We officially live in a selfie culture. In 2013, the Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” its word of the year. Let that marinate for a minute. There’s more. A recent study showed half of American adults have snapped a selfie. Selfies have replaced dogs as “man’s best friend.”
Let’s not pretend selfies are a new phenomenon. Photographers have snapped selfies in the form of portraits for years. Today, however, selfies are more readily accessible. Rather than calling a photographer or asking mom to get out the camera, selfies can come out and play anytime. Morning. Night. Lunch. Japan. America. Antartica. And the feedback is instantaneous.
But here’s the kicker. Social media. Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat give selfies enormous popularity. From jocks to nerds, from CEOs to construction workers, selfies are loved by almost everyone.
While social media affords us opportunities never imagined before, these opportunities often come with a price. Slowly and subtlety, we can become selfie-centered. And a selfie-centered Christian portrays a false picture of God.
Here are 8 signs you are a selfie-centered Christan.
1.) YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED.
When someone offends you, it should function as a red flag. I believe we get offended, generally speaking, for one of two reasons: discontent or pride. A selfie culture breeds defensive postures. Life is about us. When someone attacks our self-worth, we get defensive.
If this is true, Christians should take notice. Having worked as an engineer and a church leader, I can confidently (and sadly) say Christians are the most defensive group of people around. It’s strange, really. If you follow Jesus, you should be a fish swimming upstream, a counter-cultural model our world needs desperately. Instead, Christians are more sensitive to others’ remarks than most non-Christians. Why is this?
Jesus was never offended. You won’t find Jesus saying, “I can’t believe that Pharisee called me a heretic. Can you believe that John? He’s ugly and stupid.” Jesus was never offended because he was humble. Humility is the antidote to defensiveness.
Humility doesn’t allow you to elevate yourself too high. Humility forces you to consider other people before yourself. If you’re a Christian, it’s time to stop getting offended. Get off the high horse. Start thinking about others.
2.) YOU HAVE A “NEVER ENOUGH” MINDSET.
Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, says scarcity breeds a “never enough” mindset. Scarcity says you lack something. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t successful enough. You aren’t smart enough. And so on.
Selfie-centered Christians focus on what they lack and what others have. They believe almost everything, from success to money, is finite. There’s only so much to go around. The spotlight only shines so bright.
What’s the result? Selfie-centered Christians are tight-fisted with everything, from their praise to their pocketbooks. They are plagued by discontent, shame, and disengagement.
Here’s the most toxic part, though. Selfie-centered Christians believe the answer to their “never enough” problem is abundance. “If I lose weight, I will be enough. If I buy a new car, I will be happy. If I become CEO, I will be content.”
The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance, it’s contentment. Selfie-centered Christians have a better chance of catching a Cheetah at full speed than catching contentment.
In a scarcity-driven culture, the response is contentment, not abundance.
To combat our scarcity-driven culture, we must fix our eyes on God. Our Father is a giver. He never lacks. And, when we find our value and worth in God, he fills every void, every insecurity, and hand-delivers the contentment we consider so allusive.
3.) YOUR MOOD SHIFTS, POSITIVELY OR NEGATIVELY, BASED ON THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS.
Selfie-centered Christians allow the opinions of others to determine their self-worth. Their mood shifts, positively or negatively, as they scan Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If the likes trend upward on their latest post, selfie-centered Christians feel better about themselves. If, however, their latest pic, the one they spent 30 minutes filtering, doesn’t receive any “love,” feelings of shame and unworthiness creep in.
When I started blogging, I wasn’t prepared for the attacks. I just loved to write. I wanted to share my experiences. But it wasn’t long before negativity knocked on my door. And, it’s strange, negativity seems to travel in packs.
Eventually, negativity busted through the door and into my heart. I doubted my gifts. I resented people, including those closest to me. I wasn’t able to differentiate between destructive cynicism and constructive criticism because my worth was tied to others.
Through all of it, God re-assembled the door to my heart. I want to challenge you to find your worth in God. Here’s what I believe that means. The standard for beauty isn’t a model photoshopped on a magazine. God created you beautiful. Stop competing against other people. It’s a lose/lose race. Your only competitor is you. You’re the greatest threat to your greatness. Don’t run from pain. It’s too easy. The path to joy is often messy and painful. Difficult conversations. Owning bad decisions. But, when you run from the hard stuff, you also run from the good stuff.
These were my lessons. Maybe they will help you.
4.) YOU THINK GOD NEEDS YOU TO HOLD IT TOGETHER, REGARDLESS OF THE MESS IN YOUR LIFE.
Selfie-Christians buy the perfectionism lie. Hold it together at all costs. Don’t let anyone see your flaws. Cover your imperfections. Sweep them under the rug. You must hold it together.
For men and women, perfectionism plays itself out differently. For women, perfectionism says you must accomplish everything effortlessly. You must stand strong with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can’t have weaknesses. The best mom, co-worker, sister, spouse, and friend. No exceptions.
