Let Go My Ego

By Fr. Chris Metropulos of
Come Receive the Light National Orthodox Christian Radio Network

No matter what era of Church History you choose, Orthodox Church fathers are always warning us about the power of pride to short circuit our spiritual maturity.

Listen to this quote from Hesychios the Priest: “Just as it is impossible to fight battles without weapons, or to swim a great sea with clothes on, or to live without breathing, so without humility and the constant prayer to Christ it is impossible to master the art of inward spiritual warfare or to set about it and pursue it skillfully.”

Humility seems to be a lost virtue in today’s world where demanding one’s “rights” is seen as a badge of honor rather than a symptom of a spiritual weakness. From our early years we seem to be encouraged to protect our ego above all else, and to insist that everyone around me consider me as special and important.

To be sure, you are special. You are, in fact, a free and unrepeatable person created in God’s very Image intended to ultimately be in His Likeness. You are created to be God’s eternal companion. You were meant for eternal things. You were made to share in God’s very nature. Anything less than this is a denial of your worth and beauty, and a rejection of Christ’s precious gift of salvation and life.

But here is where the paradox comes in: if you spend your life seeking after your “rights” or trying to get “what’s due you” you feed the very self-centerness that wars against you actually becoming what you were meant to be. You fall into the trap that the fathers called “prelest” or spiritual pride.

A wise man once said that “we get what we need many times by going through the door of its opposite.” Jesus explained it this way “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

So, how do we avoid spiritual pride AND remember the purpose for which we were created? We have to avoid the spiritual pride that makes us self-centered and avoid the false humility of despair that leads to self-centeredness as well.

Here are three insights into a Christian self esteem based on humility and love for God:

First, A Christian Self Esteem is God Centered. I am not special by myself. I am special because of the Gift of Life given to me. God gave me life so there is nothing I have done to merit existence. This attitude alone has the power to undo the influence of arrogant self-centeredness. My trouble comes when I forget that all my life is a gift. When I foolishly believe that somehow I “deserve” special treatment, I find myself looking at others as “less than” me, and in doing that I insult the image of God in them. Not only is this silly, it is spiritual suicide!

Second, A Christian Self Esteem is Christ Focused. Jesus Christ is the Perfect Man. Now He is also fully Divine as God’s Son, but He is also perfect in His humanity. In Him we see the mature and healthy attitude toward self esteem. He knew Who He was, but stooped to wash His disciples’ feet. It is this Christ centered humility that frees me from demanding sp0ecial treatment and allows me to become a servant rather than demanding my rights. Jesus knew Himself and was confident in His mission, so He was free to serve, not worrying about whether He was being abused or mistreated.

Finally, A Christian Self Esteem is Service Oriented. When I come to see myself as God created me to be, I am set free from having to “defend my rights” and am liberated to be the servant to all who come to me. When I know why I was created and to Whom I belong, then nothing anyone else does to me has power to lessen my soul or demean my person. I am made for God and God Alone has power over who I am. In eternity I will be His companion and dwell forever with Him. As the scripture declares “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Courageously facing the challenge of a proper Christian self esteem means denying the shortcut of spiritual pride and asking God to help you overcome your own ego so you can be who you were meant to be. Hard work, but worth every effort.

This week I am thrilled to welcome back a favorite guest, Fr. Stanley Harakas. Fr. Stanley helps us see the value in a serious appreciation for our Orthodox theology. Don’t miss it.

Until next week.
Yours for the spread of Orthodoxy,
Fr. Chris Metropulos

P.S. How did Share The Light Sunday go at your parish? If you didn’t recognize Share The Light Sunday last week, you still have time. Don’t let your parish miss the benefits of being a Share The Light Parish. Email me at mailto:frchris@receive.org for more information or visit our website.

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