he was often said to possess quite the ego.  I read an  interesting chapter on ego in leadership.  I started a new book, The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders today.  It is written by Roger Parrott, the President of Belhaven College.

The first 2 chapters were great.  The first was on the challenge to take the longview, or to make decisions as if you will never leave.  He finds (with support from many business studies) that what is wrong with business (and the church & parachurch) is that decisions are made only for the short-term to get quick results so you can move to the next position.

As I read this chapter I was convicted.  At a particular point I started thinking of my next position, and sort of checked out.  I probably made lousy decisions at that point.  And that is Parrott’s point- when you are treating the position as temporary it shapes your concerns and choices.  You want to look good NOW, with little to no regard for what will happen after you leave.

One reason people look toward the next position instead of taking the longview is ego.  They want bigger and better.  They view the current position only as a stepping stone to the next step up the corporate or church ladder.  This is why I didn’t go into youth ministry.  I knew I would only treat it as a stepping stone.  (Don’t worry, my pride showed up in other ways like the self-righteousness of not playing the “game”).

Because ego-driven leadership must be continually fed, it demands that immediate needs are always more important than the longview results, thus stifling opportunity for ministry of lasting value.

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Football is a game for men- tough men.  Unlike many American males, I don’t lie to myself and others.  I could not play that game professionally.  It requires a physical toughness that I lack.  It also requires an emotional toughness that I am familiar with as a pastor.  In football, you have to deal with the emotional aspects of the game- remaining consistent when there are great hills and valleys.  Remaining stable in the face of constant obstacles.

Enter Jay Culter, the pouting All-Pro.  Jay can’t seem to understand that Pro Football is a business.  The goal is two-fold: compete to win the SuperBowl consistently, and make lots of money in the process.  The closer you are to the first, the easier it is for a team to accomplish the second.  As a result, the business-side, just like the game-side, is not easy on a person’s ego.  During the game, fans might boo you.  And during the off-season you might be linked with trade rumors.

Jay can’t imagine that the Broncos might entertain offers for a QB that 1. his new coach knows, and 2. had a better QB rating than he did.  Yes, Cutler had a record setting season.  But his team folded in the crunch (Cassel’s team when on a strong run that would have earned them a playoff spot in most divisions).  As QB, some of that falls on his shoulders.

But Cutler is pouting and demanding a trade- feeling so unwanted.  He’s is proving that they should have traded him.  First, he lacks the mental/emotional toughness required to flourish in professional football.  Trade possibilities have sent him into an epic, public freefall.  He just gave fans on other cities ammo with which to bait him and boo him.  Second, he is more concerned with himself than team.  This doesn’t sit well with any associated with the Patriots and their success over the course of this decade.  Individuals play, but only teams can win.  Teams are made of people who believe “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” to quote the fictitious Spock from The Wrath of Kahn.  Cutler is focused on himself.  Not a good sign.  He demands his ego get stroked instead of submitting his ego to the needs of his team.  He also refuses to see that a few teams WERE really interested in him (I’m not sure why at this point).

Jay needs to take his meltdown where it belongs- behind closed doors- or no team will want him, including the one he’s on.  And while he’s there he may want to invest in some Daniel Goleman books on emotional intelligence.

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