“It’s not about you, it’s about Him. Because of God’s empowering presence, you can do some very significant things today.”
This was a status update on FaceBook by Gary Thomas today, 9 February 2012. I am not picking specifically on Gary here. I have great respect for him and his writing. I do have some strong feelings on the sentiment behind this quote, and I have heard the “it’s not about you” mantra too many times to merely let it go by again.
First, most times I have heard it, it is used as a club. “It’s not about you” could truthfully be translated as, “It’s all about me.” Or, “It’s all about you doing what I think you should do, which is probably not what you think you should do.”
But I would counter that it is all about me, (or you, as the one reading this) for I am the only one I have any control over. I am the only common thread in all my experiences, thoughts, actions and omissions. This very truth is betrayed in Gary’s quote. “It’s not about you…you can do….” If it’s not about me, why bring it back to me? Why lay the responsibility of doing something back in my lap?
I do agree with what I think to be the underlying spirit of this sentiment. I agree with it because Jesus taught it.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
(Mark 9:35 ESV)
This I heartily agree with. This I think is the intent of the “it’s not about you” rhetoric. But it subtly tries to sidestep, or obscure responsibility I think.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
(Revelation 20:12 ESV)
I will not be judged by what other people have done, but by what I have done and failed to do. So, on one very significant level, it is all about me. I have dominion over my actions, if nothing else. Even the most repressed slave has dominion over their actions. They still have a choice to obey or disobey, to serve cheerfully or begrudgingly or to resist.
This hearkens back to the great debate of history; do we have free will, or are we products of the way things are (materialistically, spiritually or otherwise)? If there is no free will, then it is true, that it is not about me. It is about forces outside of me and my illusion of choice. Indeed my illusion of choice is merely that, an illusion, if there is no free will. If I do have a will, a capacity to make a true decision, then, suddenly, it is about me, because I have responsibility to choose, and my choices have implications, lead to other choices and exclude other choices. They involve others, the are within or outside of the law of man and the law of God.
So I will say, “It is all about me!” Not with the selfish narcissism of a spoiled brat, but with the humble sobriety of one who has been confronted with the question, “Choose this day whom you shall serve.” My choices reflect who I serve, either my own interests alone, or the interest of an “other.” Am I altruistic? If I am, it is still my decision to be so, and I still see some reason to be so. No rational being makes a decision to act completely against self-interest. I may defer some perceived reward. I may make short-term actions for long-term goals. I (not often enough) turn down a cookie for the long-term self interest of maintaining a healthy weight. But either decision I make about the cookie, I make it based on my self-interest and my belief that I have a choice.
I agree with Gary. I can do some very significant things today. Ultimately, whether I do or not, is up to me.