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Day One: Viciously Attack Ego

April 21, 2022 • Life for Leaders

A Note from Mark:

I’m pleased to introduce to you today’s Life for Leaders writer, Roy Goble. Actually, to be accurate, I’m glad to re-introduce Roy, who wrote several devotions for us a few years ago.

Roy writes as one with broad experience in different sectors of life. Growing up in his father’s junkyard, Roy joined and ended up leading his family’s real estate development business. Additionally, he also leads the ministry PathLight International and serves on multiple boards (including the De Pree Center board). Roy has written two books, the most recent being an expanded version of his first book. Junkward Wisdom Rebuilt will entertain, instruct, challenge, and inspire you. I encourage you to check it out (see below). Also, you can get to know Roy better through his Junkyard Wisdom website.

I’ve known Roy for seven years. During this time he’s been an advisor, supporter, board member, friend, host, and trustworthy straight shooter. I’m glad to commend the next three devotions to you, with thanks to Roy for making these available to Life for Leaders.

Grace and Peace, Mark

Scripture—James 1:9-10 (NRSV)

Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field.

Focus

In the next three devotions, I’m going to share three practices that will help us stay aligned with God in a distracting world. Today we’re going to get honest about our egos—and learn how to attack them. It’s tough to lead well if our egos are influencing our decisions, and we often hurt others. Fortunately, attacking our egos is simple, even if sometimes painful! Then, in the two days that follow, I’ll share the importance of learning to “shut up and listen” and how to “value community.”

Devotion

We live in a noisy time. Shouts and whispers constantly pull us one way or another, and often we’re pulled out of alignment with God’s aims.

Over the decades I’ve learned three simple practices that help me realign. These practices help me manage the tensions of competing interests and resist spiritual drift. To be transparent, I’m still stumbling along! But if you’ll offer grace for my mistakes, I’ll offer a few thoughts about how to walk the way God is asking us to.

The first practice is to Viciously Attack Ego.

My ego is at the heart of most of my mistakes, whether spiritually, relationally, or intellectually. We love to assume we have the right answers. But the more we value our own intellect, skills, experience, and so on, the more likely we are to cut everyone else out of the loop.

I know that when I do that, I end up trusting myself rather than others who may have valuable insights. Or God. My ego can feel like a hydra combined with a jack-in-the-box. It keeps popping up and coming back and causing trouble at unexpected times.

That’s why I love how honest James is about ego. In today’s scripture, James reminds us that “…the rich [should boast] in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field.” (James 1:10). He also writes, “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? ” (James 4:1).

James doesn’t pull any punches, does he? In my junkyard lexicon, I say “attacking ego,” but James takes the attack on the ego to a new level: he says we should be proud of our low status, and recognize that the desires (read that as “ego”) within us are what cause fights and quarrels. So attacking ego begins when we recognize our ego showing up—and that’s not as difficult as you might think.

Since the goal is to attack my ego whenever it flares up, a powerful practice I use is to give a few key people permission to call me out when necessary. I hate it when they do, and more than once I’ve acted like a spoiled child in response. But absent their input, my efforts would be scattered at best, and ineffective at worst. They see things I don’t see.

Another key way to attack the ego is to pause, reflect, and bite my tongue. But more on that tomorrow.

Reflect

How do you recognize your ego showing up?

Who has permission to call you out when they see your ego showing up?

Act

If you have trusted friends or accountability partners who can talk frankly to you, make time to meet with them to discuss the state of your spiritual life. If you don’t already have people who can fulfill this role for you, think about steps you could take towards developing these kinds of structures for accountability.

Prayer

Lord, help me realign. Help me trust others and help me trust you more fully. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Depending on God (James 1:5–18)


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