Let Go of Ego

By Marjorie F. Eddington

What is it with the sense of superiority that some people display? It can offend, be difficult to work with, and hurt feelings. Have we ever been one of those people? Have we ever been guilty of bragging, putting others down, or feeling something is beneath us? How can we eliminate this superiority complex and its effects? Let’s check out the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5.

Naaman was actually a pretty amazing man and could justifiably brag. He was the victorious commander of the Syrian/Aramean army, and his king really valued him. But Naaman had a skin disease, leprosy. That had to be pretty embarrassing for a person of such importance. So when he learns from his wife’s servant girl (whom his soldiers had captured in Israel on one of their raids) that a prophet in Samaria could heal him, Naaman tells his king what the girl said. Instead of writing to the prophet, the king of Syria writes a letter to the king of Israel asking him to heal Naaman. Interesting display of ego and superiority.

So when the king of Israel gets the letter, he assumes that the Syrian king is trying to pick a fight because he knows he can’t heal Naaman. When Elisha, “the man of God,” hears about this, he steps in and sends for Naaman so that Naaman will know that there is a real prophet in Israel. When Naaman arrives with his horses, chariots, gold, silver, and new clothes at Elisha’s dwelling, Naaman waits at Elisha’s door. But Elisha doesn’t even come out to meet him. He sends a servant instead, who tells him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times.

And this is where we see Naaman’s sense of superiority, ego, pride really kick in. We’re told:

Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. (2 Kings 5:11, 12 NLT)

Naaman is pretty contemptuous in his language and actions. He feels superior to this servant and disgusted at the whole ordeal. He didn’t have to take this as a personal affront to his ego, but he did. He didn’t have to feel disrespected, but he did. Here he is, an important commanding officer, and a servant, not even the prophet, tells him that if he wants to be healed, he has to do something mundane, something he considers beneath him. How dare he! You can just feel the “holier-than-thou” attitude oozing out of Naaman.

Have we ever taken what others say the wrong way? Have we ever let our egos get offended by taking things personally? How often are we judgmental towards others? And they may not even mean to offend us.

Elisha was not trying to offend Naaman. Elisha, being a prophet, a spiritual seer, probably knew that Naaman, in order to be healed, had to have a transformation of character, had to lose his sense of superiority, ego, contempt. At first, Naaman fights hard to keep it. He didn’t want to look foolish. He didn’t want to do something unworthy of his rank. And this is understandable. None of us wants to look foolish, especially in front of those who we deem as lower in status.

Had it not been for his servants/officers, Naaman would have let contempt impel him to leave. And that would have been terribly sad—to come all this way and miss an opportunity to be healed, all because of a bruised ego. We read, “Naaman’s servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, “Wash and be cleansed”!’” (5:14 NIV).

And then Naaman did a great thing. He did a superbly courageous thing. He let go of his ego, his contempt. He let go of his plans. Instead of becoming defensive at the rebuke of his behavior, he listened to those beneath him. He humbled himself. He walked to the Jordan, dipped seven times, and got his healing. His skin was totally clean. So in absolute gratitude, Naaman praises God.

Can we be like Naaman and simply drop the sense of superiority? Let go of our ego? Naaman wanted a healing more than he wanted to look good. And he was willing to take a risk and learn. Can we take that same risk? Do we want healing and peace more than we want to be right or better than so-and-so? Can we see what Naaman saw—that the greatness goes all to God. And when we put the greatness on God, we find ourselves satisfied with our own God-given greatness that needs no defense.