Many of the burdens I bear in life are made far heavier by adding on top of them an oversized image of myself. I simply have a tendency to think more often about and more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3).
Ironically, the emotional effect of my oversized self-image is often a low self-image. I feel bad about myself.
I can feel embarrassed about my poor memory when it comes to people’s names, Scripture quotes, book titles, what last week’s sermon was about, the main points of my last article, and that fourth thing I’m supposed to pick up at the store. I find this embarrassing not because it’s a moral failure, but because it exposes the fact that my memory is weaker than most of my peers. My memory struggles weigh heavier on me than they should because I want to be great and I’m not.
I can feel discouraged, even shame, when the family worship I lead isn’t more organized, systematic, regular, or inspiring to my kids (“Dad, are we almost done?”). While continuing to press toward greater effectiveness here is a good thing, this weighs heavier on me than it should because I want to be the sage, spiritual father. I want to be known for knowing what and how to teach, and for raising children who someday recount the profound benefit they received from the fountain of my godly wisdom. I want to be great and I’m not.
The Weight of Wanting to Be Great
I could go on rehearsing my feelings of inadequacy — over my breadth of reading, slowness in writing, gaps in parenting, productivity in general, paralysis in certain kinds of decision making, concentration struggles, impatience with ambiguity, and numerous other limitations, weaknesses, and sins. You probably know these struggles or others like them.
My cumulative sense of inadequacy often feels like a low self-image. But actually it’s largely due to thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think and wanting others to admire me more than I deserve. My shame comes from an exaggeratedly high self-image that feels exposed by my limitations, weaknesses, and sins, making living with or fighting them much more burdensome than necessary.
Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this great weight of pride? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who invites me to take up his easy yoke and light burden of embracing the role, status, and reputation of a servant (Matthew [11:30]; Mark [9:35]).