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Eric's Sunday Sermon; Feed The Ego!
Life is good if we choose to make it so.
Do you feel ugly?
Perhaps today the poor concept of ego has gotten a bad rap. It is up there with words like discrimination and smoking. Hey they are just words with meanings they are not bad in and of themselves. I discriminate against a certain colored shirt that makes me look pale and if a barbeque is not smoking at some point it will not cook dinner. Last month coffee was good for you and this week it is not. Not too long ago “The Internet” had an image problem.
Let us look at the ego as something that just is. Not good or bad in itself but rather good or bad with what we make of it. I have an ego! There I said it, the cat is out of the bag. Sometimes I like my ego and sometimes I do not.
Let us start out with a little story about a simple man and his ego in these modern times.
The man had gained weight. Too much weight. Finally he joined a gym. He lost 25 pounds out of 265. He was actually getting into decent shape. At least the kind of shape where he could see all his body parts and tie his shoes and tuck in a shirt. On a certain day at a certain time at the gym while working out, for the first time in perhaps years, a young lady smiled at him with all pleasantness. The man beamed with confidence and continued his work out even harder. He was certain that he was looking like a good healthy human being again and that that was why the lady smiled at him.
I am I said.
I wonder if the flower knows that it is beautiful.
Once I thought I was lazy I became lazy.
Oh what fools we human are. We are so self-absorbed that we actually believe that what we see in ourselves is what the world sees in us. The story of the man getting back into shape needs no real further explanation if you have been there. But why the lady actually smiled at him requires just a moment of contemplation and revelation. You see the man went to the gym each day with a good friend who actually paid for his membership and encouraged him to exercise. When the man told his friend of the smile he had received the friend nodded and smiled in return and then laughed out loud. When the man asked his friend what was so darn funny the friend compassionately replied that the man was doing great but still presented no great body that a woman would smile over. When the man further questioned “well then what the heck?” The friend merely broadened his smile and told the man that that morning before the workout and during, the man was smiling. It was the first time the friend had actually seen a good healthy smile on the man for perhaps years.
Our man is so typical of all of us.
In this case the man suffered from depression. While it seems that his weight gain could have been caused by the depression and not the depression due to weight gain, certainly they exacerbated each other. Most assuredly nothing could be better for the man suffering so than good healthy exercise and weight loss. But what happened here is that the man became obsessed with his weight and therefor his appearance. At one point he must have reached the conclusion that if he looked better then things would be better. He apparently cared how the lady looked at him so it must have been important to him. If you like a flare for the dramatic just change our man into a young teenage girl and it amplifies the idea.
But long before he had lost enough weight and transformed himself into Adonis something happened. He viewed himself differently. And in such a new view he was happier and with the happier came a look of happy and a warm welcoming smile in return. Of course no one would consider telling the man to stop exercising and just concentrate on improving your view of yourself, but the thought does cross our minds.
One time my brother and I were watching the late John Balushi do some amazing dance moves in his character of a Blues Brother. The guy was clearly much to overweight to move so well like that. My very wise big brother sighed, raised his eyebrows and concluded that no one had bothered to tell Balushi that he was too fat. The point is fantastic and says much about our human ego.
You are loved.
Who is the boss? You or your ego?
There was a kid that was youngest of a whole bunch of children. Growing up exceptions were made so that the youngest basically cheated his way into inclusion. It was just a given that he needed a helping hand to compete among the elder children. All well and good except that idea that he was not quite good enough to make it on a level playing field stuck with him. Even as an adult with an advanced degree and sound professional life he felt that he did not deserve his achievements. You guessed it, he engaged in self-destructive behavior that sabotaged his life and left him fulfilling his own feelings of worthlessness. Probably the outcome would have been different if he had been allowed to fail more and learned to accept himself for who he was.
So there you have it; the ego causing all kinds of despair. No wonder why it gets such negative press. But let us take a look at our smiling man. Somehow he changed. Instead of beating himself up and feeling depressed about his condition he took some steps. Of course with the help of his friend; we need our friends. In simply doing something positive he began to feel positive. It was not the results for the results were not yet obtained. And then in the feeling of positive he began to act and look positive. He fed his ego happy thoughts. He began to look at himself as something good again.
Our egos are fragile and malleable. They seem to bend with the wind. But one thing is certain and that is that we can shape our own egos. Conscious recognition of our egos and a modicum of effort can convert our egos into working tools for ourselves. And if we can so shape our egos for our own benefit yes indeed we can shape them also for the benefit of others.
I admit it, I would be proud if I made this art.
How about you?
Do you have a healthy ego?
Be proud that you are a child of God.
I just heard someone back there in the rear pews mutter that this is not a Sunday Sermon. That this is all about some psychobabble new age wingnut self-improvement stuff. Well to that I say; good you got the point to some degree.
At this time in the “sermon” I could stay on track with some suggestions like “positive affirmations”, “cognitive therapy” or a recommendation for some of the latest mood altering prescription drugs. But alas I am but a poor preacher man and this is a Sunday Sermon.
Now we deal with another one of those maligned words: Pride. Just get over that Sunday school notion that pride is bad. That has no basis in any theological construct. Pride is our friend and too much pride is our spiritual deadly enemy. Pride is exactly where our ego needs to be. We need to be proud of ourselves. So many will react in a knee jerk fashion that pride is a deadly sin. Really? Nope, vain glory and too much pride are deadly sins. Pride keeps us looking good. Show me a man with no pride in himself and I will show you a disheveled unkempt mess of a man. Show me a man with no pride and I will show you the addict groveling and debasing themselves for more of their drug. Show me a man with no pride and I will show you someone who does not like, much less love themselves. A healthy sense of pride is exactly the place the ego needs to find itself.
Now here is where the sermon part comes in. The healthiest pride that a person can find is in knowing that they are loved and cherished by God. You, yes you the one muttering in the back pew, you are loved by God. You are a child of the most high. You are fully loved just the way you are. Now tell me which of the most downtrodden among us can feel that they are not worthy when they focus on how much they are loved? I feel better just declaring this good news to you. It amps me up and feeds me with positive thoughts just thinking about how much I am loved.
You may wonder how I am so sure about all this love. Well it does not come from a scripture or holy teaching. It does not come from another sermon I heard or from some lightning strike revelation. It comes first from a belief that this whole beautiful abundant world had to be somehow created. That there is one who is the Father of this creation. And then it comes from being a father. I just reflect on how much I as a human being I love my children. And then I realize how much more our Father who art in heaven must love his children.
Can I get an Amen brothers and sisters?