On my backyard porch is a small awning. Its one of those old school folded metal coverings that was built in the 50’s and has not been replaced since. It definitely looks dated, but more importantly its 60 year old metal posts have seen better days. One is rusted completely through at the base where the post meets the porch. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see unless you look closely. The awning is still upright and the post is still in its proper place, …until you lean on it. My kids have a habit of swinging on, pulling on, leaning on, and/or karate chopping anything standing. I cannot count the number of times I have said “Don’t lean on that, its broken!”
A few days ago, my son once again hung on the post, and it gave way, sending him to the soft grass below. “I told you, buddy, its broken!” As parents we assume because we have said something numerous times, our kids should remember it. As a pastor, I also think you should remember that sermon I preached last year. Unfortunately, they don’t, and you don’t. We hear too much verbal noise daily. Only that which is acted upon, garners our attention. We treat our insecurities in much the same way. If we say we are insecure in an area that should settle it, right? It’s an individual issue that only affects me, so we think. Areas of our lives where we struggle to feel valuable, hold on to past hurts, and fear discovery are not merely personal. They are rusted pillars, which when leaned upon, give way, sending relationships tumbling to the ground. Anything short of dealing with the foundation, is not enough. In other words, my insecurities are MUCH more dangerous to me, and others, than I think. Here are 3 ways I have found this to be true, and a few ways I am learning to deal with it.
- When I am insecure, I attack others. My insecurities are like invisible land mines. We all have certain triggers. My biggest is condescension. I cannot stand when someone gives me the “bless your heart,” attitude. Boom. It brings back a flood of emotions and baggage from my past exploding like shrapnel. Those times when I felt “less than,” inferior, or downright stupid drown me in anger and shame. And, when I feel attacked, I attack. No, not outright. That would appear ungodly. Instead, I like to take the passive aggressive route. I might use my own personal testimony as a way of preaching to them. I may remind them in a subtle way how “young” they are, or how I used to think the same way. You know, before I was “enlightened.” The truth is, It would be much more Godly to outright confront hurtful words for clarification. Will it be awkward? Absolutely. But anything other than confrontation is really about me looking good. I am not sparing someone else’s feelings, I am avoiding looking weak or bad. I hate to look weak or bad. However, anything less than loving confrontation leads us to quiet resentment, or outright avoidance. I cannot bless or encourage anyone if I resent or avoid them. Any meaningful relationship that leans on this insecure pillar will fall. I must recognize my value is not based on how I measure up (I don’t,) or how successful I am. My value was set in Genesis, when God placed His image in me. Nothing else can cement this pillar into a firm foundation. Man, this is hard for me.
- When I am insecure, my relationships become about me. There is a part of me that is still that 7 year-old kid jumping ramps on his bike, begging for an audience to my accomplishment. Again, I have learned to be much more subtle over the years, because its generally socially unacceptable, for an adult to scream “WATCH ME!!” every they succeed at something. I admit, I sometimes fish for compliments, and look for admirers. Ministry itself can become a weekly ramp jump if I’m not careful. How far can I go this time? How much affirmation can I get with this brilliant take on the Scriptures? It’s not only sick, it’s NEVER enough. When I feel unseen, or unloved, all my relationships feel like an audience. I cannot be present. I struggle to listen. I drain others dry. I seek to control others for my own purposes. The only way I know to secure this pillar is by reading Matthew 6. Over, and over again. Jesus reminds me. I am seen. I am heard. I am known. I am loved. If the love of my Creator, Redeemer, and Heavenly Father is not enough, how in the world will others love be? But when I am secure in the love of God, I am free to engage in messy relationships. I am free to be myself, and allow others to do the same. I can be known, and know others.
- When I am insecure, I try to fix others. There is nothing that will take my attention off my own insecurities, and sin, like attempting to fix other’s problems. Let me clarify. I am not talking about humbly serving as a means of following Christ’s example and getting my eyes off myself. I need that quite often. There is a difference between helping others, and attempting to fix others. Helping happens when I hear others’ expressed needs, and come alongside them as they seek Christ. Fixing is when I take over the Holy Spirit’s job and try to tell others what their needs are, as I guide them to my own preconceived outcome. As believers, I think this has caused an incredible amount of harm inside and outside the kingdom. My own sense of inadequacy, and insecurity feeds the desire to do something meaningful. I need results. Results feed my self-righteousness. When I can’t fix others, I get angry. What’s wrong with them?! What’s wrong with me?! Why are we so angry with a world for whom Jesus died? We can’t fix them. It says more about us, than it does them. I can’t fix anyone, including myself. Even if I could, I would be creating an idol for others to worship. It’s one of the reasons Christian celebrity pastors are so appealing. In our eyes, they are “fixers,” and we worship them accordingly. The truth is, only the Holy Spirit can fix anyone. When I agree with Jesus that His power is sufficient, I let myself off the hook. I am not responsible FOR anyone. I am responsible TO follow Jesus’ direction, and accept His righteousness. It might look like helping, but fixing is really just looking for a worshipper.
It doesn’t matter how much rope I use, when I secure myself to something that is itself movable. I lash myself to achievements, encouraging words, abilities, and even relationships, all of which are movable. Tied with increasingly better knots of human effort, I swear this time it will hold. The truth is, Christ alone is my secure foundation. When I receive His forgiveness, I can forgive myself, and others, letting go of anger. When I receive his Righteousness, I can confess my sin to others without worry of appearances. When I recognize His sovereignty, I can relinquish my role as fixer, and release my grip on people and stuff. In Him, I have no need to worship myself, or to have anyone else worship me. Without fear of upsetting others, or losing their worship, I can be bold. I can be me.