Most people would say I am in the “Self Help” profession. I spend most of my time helping people figure out their “A-game.” I have spent years developing assessment instruments to help people figure out what they are naturally wired to do. I spend hours with leaders helping them to lead better. I enable them to become better versions of themselves or be better influencers of others.
However, there is an assumption in my work that may not be obvious. I believe that God creates each of us to be unique and unlike anyone else. Ironically, many of us try to be someone quite contrary to this unique, gifted self for different reasons. My observation is that people can only become someone contrary to their wiring at great effort and at great cost to themselves and their impact. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139.13-18). The early events in our lives can reinforce this wiring, alter it or destroy it.
I spend a lot of time helping people see how God can use the good, the bad, and the ugly in their lives to form them into someone special and irreplaceable. It isn’t only the nature of the events but our response to those events that produce our exceptional abilities. Most often, the passion people possess originates from the pain they processed and passed through.
So I am not in the self-help profession as much as I am in the God-help profession. I don’t think we need to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps to make someone of ourselves. I think we need to die to our self so that we can be the kind of person our loving God intended us to be…someone like no one else, a one-of-a-kind creation. Only as we die to our desires to be someone we were not designed to be, are we able to be who God created us to be.
In other words, as we love God more than a desired “image” of ourselves will we be on the road of becoming who we were designed to be by our Master Creator.
I am convinced that is why Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament say we must die to self over and over (Luke 9.25, Romans 6.6, Ephesians 4.22-24, Colossians 3.9-10). Only by dying to self are we able to be who God created us to be. Most Christians today would agree with that statement. So where is the problem?
Here is the conundrum I have working with people…
How do I get leaders to accept and develop their wonderful unique, inimitable strengths while at the same time giving up their own desires to have things the way they want them?
As I have written in previous Thursday Thoughts (TT-Keeping the Faith, April 28, 2022), I believe there is a healthy breaking when we reach the end of our own resources. It is in this season of hardship we are more pliable in our creator’s hands. However, in this blog, I am talking about a need to die daily, which needs to be a part of our lives if we are going to love others and be the best version of ourselves.
For me, this process of dying to self began in college. As a twenty-year-old engineering student, I came face to face with who Jesus is. I comprehended for the first time how he wanted me to be the best version of myself through loving him above everything else in this world. I had no idea how to love others. At that juncture in my life, it was all about Greg. It took me years to fully appreciate and apprehend how God’s love for me would literally change how I relate to everyone for the rest of my life. I am still learning.
Two years later, at my wedding ceremony, I heard and grasped a transformative concept of what it meant to love others. The pastor, Don Loomer, was explaining to me how to love my bride, Mary Kay Anderson. He told me I was to love Mary Kay like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5.25-33), and as romantic as it sounds, few of us would ever have an opportunity to love our wives by physically dying to save her as Christ died on the cross for the church. He was right. I have never had the chance to throw my body in front of a speeding car to save her. I have been hit by more than one car, but not out of love for her, more out of stupidity or impulsivity (TT-Living in Light of Eternity, August 4, 2022).
Don continued to say that I would have thousands of opportunities to deny myself to serve Mary Kay. In other words, I would have many chances to die daily for her. He was right, and nothing has so profoundly helped me grasp what it means to love her. I needed to choose daily to deny my own desires and wishes to allow her to have her way. Don further explained that if both individuals in a loving relationship treated each other like this, the relationship would be one of growth, wonder, and depth. Now, these four and a half decades later, I wholeheartedly agree with him. It has taken a lot of work, and we haven’t always demonstrated this kind of dying daily towards each other, but this has been our goal. To die daily for the other.
I think this aspect of daily denying to our self is necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves; only then can we love our God and others appropriately. The litmus test for me is this: what am I willing to live without in order to be who God is making me? How often am I willing to serve and love others who don’t like or agree with me?
Simply look at the social media feeds of people who claim to be followers of Christ to see how they are willing to deny themselves for others. We are wired to love and be loved. This is only going to happen as we learn to die to our idealized version of ourselves and allow God to renew us from the inside out.
What a great time in our culture for us, as followers of Christ, to demonstrate love and compassion toward those who don’t reciprocate it. Unlike many around us, we can act differently by denying ourselves daily for others. Only then will our unique strengths allow us to be the best versions of our self as intended by God.