For men, perfectionism says you must have all the answers. You can’t show pain or weakness, either emotionally or physically. You must excel at the office and at home. Your children can’t fail. Your marriage must be awesome. No mess ups.
As a leader in the church, father, husband, and friend, these pressures are real. They press hard on my heart and mind every day. God needs me to hold it together. No failures allowed. Vulnerability is weakness.
What a tragic and toxic lie selfie-Christians believe. God doesn’t need us to hold it together. In fact, the very opposite is true. Our imperfections shine the light on God’s perfection. The apostle Paul goes a step further and says our weakness make us strong (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
Perfectionism does not honor God because perfectionism is about us. Ultimately, our efforts to “hold it together” come from our desire to be accepted. We must be perfect to be valuable. So, we bury feelings of pain, failure, and inadequacy.
God’s power, his infinite, immeasurable power, waits for those who dare to show weakness.
5.) YOU HAVE FEW MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS.
According to a recent study, the average American has 338 Facebook friends. But here’s the dark side of our current culture. The average American has only two close friends, and 25% of Americans have zero close friends. That’s right, none.
My heart hurts as I read the stats above. In my darkest seasons, good friends prevented me from giving up. When faced with difficult decisions, I leaned on good friends for wisdom and direction. The impact of good friends on my life is indescribable.
Selfie-centered Christians aren’t willing to pay the price for meaningful relationships. They want a quick fix, and intimacy requires time. They want everyone to focus on them, and intimacy requires give-and-take. They refuse to show weakness, and intimacy requires vulnerability.
But, make no mistake, a meaningful, joy-filled life isn’t possible without deep, intimate friendships. God wires us for connection. He designs us for intimacy. In the absence of meaningful relationships, you find shame-filled, fear-driven, absent-minded people void of passion, creativity, and joy.
The price for intimacy is high, but we can’t afford not to pay it.
6.) YOU ARE YOUR OWN WORST CYNIC.
“Frank, you are your own worst critic.” If I heard that statement once, I heard it a thousand times. As a teenager, it was the most frequent statement from my mom other than, “Frank, get out of bed. You’re going to be late.”
Looking back, “critic” was the wrong word. I was actually my own worst cynic. Make no mistake. Healthy criticism, either from others or through self-evaluation, is important for growth. Without it, we lack self-awareness. What plagues our culture today is not healthy criticism. It’s destructive cynicism.
Cynicism is an inside-out job. Cynics spend years shooting themselves before aiming verbal bullets at others. Most cynics hurt others only after they have left their heart for dead.
Cynicism doesn’t allow for discussion or debate. Cynicism is threatened by risk-takers and noncomformers. The only way to appease a cynic is to agree with their point of view.
Followers of Jesus need to understand this about cynicism. It is sin. Every time. It’s pride, arrogance, fear, and selfishness wrapped up in one toxic, destructive ball. It has no place in the life of a Christian.
Cynicism is pride, arrogance, and fear wrapped in one toxic, sinful ball.
Christians are life givers. We affirm others. We encourage risk-taking, creativity, and freedom. When we criticize, we do so productively. Our words come from a place of love, aimed at growth.
If you lead in any capacity, you will encounter cynics. They will accuse you of all types of evil from a distance. If you ask them to grab lunch or have a phone conversation to discuss the issues, they will ALWAYS refuse. Cynics run from intimacy. They have no desire to resolve an issue. They want to tear you down. They want others to feel the emptiness plaguing their lives.
Pray for cynics. But don’t waste energy on them.
7.) YOU DO NOT PRACTICE GRATITUDE.
Gratitude and perspective are the yin and yang of joy. No one is immune from difficulties and tragedy. We can’t determine whether we will face hardships. We can only determine how we will respond. Will difficult times lead you to give up or catapult you to greatness? Perspective and gratitude will be the determining factors.
Whether you believe others are out to get you or not, you’re right. Whether you believe you have a lot or a little, you’re right.
Consistent, intentional times of gratitude shift our perspective from scarcity to contentment. When was the last time you thanked God for the things you have?
8.) YOU AREN’T COMPASSIONATE OR EMPATHETIC.
Selfie-centered Christians don’t have time to care about others. When scrolling through their Facebook timeline, Jill’s rant about her teacher and an article about refugees receive the same attention. We often equate clicking “like” to showing compassion. This is the tragic result of a selfie-centered life. We are desensitized to pain. We can’t show compassion with a simple click.
Our constant connection to social media creates a disconnection from real pain around us.
Compassion is an important virtue for Christians. It connects us to our mission. It leads to action. It requires humility and selflessness. Compassion gets in the mess. It cries with those who cry. It hurts with those who hurt. To cultivate compassion, we must connect to real people.
Selfie-centered Christianity isn’t Christianity at all. It’s a self-made, watered-down version. I struggle with selfie-centered Christianity. But I’m determined to overcome. I hope you aren’t either.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!