The other day I read an article that promised tips on one-income living in a two-income world. I felt a little bit silly afterward for thinking the article might have been about giving up those items we really can live without.
What shocked me was not that we’re a two-income society that loves haircuts, new clothes and designer furniture. It wasn’t even the fact that those living on one wage seem branded as just a little less than those who are not.
What shocked me was the fact that sacrifice is no longer an alternative. What shocked me, ladies, was how brazenly self-centred we have become and how deep the desire to present ourselves behind a facade of glamour and accomplishment has actually polluted us.
According to the article, which is aimed at stay-at-home mothers, the only person worth creating any change for is you. Instead of buying a designer handbag each month, why not rent one? Your new arm candy will ensure you’re ‘up with’ your childless friends and it will only cost you $40 a pop. It doesn’t matter that to purchase those school books you’ve had to up your credit limit (but you’ll think about that later)… because you look good.
I feel a little out-classed with my two-year-old (no designer label) handbag purchased on sale. I didn’t even realise that there was an obligation to parade a new handbag on a monthly basis. And I don’t even have kids!
Are we really that obsessed with looking good? I wonder how high on your agenda is purchasing a handbag with a gold label? I’m ashamed to say that while showing off a designer handbag isn’t something I am even remotely addicted to, there are aspects of my life which are infected with, well, a love of what I can only honestly say is of myself.
We live in a time where we have more money, more education and more access to the rest of the world than any generation has had before, yet we are losing money, exchanging intelligence for idiocy and failing to show an interest in anything and anyone beside the facebook profile of you know who.
I understand the feeling of wanting to belong. I can identify with the desire to be accepted, loved and admired. But it makes me really sad when I realise that these longings have paraded themselves in the form of self obsession and consequently cost us greatly.
Self obsession comes in two main forms: pride and penance. Although most of the time it is impossible to tell the difference in others, neither is acceptable in the eyes of God. Both are attention seeking, both are self glorifying and both detract from the face of Christ. And both are really, really easy to do on the internet.
The cost of self obsession – and this not just in secular society, but rampant in our churches – is great. Relationships exist, but only on the internet. The photos of your pretty face that you publish on facebook cause feelings of envy and disdain. And what about that status you wrote about the difference you made on your recent mission trip? The bible verse you keep linking from your tumblr account doesn’t make sense, because you’re not living in a way that is consistent with it. The photo of the cute dress you just payed an arm and a leg for, your new shoes, your haircut, your breakfast…what is all the attention you’re gaining going to give you?
Glory received from others offers short lived satisfaction. I’ve found this out first hand.
I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not a movie star. And if I’m honest, neither are you. No matter what your facebook or your instagram tell me. The only thing hinging on the number of followers I have is my sinful pursuit of self-worth and glory – if I let it. Sometimes this is really hard to fight. Sometimes, the desire I have to be loved and accepted by others (mostly other females… Can anyone relate?) causes me to present myself in a way that forces attention onto me. I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t need to photograph my manicure anymore (which I don’t even really like because I spilt nail polish on the coffee table mid coat and had to spend the next 20 minutes cleaning it up) and wait for adoration to come in the form of 20 ‘likes.’
Why is there so much pressure to pretend that my life is more glamorous than it really is? Why do I feel the need to compare myself to the facade that other people are putting on the internet when I know that it isn’t even real? Suddenly, life is more about doing my makeup so I can take a photo, editing the heck out of it and publishing it online. Oh – and sitting around nervously waiting for the affirming comments to roll on in.
Suddenly life is a lot more complicated and a lot less satisfying than it was before. When life is about me, it isn’t really that great. It’s too much work. It’s far too depressing riding the emotional rollercoaster of gaining self-worth from others. It doesn’t bring me contentment when I hear how beautiful, how funny, or how spiritual I am when I’ve purposefully said or done things to highlight those parts of me. It makes me feel a little guilty actually. It makes me feel like I’m distracting others from where they should be focussed. And It makes me feel like I’m robbing someone of something they actually deserve.
1 John 2:15-17 says ‘Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.’
I’ve been thinking about all this for the past few months and tr
ying to figure out how I could possibly write something that isn’t laced with my own pride or with feelings of disrespect or judgement toward others. I’ve been challenged to invest time in people instead of comparing myself to them (this is hard). Are you willing to put down your camera and come out for a coffee? I wonder whether you’re brave enough to actually ask a friend how they’re coping with life. I’ve been trying to think how I can use my time wisely – is there somewhere I can volunteer time that matters? It’s hard to give others the time of day which I would normally spend on myself. I feel like I need to spend time learning about Christ. I want to live for what is eternally important, not what is passing away.
I don’t feel like I have enough ‘life experience’ or wisdom to give any advice, especially on a topic that I really struggle with. I just know that for a while I’ve been sitting around looking down on people for being ‘attention seeking’ and ‘self glorifying’ but not doing anything about it. Maybe you are someone who is seeking attention and affirmation. I wrote this to remind you that God has bigger desires for you than you currently have for yourself. Or maybe you’re someone who judges others on the photos that they put on the internet. I wrote this as a reminder that God has a bigger desire for you than the destructive pattern of pride.
It’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to live a life where the attention is on the characteristics of God and not on me. I can’t promise you won’t find it hard or battle feelings of jealously, or desire for the affection of others to be on you instead of God. But I promise you won’t regret it as together, we’re transformed to be more like Jesus.