Ruled By a Question
Self-consciousness is really bondage to the question, What do people think of me?
I think that question can govern our lives without our even being aware of it—kind of like white noise in the background of our lives. We can live with a constant undercurrent of wondering What do people think of me? What do they think of what I’m wearing today? What do they think of what I just said? What do they think of what I talked about at the party last night?
It shows up for women in so many areas of life. I see it frequently with young mothers who are starting out raising their children. They’re measuring what they do as moms against what other mothers do—from how they give birth to decisions they make about child care and education. So often their decisions are governed not just by their love for their kids—which is a huge part of it, of course—but also by the question What do people think of what I’m doing? What do other mothers do and how am I going to measure up? Self-consciousness is underlying in all of us, whether we’re moms or not. We’re trying to define ourselves by how well we answer that question or how other people are answering that question.
As we stop thinking about ourselves, our identity is rooted not in . . . what other people think of us, not even in what we think of ourselves—but in who we are in Christ Jesus.
The Root of the Problem
Our definition of our identity comes from thoughts like, I’m an ideal mother because I’m doing things that other mothers are doing. Or, I’m an ideal employee because I’ve succeeded at this and I’ve gotten to this level in the company. Or, I’m fit and toned so I’m the ideal body type or body weight.
Our self-definition, our self-identity, too often comes from asking that question: What do people think of me?
And the remedy for that isn’t to stop asking the question. I think that’s what we hear so much of today—we’re told not to care or worry what people think. But that really doesn’t help us any.
The answer to this question: What do people think of me? and the solution to being in bondage to that question is to stop thinking about ourselves at all. It’s not to shape how the questions are answered—it’s self-forgetfulness.
We stop thinking about ourselves. That’s where freedom is found. As we stop thinking about ourselves, our identity is rooted not in answers to that question, not in what other people think of us, not even in what we think of ourselves—but in who we are in Christ Jesus. He is our identity. We must look at him and stop looking inward at ourselves and using other people as our mirror for how we understand ourselves. We must look at God’s Word and Jesus as our mirror. That’s where freedom comes. That is the remedy to the bondage of self-consciousness.
A goal for all of us is to be able to say Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.
Like a child going to a parent, we don't have to clean up our spiritual act to pour out our hearts to God.
Determined commitment propels our path, but reaching the destination is possible only because God gets us there.