Change for the Wrong Reasons

I heard this quote the other day, “Don’t let people be the determiner of your reputation.”

My thoughts have always been focused on being authentic and I strive to be real in every respect when dealing with people. This has its up side and downside as it opens me up for frequent criticism from people who don’t much like what they see. Being a leader of women, I am in various settings where protocol determines what I wear or how I react. For example, to show up to a ladies luncheon in cut off jean shorts and a t-shirt would not be a good idea no matter how I feel about it. If someone disagrees with me about something I must be cautious in my reply both in verbal and non-verbal communication.

Being a leader also means people observe and scrutinize my actions and words and evaluate through their own perceptive grid what they see. An important thing to realize is that our perceptions are our reality, so even if I may think a particular thing is no big deal another person may hold it in a place of great importance. These things can cause women who are in leadership positions or aspire to be in leadership to have pause or to become frustrated with the frequent introspection that is required.

Sadly, our introspection can be motivated by the wrong things. When I am criticized I can choose to change the behavior because it will please others and cause them to think well of me. This is man-centered change for the purpose of improving my reputation before man. Or those around us can be great signposts that direct us to look to the heart of the matter.

I see within myself a desire to look good to others and yet I want to remain comfortable with inner sin. It is the fleshly desire to have all the right actions, correct protocols and wear the right “church face” and yet not care how my heart looks to God. Perhaps to say “not care how my heart looks to God” is incorrect. More accurately I could say that I have more of an emphasis on what people think than what God thinks. I doubt if I am alone in this desire… Maybe you are seeing that within yourself too as you ponder these words of mine.

The other aspect of my heart longs to be glorifying to God in all respects. I desire to die completely in my daily life to the sin that so easily entangles me. I want to break free from old sinful thought patterns that lead me still to these dead end places of self exaltation. I wish to knock the idols down and crush them under my feet and smash the altars of my heart- the high places- where I worship one other than God; where I worship me.

This is the part of me that says I will fight the desires of my flesh that want to remain comfortable. This part of me says that I have been a Christian too long to still be dealing with some of these same old things and to have my heart unaffected for change. It asks, “What is wrong with me that these things remain?” That answer is simple: my heart is unyielding and hardened toward change in these areas. These “pet” sins that I love so dearly mean much more to me than my desire to honor the Lord and I have ignored the Holy Spirit for so long that in these areas He is very quiet to my ears.

Can there be any other explanation for these ongoing sinful desires and habits of the heart? Is there any other reasonable discussion to be had on this topic? I think not. Oh this is not flagellation or self beat-up, it is a part of the reality of every Christian as the flesh battles against the Spirit and the Spirit fights against the flesh (Galatians 5: 15).

The next question is “now what?”

My heart has to desire to honor God more than it does to please you. He has to be the object of my worship, not you. I have to love Him more and me less. Huge challenges, tough choices... the flesh dies very hard. I am profoundly thankful for grace that allows me to be progressively sanctified!