Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Life-Controlling Affliction: The Need for Self-Validation

The richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller, had been asked, “How much money do you need to be happy?” He famously answered, “Always a bit more.”

His answer remains alive for us today because it illustrates something that we observe in ourselves. We are never satisfied, no matter how great the successes, recognition, or money we have accumulated. Self-validation is a monster that requires continuous feeding. Lady Gaga sings about this consuming fire:

  • “I live for the applause, applause, applause…the way that you cheer and scream for me.” She adds in another song, “yes we live for the Fame, Doin’ it for the Fame, Cuz we wanna live the life of the rich and famous.”

Self-validation is a life-consuming quest, which will not let go. I always had to be the best. When someone else was better, I was jealous and resented his success. Although Christ has set me free from its controlling influence, the feelings are still there. They can get me down, but I get right back up and laugh these ugly feelings in the face.

Where do these feelings – these psychological addictions – come from? It seems that we are all, to some degree, afflicted with an underlying sense of unworthiness. It might manifest itself through shame or guilt or even self-contempt. This sense is so powerful that we have to do something about it. We have to validate ourselves not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world.

My way of self-validation was through being the best. Others seek to look the best or to be people-pleasers or to gain love and approval to the max – anything to silence the inner voices that tell us that we are unworthy, that they is something wrong or lacking within.

Well, where does this seemingly universal sense of unworthiness come from? What is the universal cause that is adequate to explain this universal brokenness?

God had created us to feel entirely comfortable within our own skin. In fact, Adam and Eve felt so comfortable that they went naked without any sense of shame. However, this all changed once they had sinned. Even if they didn’t quite understand their now life-controlling feelings of shame, they knew something was wrong and laughably covered themselves with fig leaves.

Today, not having a fig tree in reach, we cover ourselves with our attainments, university degrees, and successes, convinced that a mere covering will adequately address the underlying infection. But as a mere covering, it never does! Instead, as with any drug or addiction, we always crave more.

The addiction is so powerful that we will do anything to protect it. We deny the real issue and avoid and detest anything or anyone who might expose it. When God found Adam and Eve hiding from Him, He asked them what the problem was. Foolishly, they tried to divert Him with half-truths.

I could never admit my addiction – that I was self-consumed, had to be the best, and was jealous of anyone who had what I wanted. I tried my best to hide these obsessions away in a place of darkness. Anyone who might expose them was a threat.

Even after God revealed their sin and lies, they continued to validate themselves by blaming someone else. Eve blamed the serpent; Adam blamed both Eve and the God who had brought her to him.

What had started this cycle of unworthiness, addiction and lies? Sin and its rupturing of our vital connection with our Creator! As long as Adam and Eve had this connection, there was no sense of unworthiness but rather completeness and wholeness.

Why then are the redeemed still struggling with these feelings, now that the relationship with our Redeemer has been restored? We are only halfway home. We are still awaiting the glories that will be revealed in us:

  • We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

Yes, we have already been redeemed and adopted. However, not entirely! The sin in our unredeemed body remains our enemy and opposes us at every turn:

  • So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Consequently, it does not feel like we are yet home. We still want to validate ourselves against the accusations of our flesh, even though Christ has validated us beyond anything that we might hope to do (Gal. 2:20). What then? We laugh at these cravings, convinced that they have already been decisively addressed by our Savior, and meanwhile seek to minister to the needs of others.

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