“I used to think I was doing it for other people. Turned out I was doing it for myself.”
Mercifully, this post doesn’t have anything to do with Joel or Victoria Osteen. It does have to do with motivations, though, and what makes us – or, more specifically, me – do the things we do.
The majority of our church service this week consisted of watching a portion of Chip Ingram’s video Becoming a Romans 12 Christian. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of watching videos during a church service. Something about it just feels sort of cold and impersonal, because the person in the video doesn’t know anything about me. I guess it also strikes me as an easy way out for the person facilitating the service that day, since they don’t have to prepare as much to say. My judgmentalism, ladies and gentlemen, knows no bounds sometimes.
The video, however, was mainly meant as a jumping off point for a larger discussion on what it means to be an authentic Christian. Church discussions are something I do love, because I feel as if I’m getting to know the people around me better when they talk about their beliefs and struggles. The gentleman facilitating this particular discussion said some very striking things near the end of his presentation about feeling accepted and putting on a different face to gain that acceptance from others.
I approached him after the service and told him how much I appreciated what he said, and his response totally floored me. I’m sure I won’t get this exactly right, but here is the gist of what he said to me: “All of my life, I’ve always been very polite. I was always right there to open a door for someone or see if they needed help. I had such a need for acceptance and approval. I was trying to get something from them. I used to think I was doing it for other people. Turned out I was doing it for myself.”
I’m not sure if my jaw hit the floor when he said this, but I’m pretty sure I blew a fuse in my brain. I think I even said, “That’s me. That’s totally me.” I hadn’t even thought about it until he said those words. I’ve always tried to be a nice guy, never upsetting anyone, never eager to rock the boat. I did this in the name of being a good human being and doing what I was supposed to do. I am desperate for approval, though, even when that works to the detriment of the overall situation.
I was doing it for myself, too.
Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Love Languages, might classify me as a “words of affirmation” type of person, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. Positive words are a wonderful thing, but when the need for them begins to override common sense there is a problem. For example, I’ve let employee situations go way longer than they should have simply because I was afraid of coming off as the bad guy and having someone not like me. I try to serve others, but I’m always looking for that pat on the back, that compliment, or that expression of surprise that I was actually competent at what I was doing. On the outside, I shrug these off, but on the inside, they are pure gold to me.
Realizing this is a game-changer for me. In fact, I don’t know what to do with it. What’s my identity now? The standard answer is, “Your true identity is in Christ“, and this is true. How does that work in real life, though? I think it has to do with genuine love, but sometimes I feel as if I need more of a hard edge to me. It’s like someone kicked a hornet’s nest in my brain, and now I have to process all the new information flying around.
I’m not sure, but I think I’ve even been writing this blog as much for what I could get out of it than what it could give anyone else. I’m not sure that’s totally wrong, but it’s on my mind now. Maybe not doing it for myself would be the best thing I could do for myself.