On our jobs we are constantly reinforced to be growing, developing and improving. In many companies each year we get set down with our boss or HR person and given an annual performance review. We have spelled out to us the things we are good at that we should continue and the areas we should improve. Together these become a grading of comparison of our peers and we get rated and ranked. If we do what we are being asked then we double down on ourselves and we take our talents and we try and become better and better. There is nothing wrong with that, to a point. When is it that the focus becomes too much on ourselves that it gets in the way of working well with other?
There is a good lesson in C.S. Lewis’ classic, “The Screwtape Letters” . The book is a set of instructional letters on how to corrupt and gain control of the soul of a man. It is written from one devil (Screwtape) to another devil (Wormwood). On the topic of our talents and focus, Screwtape tells Wormwood this: “To anticipate the Enemy’s (God’s) strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy (God) wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy (God) wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents.” Wow. Of course, that is what God wants. He wants us to be selfless and never to take ourselves and our talents so seriously that it gets in the way of our caring for others and our love and relationship with Him. When we start to focus so much on ourselves that we begin to get in the way of others or worse yet, we become competitive, envious or jealous, then we know we have crossed the line.
It’s clear in the Ten Commandments that we are not to covet anything of others, that would be their talents and skills as well. So today, think through, just how seriously are you taking yourself? Is it healthy, or have you crossed over and begun to put yourself too far up the pedestal? If you find yourself making comparisons (position, title, salary) to others in your profession and fretting when someone else gets an assignment and you don’t, or worrying about what it is going to be like if someone else gets promoted over you, then it is time to take the test of yourself and then stop taking yourself that seriously.
Reference: Exodus 20:17 (New Living Testament), C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”