An article caught my attention recently, and I found it to be interesting reading. The writing centered on the word “ego” and what it basically means in our lives. I have often heard a person say, “That guy has such an ego.” Or perhaps, “That woman thrives on her own ego.” But what do they mean?
One writer describes ego as the “I complex.” In other words, life is all about the one person, and they thinks they’re more perfect than their counterparts. Generally, it is difficult to be around someone with a big ego even if they haven’t accomplished a lot to brag about in their life.
Big egos come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Their voices may sound different, but the message is nearly the same. “I am important. You are not. I am better than you. My family is better than your family. I have made more money than you. I live in a bigger home. My children – or God forbid, my grandchildren – are more brilliant than yours.” You don’t have to be a star athlete, a successful actor, a rich businessman or a beautiful woman. In fact, many people who are not physically blessed, time honored or owners of vast fortunes have these huge egos that constantly must be stoked like the big morning fire in the hearths of old.
Folks with big egos, or way too much self pride, often surround themselves with “yes men and women,” those who do their bidding at the nod of a head, or continuously give affirmation to silly ideas, big plans and lewd suggestions. They don’t want honesty. They want agreement and obedience.
Another writer I followed said “the deeply buried but ever-present intuition that you are the center of the universe that gives rise to feelings and beliefs in one’s uniqueness and specialness.” Interestingly, in Yoga terminology, the word for ego is “Ahamkara” and literally means the “I-maker,” and the state that ascertains that “I know.”
Zen Master Phillip Kapleau said that ego is that shadowy, phantomlike figure with insatiable desires and a lust for dominance that sits astride the senses like some oriental potentate. Or, to change the simile, ego is like a magician carrying up his sleeve the deadly tricks of greed, anger and wrong thinking. Worse, these ego bearers are quite capable of rationalizing their actions with an air of sweet reasonableness. This wily and slippery conjurer deludes us into believing we can enjoy the delights of the senses without pain or accountability only by delivering ourselves into his hands.
I’ve known a few people that are burdened with huge egos, most not earned or valued, and being around them for long periods of time can be a difficult tightrope to walk. I often felt I didn’t have the comfort and safety of a net or harness and really, all I could do was to take one day at a time and try to remember that this person or these people did not rule my life. Much of the time, they were striving for true acceptance, genuine love and companionship that they so desired to have in their lives, and going about it in a terrible way.
After reading each of these articles, I finally came to the conclusion that above and beyond any rendering I sought, the simple answer “edging God out” really describes this way of living the best. We don’t allow God to lead. We must be in control. God teaches us not to be selfish, not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, and to love our neighbors. Each time we feel that ego growing and blooming in our hearts and minds, let’s put to memory Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; In honor preferring one another.” If we can remember this verse, that old ego will die down and we can put God back in His proper place in our lives, and it will help us to get along better with our fellow man.
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.