Sometime in my mid-twenties I learned a valuable lesson. When having a bad hair day, ignore it. Don’t apologize for the offending hair. Don’t make self-deprecating comments about it all day. Every time it comes to mind, redirect my thoughts.
I have better things to do with my brain space. If I spend my day thinking about my hair and how it doesn’t look like what I want, I’m not doing the work that God has given me. You know what I discovered? Not one other person is paying attention to my hair. They are too busy thinking about their own hair or that project at work or a tiff with a friend.
We have this exceptional tendency to make ourselves the center of the universe. It’s about us and how we feel and what we have going on and how a situation inconveniences us. We are the Copernicus’ of history, imagining ourselves the most important. No wonder the words of Scripture are so jarring. Are we actually supposed to be considering ourselves first? Looking out for our best interests? Making our own way in the world? Of course not. The way of Jesus is radically against the way of our nature.
One of the little phrases I repeat to myself (silently, I hope) is “this isn’t about me.” This applies to many more situations than I first thought.
Comfort and Calling
God frequently asks me to do things that I’d rather not, but at the same time they are interwoven into exactly what I would like to do. I find that what I would love to do pushes me beyond my comfort zone. It asks more than what I have. It would be easier to not do it. But I have to see what God is asking me to do, and then remind myself it’s not about me. It’s not about how people react about me. I can’t control that. It’s not about what people might think about me. I can’t control that.
It’s not about me. So I send the text. I make the call. I show up. I work regularly in spaces that push me beyond what’s natural. And honestly, I don’t want to live a life that I could live on my own without God? It’s not about me or my comfort. It’s about where God is asking me to participate in His work.
One of the first places I’ve learned to extend this thought is with other people’s behavior. I think most of us have a tendency to take the behavior of others personally. Of course we must have offended them, hurt their feelings, disappointed them, been too much, etc, because the thoughts of others are centered on us and what we’re doing. What I often find is that my presence and my actions aren’t even weighing on the other person because they are consumed with their own lives. (This is clearly not to exclude apologizing when I have sinned against someone.)
If someone has a problem with me, I expect them to come to me and talk about it. If they don’t, I assume that short reply, that distracted conversation, that extreme reaction is really about something else. I remind myself that it’s probably not about me and I move on. It helps me give grace to others and reminds me to pray for them. If it’s not me, there’s probably something happening in their lives that needs prayer.
I have four children. They are beautiful, magnificent, small people who are learning how to navigate the world and themselves. This means there are plenty of opportunities for behavior I’d rather not happen. When we’re in public, my first impulse is usually to consider how this misbehavior makes me look. “How dare they make me look bad? What must people think of my parenting? This is such an inconvenience.”
But parenting isn’t about me. I am discipling small image bearers and what matters there is that I consider how God wants me to act. How do I love God and love my children in this situation? How do I respect the fact that they are image-bearers of God and how do I train them to live in wholeness with God and others? Having those factors guide my interactions of discipline with my children drastically changes my response to them. I can’t make people think what I want about me; it’s pointless to even try. I can ask God how I can best reflect Him.
In many instances, this would also be called leadership, but I want you to consider circumstances where you might not consider yourself the leader but you know you have influence. When I have influence in an area, I have to remind myself that it’s not about me. The world says the opposite. If you have influence, use it for yourself. If you lead, make your own name great. That’s never the camp I want to run in. Instead, I want to empower the people around me.
Honesty is what’s necessary, not protecting my reputation. If it’s not about me, I’m considering what’s best for the people I’m serving and not what’s best for my image or my wallet or my platform. No work that God has given me to do is about me. This is about His glory and the good of the people He loves and knowing that He is working good for me in that.
Left on my own, I’m constantly making my life about me. But Jesus came to redeem every inch and second of my life. Reminding myself that it’s not about me reshapes the way I look at it all.