The End of MeWriting The End Of Me and launching the iamnotenough.com website have led me to think a lot about how people choose to live their lives. I’ve realized that, though there are small nuances, there really are two basic options. I’ve fashioned these two options into two equations.
The first way we can live our lives is all about self. This is the way most people live. This is the equation:
Self-awareness + Self Reliance = Self-Construction
It starts with self-awareness. You’ve got to figure out:
- Who are you?
- What are you good at?
- What should your priorities and values be?
- How do you decide what you’re going to do with your life?
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We like to think we’re self aware, that we understand ourselves, but we don’t. We lie to ourselves. And when we rely on self-awareness, we end up building our life on lies."
The problem with self-awareness is that it tends to lead to self-deception. Self-deception can wreak havoc in our decision-making, our families, our finances and our careers. For example:
We fill our calendar with events, programs, and weekends away; and we just don’t seem to have the time to consistently attend church, or have our children participate in the Student Ministry. We’re not teaching the kids about the Bible on our own, either.
Then eventually, our children start going in the wrong direction, and somehow, it's a surprise to us. We pray, "God, I need you to do something. I need you to change them!" And it's like, "NOW you're coming to God about this?"
The first equation starts with self-awareness, then we add to it self-reliance. Self-reliance has been ingrained in most of us since we were children. Our culture shouts, “Be an individual! You can do anything you want to do! You can be anything you want to be! And you can do it all, on your own!”
That may sound great, but there are some problems with it.
One problem is that self-reliance produces self-centered people. We can’t help but start to think, “Life is about me. I am the center of the universe! I make my own rules. I do my own thing. And I can do it on my own. If I want to be rich, I’ll be rich. I can be famous. My life is about me!”
Another problem is that I think, “I can do this;” until one day, I can’t. Something happens; I find myself at the end of me, and I can’t handle it. I realize relying on myself can only take me so far.
That’s why this equation ends with self-construction. If we rely entirely on self, we are constructing our own lives. All we can do is what we can do. The truth is that this is very limited.
In fact, my experience is that when I’ve lived by relying on self—and as I’ve watched other people rely on self as well-then eventually, self-construction ends up self-destruction.
In the last several decades, there has been way more focus on self than ever before.
- More people are obsessed with their physical appearance. Getting plastic surgery. Going to the gym, eating healthy, doing diets. It’s never been like it is now.
- More people are focused on accumulating things and going on trips.
- More people are obsessed with being famous, and with reality shows and YouTube, and you name it, more people are getting famous than ever before.
There’s an unprecedented focus on self, and what has it led to?
Well, with college students, anxiety levels, depression, loneliness, suicide and addictions are all 85% higher than in the 1950’s. We know it’s not just college students; all kinds of people are struggling more than ever before.
Why? I’d argue it’s because we’re depending on self-awareness and self-reliance more than ever before. That’s the bad news. But, I’ve got good news.
The good news is that there is a second way we can live our lives. The second way is all about God. The equation is:
God Awareness + God Reliance = God-Construction
It starts with God awareness. Our focus is on God. We seek to be aware of His presence and guidance. And when we think of ourselves, it’s not about our awareness of ourselves but what God thinks of us and says about us.
This second equation starts with God awareness, then we add to it God reliance. God reliance isn’t an excuse to be lazy. We do what we need to do, but we are always relying on God. We know he has more wisdom than we do and more power than we can imagine. So we look to Him, we pray to him, we count on him, we trust him.
A life of God awareness and God reliance leads to God construction. You have a life that goes beyond what you’re capable of. The God who loves you so much is helping direct and build your life. And the result will be something way better than you could have ever done.
So, which equation will describe your life?