Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
This viral photo-roll has been making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter the past few weeks. It makes for a fitting mid-October post. The staff at Nightmares Fear Factory—a “haunted house” in Niagara Falls, Canada—set up a digital camera at a particular point in their labyrinth of seasonal fear, hoping to capture people at their most startled. The results are quite hilarious. Why so funny? Because we can all relate to being caught unaware. In short, this is how silly people can look at times when they lose their “self-awareness.”
I have often heard differing opinions among church folk regarding the idea of how a Christian ought to relate to the concept of “self-awareness.” Devotional writers, like Oswald Chambers, denounce self-awareness as thoroughly sinful and use phrases like “Christ-awareness” to point us to something better and higher. I’m guessing this would sound something like, “Stop thinking of yourself, think only of Jesus.”
Others point to self-awareness as an inescapable requirement for sanctification and spiritual growth. They propose that we ought to pursue introspection or accountability until we see clearly the actions and intentions that keep us from personal progress. This probably would sound like, “Think of yourself intensely (or be made to think of yourself intensely) until your newly perceived inadequacy leads you to Jesus.”
And honestly, I like both thoughts pretty equally. On a personal note, there are moments when the thoughts I have about myself are so pronounced that I cease to love people well—I’m consumed with my own little world and can’t see past it. But I have other moments where I grow oblivious to my own foolishness, and I need to slow down and think, maybe even be clotheslined by the wisdom of my peers. I need to be both less and more self-aware.
I recently heard someone recount the experience of being an artist and how it might apply it to everyday living: stand too close to your painting, you risk getting caught in your own details and not communicating what you intended; but stand too far away, and you lose the intimacy of personal expression that meaningful art requires. Said in terms of our two views above, “Stop thinking so much about yourself, but do not stop thinking about yourself completely. Either of these things can keep you from Jesus.” I posit that if we join the two views above into a phrase like this, we can properly form a healthful, Christian self-awareness.
As always, you and I are broken and beautiful, image and fall, saint and sinner, laughable and laudable. Christian growth is a growth in the awareness of both of these directions that we often seem to run in simultaneously—and also a growth in the knowledge of the grace that hedges us on both sides.