Summary: Much of the time we prove Pogo right. It is the enemy within who defeats us more often than the foe without.
"We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Much of the time we prove Pogo right. It is the enemy within who defeats us more often than the foe without. Distorted and inaccurate concepts of ourselves result in failure. Sometimes we value our own ideas too highly; at other times we underestimate our abilities. Either way, we set ourselves up to fail in our relationships with God and people around us.
You can be your own worst enemy. You can let your ego loom so large that it crushes you under its inflated weight. You can spend your life indulging self and never recognizing the needs of others or the claims of God on your own life. On the other hand, you can lose sight of God’s precious promises and let life beat you down to the point where you are a worthless nobody in your own sight. Either distortion is a crippling burden to bear.
Did you ever walk by the mirrors that distort your reflection? Sometimes you see yourself as a tall, thin character with arms and legs that bow and curve. Around the corner you see a short, squatty person without a neck or legs. Our minds can work like those tricky mirrors to make us distort the way we see ourselves and to ruin our lives.
The Bible describes men and women who were their own worst enemies because of wrong self-images. Scripture also shows us how God viewed those people and how he made it possible for them to think more soberly and to amount to something in his plan.
The Inflated Ego
The person with an inflated ego confuses the creature with the Creator. Blinded by an exaggerated sense of self-importance, he is unable to see himself in a healthy perspective. "The Big I" depends only on himself and leaves God out of his plans. Because his own desires are all-important to him, he fails to see the value of others’ dreams or contribute to meeting their needs.
Sometimes it seems as if a whole generation is intent on drowning itself in a pool of personal pronouns --- I, me, my, and mine. Ours has, in fact, been dubbed "The Me Generation." Enamored of ourselves, we have become lost in our own reflections. Like Narcissus, we are unable to leave our looking glasses.
Looking Our for Number One is the conscious, rational effort to spend as much time as possible doing those things which bring you the greatest amount of pleasure and less time on those which cause pain. Let’s look at some individuals in Scripture. Two lived by the principle of self-seeking; another rejected a self-centered lifestyle.
A Farmer and a Pharisee
Jesus once told the story of a successful farmer:
The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, "What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops."
Then he said, "This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
And I’ll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12:16-19)
Eleven times in three sentences he uses a first-person pronoun. Never does he make any of his plans contingent on the will of God (James 4:13-16). But God called the man a fool and announced that his life would be demanded that very night!
Self-reliance carried to ridiculous extremes leaves one adrift with no support system. If we depend only on ourselves, to whom can we turn when our plans fail to work out?
The inflated ego feels no need for God. It will disobey God because of too great a reliance on its own security or intelligence. If it doesn’t make sense to him, he sees no need for doing what God commands. He ignores the biblical warning that man’s ways are not God’s and sets out to chart his own course for living. Submission to the authority and will of God is an impossibility for the self-sufficient and self-indulgent person.
The inflated ego has erected a shrine in her own heart and pays all her homage there. James says we must humble ourselves before the Lord and then allow him to life us up (James 4:10). How much better to be lifted up by the Lord than to stand on a self-erected pedestal!
On another occasion, Jesus directed a lesson to those who were "confident of their own righteousness." He told of a certain man and quoted part of his prayer: "God, I thank you that I am not like all other men ---robbers, evildoers, adulterers --- or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get" (Luke 18:11-12). He then contrasted that prayer of an inflated ego with the prayer of the tax collector to whom he had referred.