Unburdened: How ending my search for purpose allowed me to find peace.

Rick Warren, with his best selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” brought the search for purpose into the mainstream. To date millions of people in a desperate attempt to discover what their purpose is or at least make some sense of their lives have read his book and others like it . Many people have been greatly helped as they sincerely sought to discover their purpose by asking great questions about life, meaning, significance and eternity. I think you’ll agree that everyone could benefit from doing this type of soul searching.

Recently though I have become aware of a troubling trend. A trend found within many Christian circles, groups, organizations and in many churches. I have to admit I am guilty of being swept up by this trend too. My concern is that this trend threatens to undermine purposeful living. In effort to stress the need to discover one’s purpose teachers, authors and leaders may have caused purpose to become the new standard by which we judge a person’s value and worth.

There are several issues I have noticed since purpose has become more mainstream. A major factor is how some Christian leaders, including myself until recently, have been teaching about purpose.  Here are my concerns:

  1. When you attempt to gain meaning only from what you DO instead of who you ARE a troubling pattern emerges. First, you begin to base your worth and value as a human being on success, contribution and accomplishment. Second, you begin to judge other people’s worth and value based on their success, contribution and accomplishment. These two ideals oppose a very important basic belief that many people accept. People like the founding fathers (see the Declaration of Independence), Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the person they got the idea from – Jesus. They all believed that all people have innate value and worth based on one truth. All men are created equal. Everyone is created in the image of God.
  2.  Purpose has now become institutionalized instead of personal. In other words organizations, churches, etc. are teaching that without them you can’t know your purpose. Or they will tell you that you should seek to discover what your purpose is and they will be glad to help you but then proceed tell you they know what your purpose is. Your purpose is to serve in their organization, give to their organization, or join their organization. Once you begin to do those things you will discover your purpose because those things are your purpose. Yet, even though the individual may feel good about those things because in many cases doing those things are good things to do the individual is no closer to discovering his or her purpose. I might add that the person is no better off because he or she has unknowingly exchanged institutional purpose for personal responsibility.  (That can be good especially when what one’s purpose has been to indulge in rebellion and sin. But that is a fledgling type of faith that all new Christians need and experience as they learn what it means to live in Christ).  Be cautious: “I will follow the institution” may replace “I will seek and follow Christ.”

    Riding on the coattails of point 2 is the next point:

  3. Purpose is in danger of becoming the new legalism. It is the new standard for measuring a person’s faith, performance, devotion, relationship to God and righteousness. Much like the Pharisee’s of Jesus day who used the law to manipulate the masses and stay in control of the Jewish religious system some Christian Leaders, Churches and organizations have with good intentions unintentionally “institutionalized” purpose.

Don’t get me wrong I do believe that a person who is connected to a healthy body of believers will be motivated to discover his purpose and to live purposefully. But purpose has almost become a measurement used to discover who is greater, better, more devoted, more obedient, more sacrificial, etc. Worse, some Church leaders use a person’s deep longing to have meaning to manipulate, control and guilt them into action. Even worse (and this is why it is the new legalism) finding your purpose is being promoted with such veracity in some circles that it becomes the new law that needs to be observed in order to attain, sustain or improve a person’s standing with God. In other words, purpose has become a works based righteousness instead of something that flows out of an abiding, faith in, relationship with Jesus.

So, we’ve come full circle. Is one’s worth and value found by “doing” or “being”? Surely since “you are” you have inherent worth and value. Jesus died for you before you did anything – good or bad. Since, that is true your inherent value and worth cannot be increased by what you do including; perfectly living in God’s perfect will. Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying because “doing” will erupt out of “being”. (I will share in an upcoming post how I believe we can know our value and worth. Surprisingly, it is by recognizing the inherent value and worth in others. Hint: It’s found in The Greatest Commandment.)

However, that is not how “Purpose” is being taught, therein lies the danger of it becoming new version of works-based righteousness. When purpose is taught as “You have to find and live in your purpose or you won’t be acceptable or pleasing to God” it becomes a works based righteousness. Can you see the danger in that line of reasoning?

In the next post I intend to explore “purpose” more. I intend to address our tendency to stress over and worry whether or not we are in “God’s perfect will for our lives”. As I now see it I find it hard to believe that many of the people whose lives are recorded in the Scripture continuously fretted over “discovering” their purpose or spent near as much time as we modern people do worrying about it.

 

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Humiliated?

