It’s Not About You — And It Never Was!

There’s always a certain amount of eye-rolling that goes on in a household overrun by teens and young adults. My husband and I are amazingly un-cool. His humor is entirely “Dad-jokes.” My questions and observations are overwhelming evidence that I’m over-thinking everything.  But here’s one tiny bit of wisdom that has been passed down without protest, maybe because it is so abundantly clear: “People who are all wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.”

Sharon Hodde Miller found the pull of this variety of self-focus to be stronger than gravity, robbing her of her joy and killing her confidence, for no accomplishment was ever stellar enough to overcome the downward pull of comparison; no applause was loud enough to drown out the self-condemnation; no audience was large enough to banish the feeling of invisibility.  What we’re all fighting is a “mirror reflex” (25) in which everything is a reflection of ourselves, leading to the tendency to shape our self-image around people, possessions, and profession and to live in a state of self-focus that will “make everything about you, even when it’s not about you.”

The writer of Hebrews has thrown the window open wide for all of us who live in the stuffy room of self absorption, inviting us to stop running the race distracted, focused on our cute sneakers and flawless form, and to “fix our eyes on the only One who can heal our wounds and set us free.” (35)

Living life as if it is all about me sends me off course in seven very specific ways. Sharon refers to them as “mirrors,” and in our own brokenness, they reflect back an image that has nothing to do with the real world as seen through God’s eyes.

  1. When you make God about you, it’s as if He exists to make you feel better about yourself, to serve you, to make your life easier, and to bring about your kingdom and your will on this earth.  Freedom comes when our life focus becomes the glory of God.
  2. When you make family about you, everything comes back to image management. Your kids, your husband, their accomplishments (or lack of same) either puff you up or deflate your bubble. Here’s the truth: “The purpose of your family is not to make you look good. The purpose of your family is not to make you comfortable. . . The purpose of your family is to love your family and other families. The purpose of your marriage is to love God and the world better than you could have done it alone.” (67, 68)
  3. When you make your appearance about you, it becomes an idol, a demanding tyrant. Preoccupation with appearance drives a wedge between women. The alternative (and healthy) view is “compassion over comparison.” “[O]ur goal is not to be the cutest girl in the room . . .” And on the flip side of this, physical imperfections become opportunities to “relinquish our splendor” in humility and grace. (77, 78)
  4. When you make your possessions about you, your hope is in something that is very temporary and unreliable. Sharon unpacks Paul’s instructions to women about modesty in I Timothy with an emphasis on the cultural context of extravagance — apparently a problem in New Testament days as well! The modesty Paul argued for was a path to decrease their own glory and to exalt God by hoping in Him rather than in wealth.
  5. When you make your friendships about you, you will operate out of a position of perceived rejection and continual loneliness. “Our friendships are for us, but they are not about us. They exist primarily for the glory of God. They point us toward the perfect friendship we have with him, and as long as our friendships remain grounded in that truth, even the broken ones will be swept up into the arc of redemption.” (102) 
  6. When you make your calling about you, you will live in dissatisfaction with the present and may find yourself acting in disobedience to his calling in self-protection or self-promotion. Paul was a man who carried a heavy calling as if it were feathers on the scale because “he wasn’t living for his own glory, so nothing was on the line.” (112)
  7. When you make your church about you, suddenly your preferences have become essentials and your search for the “perfect” church will become a matter of consumerism. Sharon compares church attendance to marriage in that both are intended to grow us and to teach us perseverance — for better or for worse.

With the tendency for self-focus hard-wired into our fallen DNA, it would seem to be an impossible struggle to ever become Free of Me, and yet, there are four broad categories of healthful habits that can put us on the right path:

  • Loving God

  • Loving Others

  • Pouring Out from the Well of Your Gifts and Interests

  • Letting God Plant You and Trusting His Heart

Throughout Scripture’s narrative arc, God points to a redemptive plan in which all things will be redeemed — nothing will be wasted. Freedom comes when we see ourselves as part of God’s bigger story, crucially involved in the advancement of His vision for the world while swallowed up in the freedom and contentment of self-forgetfulness. Free of Me is an invitation to throw off the burden of self-focus and to find worth and belonging within the larger context of an obedient following that is all about Christ, His purposes, and His glory.

