The Disease of Self-Deprication?

I was listening to some Kutless songs on iTunes recently. I generally like their songs and the lyrics are often good. There’s one song I was listening to, though, in which a verse just seemed to jump out at me:

“There’s something wrong with me
Inside I’m wanting to be free
But the more I give the more consuming it just seems to be
I know it’s what I need
To find a cure for this disease
To save me from all of my self-deprication.”

–        Kutless “The Disease & the Cure”

As I listened to that verse of the song, something just didn’t seem right about it. As Christians, we all know the ongoing struggle against sin (see Hebrews 12:4 ESV). It’s true that, inside, we are “wanting to be free.” However, that isn’t the direction the portion of the song seems to be going. The writer tells how his particular struggle is somehow more consuming the more he gives. Giving is good. I’m sure many of us could stand to do more of it. Yet the songwriter goes on to state his need to find a cure for some disease, this thing that is wrong with him. If this were about sin, then we could probably interpret this as similar to how many Christians interpret the struggle Paul communicated in Romans 7 – how inside we want to do what’s right, but on the outside we just keep on sinning. But that doesn’t seem to be the case – and this is where the final line of that verse comes in, a line that just doesn’t seem right: “To save me from all my self-deprication.”

If someone describes you as “self-depricating,” it’s sometimes considered a positive quality akin to humility, though it is more often considered a negative quality. It’s the line in between humility and self-abasement. By definition, it’s an adjective meaning to belittle or undervalue yourself or to be excessively modest or a tendency to disparage yourself. That’s where my problem with the aforementioned verse comes in.

Humility is a good thing. We’re commanded to be humble (see James 4:10 ESV and 1 Peter 5:5 ESV). We’re commanded not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (see Romans 12:3 ESV). Yet, in American culture, a culture that has infected the American Church like a virus, the emphasis is on “self-esteem.” What was once narcissism is now self-esteem, feeling good about yourself, seeing yourself as important, valued, special, etc. It’s all about the individual as if the world revolves around each of us individually. To illustrate this, I wrote an article for this blog about someone who insisted that Jesus came to make people feel good about themselves. Never mind, of course, that He told people to “go and sin no more” instead of affirming them in their sins. Never mind, of course, that He said it’s the “poor in spirit” who are blessed, not the people who have self-esteem. Where the world (and, sadly, much of the American Church) says “self-esteem,” God’s word says “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3b ESV; other versions, such as the KJV, use the word “esteem”).

There are many Christians today who go around elevating themselves with phrases like “I’m a child of the King” or, as in one vile “worship” song, “He thought of me above all” or, as is often expressed in songs and elsewhere, “If I had been the only person on Earth, Jesus would still have died for me.” Many have bought into the lie that somehow they individually are so important. This is a form of pride, which is always sin. The scripture tells us not to think of ourselves as more than we are (dust, the grass in the field that withers and blows away, dead, etc.). There is not a single passage of scripture that even remotely suggests it’s possible to think of yourself as less than you are. To say otherwise is to read into the scriptures what isn’t there.

Remember where Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself (see Matthew 19:19 ESV and elsewhere)? Was there anything in His statement telling you to love yourself? No. Self-love was assumed because humans are evil and selfish by nature. We are born loving ourselves and you would be hard-pressed to prove that there is even one person in this world who genuinely does not love himself (the modern psychobabble notwithstanding). You won’t find any place in scripture where anyone could be accused of not loving himself or of thinking too little of himself.

Moses, in Numbers 12:3, was described as being the most humble man on Earth. Given his interaction with God when he was called to lead God’s people out of Egypt, Moses could even be described as self-deprecating. Did God say to him, “No, you’re not what you say you are; you’re wonderful, talented, gifted, special…”? No, He didn’t deny any of what Moses said about himself. He didn’t tell Moses to stop being so self-deprecating and to feel good about himself and to have self-esteem. No, God instead shut Moses’ self-deprecating mouth by telling him He would send Aaron to be the mouthpiece and that God would Himself be with Moses (see Exodus 3 ESV).

So, I have serious problems with the idea of “self-deprication” being some sort of disease in need of a cure. I’m not convinced it’s possible for humans to view themselves as less than they are. We are but dust (see Psalm 103:14 ESV). We are but grass in a field that withers (see 1 Peter 1:24 ESV). More important than the birds of the air (see Matthew 6:26 ESV), but definitely not of such importance that if any one of us was the only person on Earth, Christ would have died for us. We are dead and our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3 ESV). What do we have that we didn’t receive by the grace and providence of God? (See 1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV).

I admit that part of the problem I have with the line from the Kutless song is that I struggle in this area. I want to acknowledge what few gifts God has granted me just as others are seemingly allowed to not merely acknowledge but openly use their gifts; but so much of the Church in America demands that some of my gifts (such as they are) be suppressed, treated as if they’re not gifts from God at all, but as if they’re sinful. (See the introduction page to this blog and you’ll see what I mean). I also know that they’re not what people hype them to be and that I had nothing to do with bringing them about. Yet, I confess I’m also being somewhat defiant by setting up this blog the way I did. At the same time, I don’t handle compliments well. In fact, I feel very uncomfortable receiving them and tend to think that people are just being polite – one of those fake social niceties, one of those things people say because it’s socially expected.

Part of me, though, also wants to just keep my head down in church and hopefully not be noticed. It’s easy for me to say I have no gifts whatsoever – not gifts that are acknowledged by the Church today anyway – that I have nothing of benefit or value to the Church. One the other side of that, though, I want to say that what I have that is of benefit or value to the Church is Christ dwelling within me just as He does everyone else in the Church – it’s Christ in me that is of benefit or value to the Church and this should be enough.

Charles Spurgeon rightly said, “You have nothing; you are nothing; but Christ is all, and He must be everything to you.” There is nothing lower than nothing; so, how can we say that there even is such a thing as self-deprecation? Whatever identity we may think we have, whatever gifts or talents, it is all in Christ. What was it John Baptist said about Jesus? “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV). Lord Jesus, please so increase in me and cause me to so decrease that my Adamic nature is totally dissolved and only your image remains.