Every person will experience humiliation at some point in his life. More than likely multiple times in a lifetime and to one degree or another experience some form of humiliation on a daily basis.

As I reflected on a recent humiliating event that occurred in my life I eventually began to ask these questions.

Can a humble person experience humiliation? 

Or more appropriately, how does a humble person experience humiliation? “How” as in how does a humble person receive and respond to an event that causes great humiliation. Specifically, events that one is not in control of, does not deserve and is mostly brought on by other people?

Can humiliation have long term “control” over a humble person?
What is the difference between the reactions of a prideful vs. humble person to humiliation?
The first conclusion I came to is of course a humble person can experience humiliation. Duh.

The prime example – Jesus. There are many Scripture references that describe Jesus’ humility. Philippians 2 comes to mind.

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the
form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for
His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form
of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in
His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the
point of death —even to death on a cross.

 So Jesus who loved, served, cared for, healed, helped, and who is God experienced an unimaginable and undeserving humiliation. Talk about experiencing a humiliation that you don’t deserve! It was unfair and unjust.  Even if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God you still have to admit his crucifixion was unjust. He didn’t deserve it. He hadn’t done anything that demanded this type of response. He was innocent!

No doubt, you can reflect back on a humiliation that occurred in your life just as I can and say to some degree, “I didn’t deserve that!” But it happened.

So what do you do now? How do you respond? How do you move past it?

As I reflected over a great, unjust humiliation that occurred in my life I realized that it had allowed much pride to take root. Pride was keeping that event and all the emotions, etc. on life support. Pride was fueling my anger, my distrust and keeping me from moving past it.

My pride, not the event, was causing me to shut myself off from my future and from vital relationships.

Astonishingly, pride was actually empowering that past event. It was my pride that was greatly limiting my outlook and diminishing my hope for a better future. I couldn’t see past the humiliation. I couldn’t see how I would ever be useful again. And I blamed this all on “them” but in reality it was pride that had somehow craftily crept into my life.

It was like that humiliating event was the snake bite that allowed the poison of pride to be injected into my life. Or maybe it was that event that activated the pride that was already there.???

I can’t really tell you when pride first showed up. Was it there before the event? Most likely to some degree or another. Was it a result of the event or revealed by the event? All I can tell you is that pride is a nasty sin that can easily masquerade itself.

Pride blames, excuses, accuses, hates, dulls, demeans, eludes, hides, and causes one to unjustly question his self worth and value. Pride builds up but at the same time destroys. Satan wants your fall to be hard so that you will never attempt to stand again. So that you will give up. So that you will go through life blaming others for what you could have been but never reach your potential because you are afraid to take risk. You stop being willing to put yourself out there for fear of experiencing another humiliation. Or you put yourself out there in the wrong kind of ways? Regardless, pride builds up but pride destroys.

Pride builds one up like a towering skyscraper. But what pride doesn’t
show is that skyscraper is built with rusty, corroded rivets.
It’s beautiful, but it will eventually crumble under its own weight. 

How do you know if your prideful? Well, that humiliating experience still controls you. It is controlling your response to the humiliation. Pride is controlling how you see yourself, view today and view your future. All based on a past event. You just can’t get over it. That’s pride. That experience still makes you sick every time you think about it. That’s pride. You are still fighting against feeling humiliated by that humiliation. That’s pride. They’re, He, She, it is not going to get the best of me! That’s pride.

The only antidote to the poison of pride – confession and repentance. But what pride says is, “Hey wait, this happened to you. What do you have to repent of? You didn’t do anything wrong. They need to confess and repent not you.” But repentance is the only path back to humility and freedom from the power that humiliation has over you. And the reason it still has power over you – pride. It is in humility where you will find peace of mind and soul. It is in humility that you will able to properly evaluate your experience and actually gain valuable lessons for your future.

Maybe, the most important lesson is to guard yourself against pride like it is a lion trying to steal your baby.

Often people attempt to address the humiliation with accomplishment. “I’ll show you!” That’s pride. That’s also living an enemy centered life. If getting back or getting even is your is your motivation. That’s pride.

Someone has wisely stated, “Humility is a safeguard against humiliation”. I believe he was on to something. I don’t think this implies that a humble person will never experience humiliation. Remember Jesus? But I do think the effects of humiliation on a humble person are far less detrimental than to a prideful person. For me I have realized that I was still living with and reliving my humiliation. I’ll leave you with that. But now I have some confessing and repenting to do.