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This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Additional resources

Read more of Sharon’s journey at her website, where you will also find her blog and resources related to ministry and leadership.

Jamie Ivey interviewed Sharon on The Happy Hour podcast in which they chatted about the way Sharon met her husband, getting her PhD, supporting women in ministry and cheering others on in their unique giftings.

Sharon also shared her story and her book on Melanie Dale’s podcast, Lighten Up! Besides a sneak peek into the concepts behind Free of Me, Sharon talks about what it’s like to be pregnant and professional, falling asleep in class, and resisting the temptation to become cynical in  ministry roles.

This review is coming just in time to be part of #NotAboutMeNovember, an entire month in which we seek God and seek ways we need to make life more about Jesus and less about us. I’m sharing it here along with a crew of other bloggers who are inspired by the goal of making much of Jesus — and less of ourselves!

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Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

73 thoughts on “It’s Not About You — And It Never Was!”

  1. Michele,

    I really enjoyed this post and can’t wait to get my hands on Free of Me. I heard the interview on the Happy Hour and found the conversation intriguing – thank you so much for sharing!

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  2. I love Sharon’s comparison of church attendance like a marriage – for better or worse. There is no perfect church and though there can be deal breakers that make leaving the right choice (just like there are deal breakers in marriage) sticking it out for me has been the right choice. There were times when I wanted to leave and seek another church but stayed because of the love I have for God and the people who mean so much to me.

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  3. I’m encouraged this book addresses this. I hope it opens eyes. It is my observation and conclusion that, in this self-absorbed age, the striving toward the illusion of perfection of ‘self’ is but another tool of satan to change our focus away from Christ. It’s been a decades long slow process, one little change heaped upon the growing pile. I noticed this in the 80’s as the me me me generation was nurtured with encouragement to ‘be your best self!’ So subtle it was, promoted by lifestyle, advertising, music, even school lessons gently segued developing minds from looking out and up to looking in.

    Remember the old song lyrics – ‘I found the greatest love of all inside of me – the greatest love of all is easy to achieve – learning to love yourself- it is the greatest love of all…’ The first time I heard that song I thought – how narcissistic is that? But I knew better than to point that out at the time – it was so well received.

    So now I see something else that is evolving from all this – the next level after creating the Great Narcissist Era – and perhaps it was the goal. This time I’ll just say it – I’m braver now than I was in the 80‘s.

    Self-righteousness has become a religion. Predictable? Only if one understands that anything that pulls us to the polar opposite of Christ can be credited to the dark principalities we are constantly at war with.

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    1. And so many worship at The Church of the Wonderful Me! I’m glad you are encouraged by the presence of Sharon’s book — me, too. And I loved reading it because of all the work I need to do in unseating myself from the center of the universe.

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    2. Meema, I love the wisdom your bring to the table based on your observations over time. You are such a gift to the Body! It’s easy to be absorbed in the values culture applauds. We need dissenting voices! Thank-you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post about what looks to be an intriguing book. But one part caught me and stuck with me: the part about family & marriage. I loved this perspective. It’s a game changer! 🙂

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  5. Whoa, this was really good and timely. An Apple Genius wiped my computer clean. I told him he had to be sure he could put it all back because everything I do is on it. He assured me he could. That was over a week ago and no one has been able to retrieve it off my back-up. I’m sick I may have lost years of work. My prayers have been pretty me focused.

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      1. Michele, the group I took my computer to called yesterday. I should get my computer back today. Praise God they rescued my docutments. They’re in a formatted mess, but God saved them! I’m thanking God for one persistent tech who wouldn’t give up.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, this hits right where it hurts on several fronts. Someone once put it that we’re all the star of our own show and see everyone else as supporting players. That is so awful, and yet so true. Sometimes I wish I could just repent of self-absorption once and for all and then not have a problem with it any more. But that doesn’t seem to be the way it works. I need these reminders occasionally to get the focus off myself and on to God and others, and hopefully I’ll grow in that more and more.

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    1. Love your proposed scheme for once-and-for-all repentance. It does seem as if we prefer to repeat and repent when it comes to all our pet sins. Thankful to be growing and leaning into this following life alongside you, Barbara. Thanks for reading.

