Confronting Ego

By Matt Hellman, high school student


How do you deal with ego?


Everyone is confronted with ego daily. "I want. I need. I have to have…. I'm the best at…. I have money. I have great grades, and you don't." These are examples of the evil called egotism, an exaggerated sense of self-importance. I've been faced with egotism, and I've learned some ways to deal with it.

This past spring, I was having trouble picking which sport to join -- tennis or golf. My brother had been very good at golf when he was on the team. Many people knew this and wanted me to join. But I loved playing the game of tennis. So I started looking at the people who would be possible teammates. For golf it seemed like the best group anyone could put together. While I saw several friends in tennis, I also saw people who in my mind were very selfish and egotistical. I immediately thought I wouldn't play tennis. But the thought that I should play tennis kept creeping into my head. I pondered this and came to the conclusion that God must be showing me the path I should follow. I chose tennis, though I wasn't sure what God had in store for me.

The first day I experienced a wave of the egotism and inharmonious thoughts I was expecting. For a few days, it was very unpleasant. I decided to open the Bible, not looking for anything in particular, and the funniest thing happened. I opened to Luke 6:27-29, which reads:

[L]ove your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

I thought about it and remembered hearing it in church. I started to love each person on my team as my brother, as God's loving child who He made in His own "image" and "likeness" (Gen. 1:26). If God made everyone in His own image and likeness, there was no way the people on the team could possibly show any signs of ego or greed. So anytime I heard, "I am ranked higher than you," or, "I play the better player because we are better than you," I changed my thought about the person. I separated the egotism from the person and saw egotism as a lie or a false idea about God's child. I simply loved. The result of this change in my thought changed the whole atmosphere on the courts. Those who had showed egotism and greed started to become nicer. Whenever I have problems, I quickly change my thought, and the power of love conquers egotism and greed.

There is one particular story in the Bible that helps me all the time when I am having trouble dealing with greed, selfishness, and egos. It is the very familiar parable of the Prodigal Son in which the son wants to have his wealthy father's inheritance before his father has even passed on. The son had an exaggerated sense of self importance. The father willingly offers the son the inheritance money. The son goes off and spends the money with "riotous living" (Luke 15:13). After he spends it all and ends up feeding swine, he finally is humbled, wakes up, and decides to go back home to ask his father if he can be a servant to him. The parable says that "his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (15:20). The father openly welcomes his son back, not as a servant but as a son. Of course I see that one of the morals of the story is not to be greedy. But I also see it differently. Whenever I am confronted with egotism, I have learned that I can take the position of the father, show compassion for those who behave egotistically or greedy, and openly welcome them with love -- no matter how they have treated me.

With these thoughts I have been able to deal with many problems. The simple answer to dealing with ego, or any other problem I encounter, is pure love. The attitudes -- "I want; I need; I have to have…; I'm the best at…; I have money; I have great grades and you don't" -- only have as much power as I give them. To slay the serpent of egotism (or anything that would tell a lie about God's child), I have learned to change my thought and fill it with love.