Monday, March 06, 2006

Steps to self-abnegation

Now this is dangerous--giving suggestions (particularly from personal experience) about how to live a life of self-abnegation. Do you sense the great hypocrisy? And yet, would a person who has abandoned self be afraid to talk about self in order to protect self from the perception of being pompous? I sincerely pray that what I'm about to say will come from a sense of complete disregard for myself and a desire to help other pilgrims in this quest for total self-surrender.

Arod, I am responding to you. I have lived your dilemma for years. That says something about how bereft we are of cultural heros that others would think so much of us. I also tells of how easy it is to sustain myth of personal importance. Ok, so enough rambling. Here are two things that have been helpful to me.

First, I watched as J. K. Jones left OCC for Lincoln Christian College and Seminary. He was like a god on our campus. Literally, every fall he would come back to campus with a new hair style or clothing style and within weeks about 30 or 40 students had changed styles. (BTW I have yet to see a bunch of Buddist monks on our campus trying to look like me). JK wasn't gone for two years when all my illustrations about him in class fell on deaf ears. The same thing happend when Wilbur Fields retired. It struck my just what a short shelf-life we all enjoy in the public eye. People's opinions are usually poorly informed and fickle. I no longer trust any of the praise I get, which also liberates me from trusting inately the criticism. Don't underestimate the power of this freedom.

The second helpful contribution to my life is this silly idea of the audience of one. I have, in fact, tried that and found it impossible for me to achieve. This doesn't make it any less noble, but simply impossible for me. But what I have been able to do is create an audience of 3. There are three people in any given crowd that I will seek to please. Ultimately I would like to cut one or two of them out, but let's face it, God created us gregarious for a reason. I'm not interested in total autonomy, but perhaps selective sucking up would be a step in the right direction.


Blogger Bri Zwart said...

So, my question to you Mark is how do you determine which three people you select to "suck up" to in the given crowd? Upon what criteria are these people chosen? Is this a conscious selection, or are these people who you just find that you are naturally drawn to?

March 6, 2006 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

Excellent question. I suppose some of it has to do with chance/fate/experience. Who has God placed in my life? Who are my friends? What cultural values do I hold? But at the end of the day I have asked a single question: Who do I want to be like when I grow up? These are the people whose positive opinions I seek. They may change from crowd to crowd, but here on our campus they are Chris Dewelt, Mark Scott, and Kenny Boles (each for slightly different reasons). Have I not chosen well?

March 7, 2006 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...


Negative responses by anonymous bloggers to Mark's last rhetorical question will be promptly deleted, so don't waste your time. Then again, I am probably the only one mischievous enough to have thought of it.

March 8, 2006 at 1:42 AM  
Blogger Bri Zwart said...

So, I understand what you are saying about selecting those people on whose opinions you place more weight, but have you found any techniques that have proven especially helpful for letting the shallow (or superficial) opinions of others to "roll off your back" more easily?

March 8, 2006 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

After a while you just get tired of trying to please so many people. The larger your audience(s) get the more criticism you receive. It seems like the larger your stage the more impersonal you are and therefore people feel freer to take pot-shots at you. This is neither good nor bad just the way it works. But you can only spin so many plates and you can only tip-toe around so many issues. At some point you either get out of the game or get thick skin. Eventually your own fatigue at trying to please others will force you to make decisions about who, when, and how to capitulate to other's expectations.

March 9, 2006 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew Judah said...

There are people in my life that I try to "please." The hard part for me is to be honest with them about who I really am. It is easy to fall into just showing them the parts of my life that they will approve of--but that is of little benefit to me. The hard thing is to confess to them the things that they will not approve of. Criticism hurts and I'm a big baby when I get it. But when I do work up enough courage to be totally open to someone I respect and emulate, I find myself inspired and empowered to die.

March 14, 2006 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger michael defazio said...

from my own personal experience, one of the difficulties with this whole question is the growing up without a father piece. i always tend to seek the approval of whatever highly respected and fairly worthy male figure happens to be around. this can be a good or a dangerous thing. luckily god has protected me from some of the really dangerous pitfalls, though it has taken years for some wounds to being healing. if i am criticized by one whom i have (often unconsciously) chosen as part of my "audience," i will rationalize why they are wrong and i am okay, which usually strengthens the very insecurity it aims to overcome. i don't really know why i am sharing all of this, but i figure that's part of what a blog is here for. i have no answers but god is proving himself faithful in helping me slowly overcome my holes...

March 27, 2006 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

i wonder if the "father figure" hole can ever be filled. i'm not sure that it can. am i growing up or am i allowing myself to become more and more desensitized to it? am i being healed or am i just getting farther away in time from the point of departure?

i ask these questions and i don't even believe in time.

March 31, 2006 at 3:55 PM  

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