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  7. Thanks for sharing Sharon’ book and a few of her insights. A colleague and I were talking about this very thing yesterday. It’s amazing how everything changes when we shift from all about me thinking to all about God’s will and His Kingdom. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

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  8. Once again the book sounds perfect for me. I tend to get inside my head sometimes and in those moments I am caught in a place of me, me, me. Now I am sure it’s not always bad but honestly, I know I function better when I get outside of myself and give it to God.

    I love these words —> Freedom comes when we know we are part of God’s bigger story. That is what I need to post on my mirror as a reminder each day. Thank you!

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  9. This looks like a great book, and your review was a great inspiration to me this morning. I am working on something that might have become “About Me” instead of what it should be about. GOD! I think that is why I am struggling with it. Thank you for redirecting my thoughts. Now I can’t wait to stop procrastinating and start working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, it’s great when we can read something that helps us put our finger on an area of need. Glad Sharon’s thoughts have done that for you today, and hoping your project goes well now that you have your bearings.

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  10. Wow Michele, this is so pointedly pertinent. One of the best bits of heaven will be self-forgetfulness. In the meantime it seems like such a daunting fight of faith. The eyes of my soul are so readily and naturally fixated in the wrong places! But He will do His good work…I appreciate that this book includes not just the diagnosis but the therapy for cure–healthy habits to carry us through this life until we have what we have hoped for ( : Thank you for your thorough review–for digesting this for us and giving us its essence, for sharing your giftedness and so blessing us all!

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    1. Shades of Screwtape’s advice to the contrary came to mind as I read your good point about self-forgetfulness and heaven. I can actually remember when that early childhood season of un-self-conscious living was starting to peter out and the heaviness that descended as it left. Third or fourth grade, I think. I’m sure it’s much younger these days. It will be wonderful to be a “child” again, won’t it!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Culture does seem to encourage us to focus on ourselves so I think this is an important topic. I’ve actually got a review copy of this which I’ll be reading soon so this post whets my appetite. It sounds like it will be a helpful read!

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  12. Great review, Michele! This book sounds great and like one I definitely need to read. It’s SO hard to stop making everything about me. I think I’m not doing that, but then when I strip down many of my sins or struggles, I find a self-obsession or self-glorification at the root of them. I’ll suggest this book for my church library, as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a wonderful, thought provoking post and review, Michele. It really is so important to keep God at the centre of everything we do. Thank you so much for sharing with us at The Hearth and Soul Link Party. I hope you are having a blessed week!

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  14. Michele, what a timely book for our culture. I’ve been guilty of making some things all about me. Do you remember that worship song that came out a number of years ago? The chorus said, “It’s all about You, now. It’s all about You right now. It’ll always be about You.” Yeah, well, I’ve been guilty of living that song out with the one word change of “You” to “me.” God’s gotten on me. 😉

    The one about friendships got me thinking. For years, I interacted in my friendships with reservations, in observer mode, because I was just waiting for them to reject me (my wound). God has had to rewire my thinking a lot in this department.

    It seems like the author nails it with where our focus needs to be: On God and on others. Great post and super sounding book!

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  15. I’ve been guilty of doing all of these, Michele. Sounds like a powerful and much-needed book for me! And I love that saying you have in your family! I’m going to snag it and start spouting to others AND MYSELF, whenever this destructive habit creeps in! 😉

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  16. What?? You mean all these AREN’T??? thanks for this great review – you are a wonder and your kids will quote you for eternity, as well they should.

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  17. This post made me smile. (Or want to cry???) because I’ve been asking God to change my self-centered heart and “all about me” attitudes. Last summer I read a thought on Lisanotes.com where she said we make life into a movie, and we’re the stars. We cast every one else in our lives as supporting actors in our movie, but we forget they all have movies too, in which they themselves are the stars! (Of course what I really want is to make God the star of my movie…) 🙂

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  18. Another excellent review with plenty of takeaways to consider honestly. You’ve included bonuses of links to hear more of the author – win! Thank you, Michele!

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  19. Wow, so convicting yet needed. I found my heart tangled with some of those. If you ask to be more like God, He answers. We must continually check our motives, right? Thanks for sharing, Michele!

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  20. Steppin’ on my toes a little bit here, Michele! My mom has this phrase she uses when she feel like I’m making a situation more about me than is reasonable or necessary or healthy. She says, quite simply, “Get over yourself.” How can you even argue with that! Thanks for the challenge to get over myself today! Blessings!

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