We have been bred on the philosophy, “You got to believe in yourself.” However, this belief is like an addiction to porn.
Let me try to explain. In order to believe in ourselves, we have to see ourselves in a favorable way. This means that we have to inflate our self-esteem. How do we do this? We feed ourselves on positive affirmations and deny or suppress the negative.
Once we get the rush of thinking that we are superior, it is hard to let go of it. Instead, we have to continually feed ourselves with positive illusions in order to regain the initial rush. This means we will become increasingly self-deluded as we pursue our mentally induced “high.”
So what? Don’t we need to think highly about ourselves? For one thing, I don’t think that we are able to see the costs of this addiction.
If we fail to see our dark side, we will not be able to stand against its power. And it is powerful. In The Significant Life, attorney George M. Weaver has presented many examples of the power of the dark side – our overwhelming need for positive affirmations:
• Salvador Dali once said, “The thought of not being recognized [is] unbearable”…Lady Gaga sings, “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.” (7)
Writer Gore Vidal had been very transparent about the need – the addiction – to continually prove his superiority:
• “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” (58)
If we have become addicted to an inflated self-esteem, it is an addiction that always needs to be fed. It is also an addiction of jealousy.
The more we are on the self-inflationary track, to more we will become unable to receive corrective criticism. Why? We have trained ourselves to only see the self-congratulatory messages, not the negative. These bring us down, and we need to be high.
In fact, our antennas become acutely attuned to negative messages. On numerous occasions, when I had stated the simple Biblical statement that we are all evil, people have become very defensive, even aggressive. One husband slammed the table, protesting that his wife “is not a sinner.” She then had to calm him down.
He needed to believe that his wife was superior to others, and he was willing to fight to defend her “honor.” His reaction was extreme but it also reflected the extent we will go to defend our or our family’s superior virtue and worthiness.
In order to resist the power of the evil within, we need to both see it, accept it, and stand against it. Believing in oneself opposes these things. It is a drug that resists any true self-reflection. It also destroys and resists humility.
Scripture often points to our blinding pride – our overriding tendency to think too highly of ourselves. In Jesus’ letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation, we read that those two churches that had the highest regard for themselves were actually the worst:
• “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die…’” (Revelation 3:1-2; ESV)
To the church at Laodicea, He writes:
• For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
These two churches had a high estimation of themselves, but they were asleep and had blinded themselves to their true status before God. They were commanded to “wake up” and to repent of their self-trust.
Refusal to see our dark-side is reflected in so many ways. Recently, I went to a meeting of people with emotional/mental problems. To encourage them, I claimed that we are all damaged merchandise. (I didn't add that we are damaged by sin.)
I was surprised to find that several objected to the very-obvious idea that they are damaged. Some didn't like thinking of themselves this way and actively resisted this idea.
Why? After all, they had joined a group which acknowledged that they had emotional problems. Instead, two charged that I had offended them. One fired back:
· Speak for yourself. I never gave you the right to speak for me.
I was surprised that I had "personally insulted" him. But why such defensiveness? I had surmised that if he had truly accepted himself, he wouldn't have reacted so strongly.
Instead, his reaction suggested that he was unwilling to confront his sin-damaged self. This refusal would damn him to an unending international struggle to suppress his dark-side, as it would continue to emerge, fighting for the stage. This fight also would inevitably deprive him of peace and rest. Besides, when we refuse to acknowledge this dark-side, we no longer have the ability to keep it from stealing center-stage.
He embraced the secular hope - that we have within us the ability to change and to give ourselves the necessary positive affirmations to fuel our engine of transformation.
However, I offended him again. I suggested that believing that we have the ability to transform ourselves just puts an extra burden on our shoulders. When we find that we are unable, we feel doubly the failure.
I then concluded that we have, therefore, been created to trust in God to do the heavy transformational lifting.
He quickly informed me that I had broken the rules:
· You can't talk about God here. Not everybody believes in God. If you want to say that the belief in God or the spaghetti monster works for you, that's okay. But you are not allowed to tell me that God must work for me or anyone else here.
God cannot be allowed to exist because He violates the house rules! I guess that settles it.
However, this rule comes with a high price-tag. We can only deny our dark-side and its Ultimate Answer but at great cost. It is like buttoning our shirt by starting with the wrong button. Every other button will be out of place.