Pat Riley is the head coach of the 2006 National Basketball Champions, Miami Heat. However, he is also remembered as the former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his book “The Winner Within,” Riley warns of the dangers of “The Disease of Me.” He writes how his former team, the Lakers, allowed their egos to cause one of the quickest falls in the history of the NBA. They had won the championship in 1980. They were chosen to win it for a second consecutive time, but resentment, competitiveness, and discord set in among the players. They bickered over who was getting the attention and recognition they individually felt they deserved. As a result, the Lakers shifted their attention from the teamwork of winning to the self-centeredness of whining. They lost in the first round of the playoffs. Riley summed it up by saying, “The Disease of Me leads to the Defeat of Us.”
One of the great statements found in the Bible was the one made by John the Baptist when he spoke of his relationship with our Lord. In John 3:30, when questioned about how he related to Christ, he answered, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is not an easy action to take because of our human ego. One said, “The biggest addiction we have to overcome is to the human ego. Why, because ego stands for “Edging God Out.” This is why we should make a conscious effort every day to place Christ on the throne of our life, and not our ego. I’m confident that many have read this statement before, so bear with me, because it makes a sobering point:
The six most important words:
“I admit I made a mistake.”
The five most important words:
“You did a good job.”
The four most important words:
“What is your opinion?”
The three most important words:
“If you please.”
The two most important words:
The least important word: “I”
In the Greek of the original New Testament, the word for “I” was “ego.” Today we use it to describe someone who has an inflated opinion of himself.
Allow me to list, first, some practical ways to crucify our ego, then, some practical ways to put others first. To begin with, here are some practical ways to crucify our ego:
1. Resist the temptation to defend or vindicate yourself. It has been stated, “An ego trip is something that never gets you anywhere.”
2. Resist the temptation to praise yourself. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
3. Let others win. In a disagreement, realize that the real issue is not who’s right, but our relationship. In planning and strategizing, let others have the credit for an idea. Peter Marshall prayed, “When I am wrong, dear Lord, make me easy to change, and when I am right, make me easy to live with.”
4. Remind yourself of God’s sovereignty. All our gifts, talents, accomplishments, etc., God gave to us. Paul stated in Romans 12:6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”
Second, here are some practical ways to put others first. Of all the classical spiritual disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility.
1. Make a conscious decision every day to consider the needs of others, and place higher value on their needs than your own. J. F. Newton said, “An egotist is not a man who thinks too much of himself. He is a man who thinks too little of other people.”
2. Listening. Take time to listen to others. Take a genuine interest in their life. Make them the expert. People want to feel valued and important. One of the flagrant problems with most conversations is that we fail to listen. I read of a speech teacher who stood in the receiving line of a major corporation fundraiser event. She grew tired of shaking all the hands, asking, “How are you?,” and hearing the same old responses. So, she thought she would try an experiment. She greeted the next twenty people in the line by smiling and quietly saying, “I have leprosy.” The responses were unbelievable. They smiled back and said things like, “How happy I am for you,” and “How wonderful! You must tell me all about it sometime.” Only one person said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.” Erma Bombeck was correct in stating, “It seems rather incongruous that in a society of super-sophisticated communications, we often suffer from a shortage of listeners.”
3. When asked for help, be available, whether a menial or very important thing. Someone stated, “In Christian service, the branches that bear the most fruit hang the lowest.”
4. Take time to encourage others. Booker T. Washington said, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
Several years ago, I was in attendance at a birthday party, and the host read this humorous poem that speaks volumes:
“Once I found a friend who knew everything I felt,
He knew my every weakness and the problems I’ve been dealt.
He understood my wonders and listened to my dreams.
He listened to how I felt about life and love,
And knew what it all means.
Not once did he interrupt me, or tell me I was wrong.
He understood what I was going through,
And promised he’d stay long.
I reached out to this friend to show him that I care.
To pull him close, and let him know how much I need him there.
I went to hold his hand, to pull him a bit nearer,
And I realized that this perfect friend I found,
Was nothing but my mirror!”
Watch out for the “Disease of Me.” It will lead to the Defeat of Us.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Dave Arnold, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Fl.
Labels: Devotional, Pastor Dave Arnold