Friday, September 23, 2005

The Discipline of Ego

Last night we had our friends, I will call them Randy and Safia, over for supper. We have known them for fifteen years and, though we have lived on different sides of the world most of that time, we always enjoy renewing our friendship.

One of the reasons I like about being around Randy and Safia is that they are the most unpretentious people I have ever met. He holds a couple of Master’s degrees, and is well spoken. Safia is from a high caste and is well connected within the city, from the President down. Yet they are unassuming, never drop names nor, like so many in this world, try to impress with what they have or what they have accomplished.

Forty-eight hours earlier, as my aged parents took me to the airport, they asked me if I was flying business class? My twin brother, who is presently in Uzbekistan, often travels business or first class, so I guess they thought I would too. I use to get upgrades to the front part of the plane, but these days it’s strictly coach and the best I can hope for is I don’t get stuck I a middle isle. I sheepishly confessed, no, “I’m flying coach.”

In the past week I’ve been reading a series of studies dealing with the discipline of life. One area of discipline is self-esteem or the battle of ego. Some people fight esteem issues more than others, though I suspect everyone struggles with self-image. Some have an enlarged and inflated ego, others suffer from low-self esteem.

In the world of ministry I live I’ve seen many who have chased the prize of being somebody. Whether it is pastoring a large church, being known as a great singer or being a great radio/television evangelist, it’s interesting to see people who are mere disciples of the Carpenter jostle for position of prominence. National pastors are as bad, sometimes worse, than North Americans. A lover of titles, they often insist they be called “The Doctor, Bishop, Reverend Samuels.” Many of them only fly first class and would never think about taking a train.

Of course there is nothing wrong with flying business class, having a title or ambition. I often use my title as leverage and would prefer to have a strong self-esteem rather than an unhealthy self-loathing. However, I have noticed down through the years those who chase recognition are very much like those who seek fortune where the pursuit dominates their personalities and becomes their undoing. When one becomes obsessed with being known the accolades are never satisfying, their ego is never stroked to satisfaction.

Down through history it has always been the humble that have gained the most admiration. From Jesus to Paul, from William Carey to Mother Teresa, those who walked humbly were in the end most admired. I guess that’s why I enjoy being around Randy and Safia, they model a Christ-like humility

As I pass the oversized seats of business class to find my narrow little uncomfortable seat in row forty-eight, I will cast a wishful eye. However, I hope I will keep my ego in-check, maintain the attitude of humility of a Albert Schweitzer who, when asked why he rode third class on the train, answered simply, “Because there isn’t a fourth class.”