Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others. ~Ellen DeGeneres
Critiquing Ellen or anyone in particular is not something I set out to do. But I do run across quotes at times that haunt me, whether in a good or bad way, and the end result is usually a mix of me, a keyboard, and a little smoke.
From the keyboard, people. Just because I live in a state that legalized pot ……
Anyway, this particular quote was hard for me to stomach, because how, I ask, would attempting to see myself through the eyes of others be beneficial?
Someone toss me a roll of Tums. I get stressed just thinking about it.
Never do I feel safe, secure, or clear-headed when I’m worrying – or even just wondering – what others think of me. If Ellen means to say that sometimes we have to trust that what others say about us is true, okay. I get that. There are times when others are able to see our faults and strengths better than we can, and it might be wise to seek their counsel. But where do we draw the line?
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Prov. 29:25). If we want to feel secure about ourselves, we have to trust in the Lord and trust what the Lord says about us. There’s Good News and bad news about ourselves, of course. The bad news is that we start out in this life at enmity with God. We sin against a holy God of wrath and judgment. The Good News is that through Christ, it’s possible to be friends with God, because in addition to being a God of wrath and judgment, He is also a God of mercy, love, compassion, kindness, and grace. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We sinned and earned death. He loved and gave eternal life. And this is what I have to train myself to focus on, to trust in, because I am naturally a people pleaser who strives to be liked. I have been the one who searches the eyes of others for clues about myself, hoping to find security, love, acceptance, gratitude — anything that might swell my self-esteem. Prove my self-worth.
It’s a miserable way to live, not unlike a dog returning to it’s vomit. (Prov. 26:11)
We can and should be grateful for the love and acceptance of other humans, but the hunt for the ongoing approval of man can get so addicting, we eventually find ourselves trapped. Exhausted. Even destroyed. This is the stuff eating disorders, multiple plastic surgeries, and the maxing out of credit cards are made of. Our culture constantly tells us to look air brushed, seventeen, and to possess all that the Jones family possess and more. But this way of searching for significance doesn’t deliver. Nobody can look like the gal on the magazine, because the gal on the magazine doesn’t even look like the gal on the magazine. Wrinkles will come and stay and multiply until death. Boobs will sag. Hips and lips, too. One day, the mirror’s going to flash jostling jowls and crow’s feet at you. Precisely at age 42 if my experience is any indication of timing.
And all that stuff? It’s easy to think we own it, but the truth is that it owns us. The other truth is that the Jones family may be in debt up to their eyeballs and in the midst of filing for bankruptcy. Even if they’re not, the other-other truth is that stuff amounts to a boat load of responsibility that those who live simply and contentedly aren’t enslaved to. How much stuff is enough? Maybe choosing a few hobbies or possessions that truly bring joy, then spending leftover income to bless someone else is more noble than accumulating stuff for the sake of accumulating stuff.
We are dabbling in Christian liberty now, of course. All such decisions are between a child of God and God. I’m merely pointing out that the fear of man and the fight for stuff won’t ultimately satisfy any human soul. The approval of man can be a sweet blessing. But it is a hamster wheel. A perpetual energy zapping contraption that gets us nowhere. Only the love and total acceptance of Christ can satisfy, give us rest, and promote us to a better place emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps financially as well, in that He frees us from all types of bondage, including the bondage of covetousness.
We have so much, and are so much – in Him. But it takes work to focus our minds there, as we are naturally bent on puffing ourselves up, whether of our own volition or vicariously through the eyes of others. Rather than searching the eyes of man or Stuff Mart for approval and satisfaction, we need to search the Word of God. The search will be painful, because the Word is a double-edged sword that cuts open our heart and reveals what’s lurking in the deep crevices. Being in the Word is soul surgery, and surgery is gory. But the eventual outcome is healing, restoration, relief, and even purpose, and finding our purpose is often the cure to an insatiable appetite for material goods. Who has time to accumulate and maintain stuff when one is busy laying down their life for others? And who has the energy to run about frantically gathering bouquets of praise from others? Corrie ten Boom used to say she would imagine all the accolades given to her in a day, wrap them up in her mind, and present them to God in prayer at the end of the day as a “bouquet of praise.” And why not, if all blessing and honor and glory be unto Him?
There are many Scriptures that talk about what God thinks of His own, and what His own should be doing with their time and resources. Never do I want to simply prescribe a few verses and ask you to call me in the morning, as if instant healing will be yours all for a one time read. But Colossians 2, Ephesians 1, and Philippians 2:1-18 are terrific starting points in finding your identity, your purpose, and how to live that purpose. So start there. Bathe your soul there. Purify your heart and mind there, and in effect, your lifestyle.
What’s there to lose, besides the habit of popping Tums?