It amazes me that after all these years of walking with God, even minor criticisms can still trigger my insecurity. Yes, I‘ve grown up. Yes, I can work through the sting and get to a healthy place. But why does it take so much energy?
Over the weekend, I taught about what happens at a subconscious level. Scientists generally acknowledge that over 90% of what happens in “mental” activity happens at a subconscious level. In other words, we aren’t really in control of it. It just happens.
That leaves less than 10% that we have some ability to control. Out of that 10%, much of that is controlled by ego. Ephesians 5:29 expresses that no one ever hates himself. What I take from that verse is not that we cannot hate self, but that the instinctive reaction of a person is some sort of defense of self. Ego.
Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2 both convey the idea that everything a person does is right in his own eyes. Again, the instinctive response is to defend self. Ego. Some people do turn on self, but even that usually has its roots in defense of self. The psychology is “I don’t want to hear from someone else that I am messing up, so I will judge myself first. Then I can tell them that I have it under control and to get out of my business.” That approach defends the right of the person to be the expert on himself. Ego.
Seeing the almost absolute language of Scripture about how we protect self, let’s say 90% of our conscious thought life is highly influenced by ego. Combining the subconcious activity with mental activity controlled by ego, that would mean that only 1% of our total mental activity is open to objective truth. The rest of it comes out of instinctive choices built up over time combined with some form of defense of self.
That is a bit humbling. 1%. A whopping 1% of the time I am open to real truth about something that directly has impact on me. Of course I can be objective about things that have little or nothing to do with me, but if I am somehow a target of the information, my ego kicks in. Cultural values, associations, past behaviors. Any or all of those will cause ego to kick in. On anything personal, we have 1% ability to think objectively.
At the national level, if we could recognize how little ability we have to think objectively, maybe, just maybe some of the rhetoric would cool down a bit. When a person is highly energized emotionally, there is an extremely good chance that he is being driven by nothing more than ego.
There is righteous anger. We should be motivated to protect those who have no ability to protect themselves. We should be motivated to do what is “right” or what will create the best outcomes for the most people. Unfortunately, most of our anger protects what we perceive to be self. Even political ideas can become personalized in a way that it is a protection of self. They are no longer about practical outcomes or what is best for all. They are an acceptance of self or a rejection of self. Ego.
When I stop and look at me, I am amazed at how much energy I spend defending me. I don’t want it to be that way, but even after years of growth, I’m still there. I’ve grown. I trust God more. I am more open to criticism. I defend myself less than I used to. But I am still there—defending self as my first response.
God, help us all to take a deep breath, to see You, to see what is truth and to walk in truth.