These are the days of the “selfie-generation”. We shouldn’t be surprised really. Paul warned us that people would ‘become lovers of themselves’ (2 Timothy 3:2).
In 2014, 93 billion “selfies” (photo of yourself) were taken every day on Android phones alone. Every third photograph taken by an eighteen to twenty-four-year old was of themselves. I’m not against taking a photo of yourself, but I do think these stats speak volumes about the cultural climate of today.
Unlike generations before us, the individual is now glorified. Where historically there was once perhaps social oppression, abuse of authority and hierarchy, the individual is now arising. We don’t need to be contained. We are told we can now be anything and do anything if we “just try more” and “work harder” to reach the “ideal self”. If we aren’t noticed or recognised, we feel we have failed. We can see who we want to be, and who we are, and we sit in the gap and think, “if we put more effort into self-improvement, then we can reach self-perfection”. “If I reach a certian level, then I will matter”, is the mentality. The problem with immersing yourself in this kind of thinking, is that you become very “I” focused and thus end up carrying an immense amount of pressure to be something – to be perfect. We aren’t designed to be “I” focused, we are designed to be God-focused.
Research has shown a strong link between perfectionism and suicide. Self-defeating, over-striving, self-rebuke, and a sense of failure are often the cyclic mentalities of people who are trying to attain their version of perfection. Unfortunately the modern world is giving us more opportunities to feel like this.
Unsurprisingly with the rise in individualism, studies have found a decline in empathy. Naturally, as we become self-obsessed, we care less for others. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). It has become totally culturally acceptable to focus on making sure YOU are getting ahead, but what this world needs, is the purity of the gospel – No agenda, not self-promotion, no spirit of competition, rather community and being “others-focused” in our mandate.
Here is the message of hope for you today: attaining perfection doesn’t rest in your hands. Jesus has won perfection for you. When you secure your identity in Christ, you understand that Jesus is the only one who can and has attained perfection for us. The deal is done by him on our behalf. We shouldn’t have to be the Lord of our lives. We don’t have to live under the authority of our inner-selves, rather we submit to the lordship and saving grace of Christ. Don’t try and be something you are not. Quit assessing all the things you aren’t doing, and instead focus on investing in who God has simply made you to be. Stop searching for the accolade of man, when you have the unending, unconditional approval of the only opinion that matters – God’s opinion.
We are designed to operate from a place of rest, not a place of striving. Align yourself with the truth that you are a child of God. It is okay to be driven, but let your goal be excellence, not perfection. Operate from identity, not for identity. The beauty of grace is that it EMPOWERS us to fulfil the standard of excellence and reminds us of our identity – it is then that we can do more work, accomplish more, perform better, and serve without seeking approval.
Challenge your model of what is the perfect self. Who is defining your perception of perfection? What model are you following? If you are following anything other than the perfect picture of Jesus, then you’ve missed the point.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
A daily devotion for a better way of living.