I recently read a true story about a beautiful woman. Apparently she was quite stunning, but she had experienced a great deal of misery in the early years of her life.
From the time she was 14 she was never without a boyfriend. She spent the next 15 years of her life always having to have a guy who loved her or was after her. She always had to be on a man’s arm.
At one point, she began to realize how this mindset was ruining her life. She went to a series of counselors. Every one of the counselors said, “You have a Cinderella complex. You have decided the only way you will ever feel worthwhile, valuable, substantial is if some man loves you. You’ve given the glory to the male gender, and now what they think of you is driving your life.”
She asked, “What do I do?” They said, “Well, you have to go out and get a career. You have to see you’re worthwhile.” She says, “How do I know I’m worthwhile? How do I know I count?” She then asked them, “If I go out and get a career, then why won’t I be just as emotionally in bondage to my career as I was to men?” They said, “Oh, I see your point.” Again she asked, “How do I know my life counts?”
Just before she turned thirty years old she became a Christian. Over time she began to realize that if someone as glorious as Jesus would die on a cross for her, then her life must really matter. She now understood that her life had great value, because He is the person whose opinion matters most.
Dr. Tim Keller provides profound insight into this need we have for significance and how we allow it to corrupt our lives. Keller addresses this in a commentary on Philippians 2:3, which says,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit . . . The phrase “selfish ambition” actually means “vainglory.” It comes from the Greek word kenodoxia. The word doxa means “glory.” The word kenodoxia means a person is empty or starving for glory. Paul warns against selfish ambition, while acknowledging we are naturally hungry for glory.
In the Bible, the word “glory” means importance. It means “to matter.” Fundamentally we are haunted by a deep fear that our lives don’t really matter. The human heart fears being unimportant and worthless in the eyes of others. We fear that our lives don’t matter. For this reason, though we may not be aware of it, every human heart in its deepest recesses is seeking extensive glory.
We are driven to win the approval of others because we are starved for glory.
Eventually, the woman in the story quit looking to men for her glory. She realized the most important truth about her life was that she mattered so much to Jesus. Through this she found a new sense of freedom. She could now have a career because it was not the focus of her life. She could now have a healthy relationship with a man, for it was not where she was finding fulfillment. She could do all this because Jesus was now her solid foundation.
When Jesus becomes the most important person in your life, it changes your identity. He becomes the audience we seek to please the most, and this is what gives us security and a real sense of purpose.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.