Who Does God Say I Am?
About the Guest
God knows and loves you. But do you know Him? Christian counselor Ed Welch believes most of us care too much about what others think of us. While we're all affected by the disapproval of others, we don't need to be owned by it. When others are ruling us, they become the center of our lives, which eventually leads us to idolatry. The only real solution for taking down idols, Welch says, is to know and love the one true God.
Christian counselor Ed Welch believes most of us care too much about what others think of us. While we’re all affected by the disapproval of others, we don’t need to be owned by it.
Who Does God Say I Am?
Bob: Think back to yesterday, for just a minute. Did anybody, yesterday, say anything nice to you about you? If they didn’t, how did that affect your day? Here is author and counselor, Ed Welch.
Ed: Sometimes, I can be waddling around like this big old cup. I’m going around—going to my wife / going to my colleagues: “Could you fill me up?” “Could you say something a little bit nice about me?” “Honey, could you give me some kind of affirmation?” That all makes sense to us, but here is the nature of that: “When we live for the approval, or the love, or the affection, or the good opinions of other people, it’s insatiable. No matter how much we get, it’s never enough.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk to Ed Welch today about some of what he calls the big questions of life:
“What do you think of me?” and “Why do I care so much?” Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I have to start today with an embarrassing and humiliating confession. When I was in college, I was a volunteer leader with Young Life®. The summer after my freshman year in college, we took a bunch of kids to one of Young Life’s camps. I was aware, as a freshman college leader—I was aware of the fact that the kids who were coming to the camp thought the Young Life leaders were pretty cool. I wanted to be one of those cool Young Life leaders.
So, while we were at the camp, I was doing my best to put my cool self forward so that there would be some affirmation of who I was. Well, I’d been at the camp for four or five days when the camp director said, “Could we sit down and talk?” We sat down in the afternoon—Thursday afternoon.
He said, “We’ve been praying about you all this week.” I said, “Who is we?” He said, “The staff and I have been praying about you.” He said, “You have an inordinate need for attention and trying to draw attention to yourself, and it’s a problem.” He said, “I think you ought to consider some kind of Christian service that involves sweeping up after everybody else is gone.”
I remember walking away from that meeting—I remember just praying and saying, “What was that?” I just remember having this sense of God saying: “That was Me. I was talking to you through him.” It was a sober kind of a self-aware turning point for me—to go back and ask the question, “Why do I care so much about being the center of attention?” It was an unhealthy issue for me.
Dennis: It would be healthy for you to have had a relationship with the author of the book that we’re talking about today, which is entitled—What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life—by Dr. Ed Welch. Ed—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
The question is: “At the point Bob was a teenager, would you have had anything to say to him about the condition of how he was behaving?”
Ed: It’s interesting—even when Bob was talking—I was realizing there are two groups of people in the midst of that kind of response. One is that bold style that seems to be less affected by the opinions of other people, but it’s still affected by the opinions of other people. There’s the other—cowering style—where they hear that kind of comment, and they just turn away, in embarrassment and shame, and never want to see anybody else in the camp ever, ever again.
So, there are all kinds of versions to this; and Bob, your style of life is a bit bolder, and you’re not immune to these things. So, that’s what I was hearing from the story. I was very encouraged that—
Bob: And my besetting issue, Ed, is not to think more poorly of myself than I ought—it’s the opposite. My besetting issue is to think more highly of myself—to have that inflated self-opinion and to want everybody to affirm that around me. That was part of what was being pointed out to me, even back then.
Ed: And there is one of the curious features of this experience—that oftentimes, we feel so low because we haven’t quite gotten that respect / that approval / those really good words—but when we dig around, we find that there’s this question, “Why can’t I be great?” There’s this aspiration to sort of stick out among the crowd. In the midst of that, God’s words to calls us to humility are so profound and insightful to deal with this particular struggle.
Dennis: Yes; and there are also some people, though, that are quiet.
Their desire is not to stick out, but they’re trapped by what people think about them too. Their besetting sin is not going to be, as Bob described—being bold, and being out there, and trying to be cool—which there are a number of personalities that are driven to that. Their besetting struggle is going to be trying to see people acknowledge them—realize they’re people of value and worth. They are kind of locked up and enslaved to wanting to see approval, wanting love, wanting appreciation; but don’t know how to get it.
Bob: We used to call it low self-esteem, back in the day. That’s what we are talking about here; right?
Ed: Absolutely; absolutely, Bob. I would probably be on the other end of the spectrum from you—where I was a much more timid person, growing up. I can remember one of the events in high school that captured so much of this for me. I was up for an award. I was scared to death that I was going to get this award. The idea of somehow being singled-out for this award and maybe even having to say “Thank you,” to somebody if I got up on stage—
—the thought of it was humiliating to me.
But here is the trap of this kind of thinking—I didn’t get the award; and of course, then, I was thinking: “Woe is me. I’m this wretched person. Nobody loves me.” So, my version is a much more timid version; but it’s still a snare for us all.
Bob: The reason we are talking about this with you is because you’ve just written a book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? It’s with adolescents in mind, but it’s a universal human condition—that we care, often, too much about the approval of the crowd—what people do think of us. We live for that in an unhealthy way.
Ed: So, the deal for parents is—when they talk to their children about these things, they want to have some live illustrations of how they wrestle with it. Then, they’re both under God together: “How can we grow in these matters together? Why do we care so much?”
Dennis: And sometimes, this can show up in some very highly-successful people.
You tell the story, in your book, about Stephen King that I think is very instructive.
Ed: Well, if there is anybody who is certainly successful in the eyes of the world, he’s got to be near the top of the group. Well, of course, you don’t just start writing horror stories out of nowhere. He was writing them in high school, and he was writing them in high school in such a way that people were buying his stories from him—that’s how good he was.
Well, here is his English teacher. She says this, “What I don’t understand, Stevie, is why you write junk like this in the first place.” Here is one disparaging voice; and Stephen King says this: “I was ashamed; and I have spent a good many years since—too many I think—being ashamed about what I write.”
Now, here’s your example: Here is a very successful person—one voice—and there’s that question: “Why do I care so much about what Miss Hisler thinks about me?” and “Why does it echo after all these years?”
That’s the issue that we are wrestling with right now.
Dennis: You know, I don’t care how secure you may think you are—you’re very vulnerable / I’m very vulnerable to what people say to our face, behind our backs—and their opinions of us. That’s really what your book is built around. It’s built around three questions: “Who is God?” because you believe that finding out the answer to the second question—“Who am I?”—is related to the first question. If you don’t know who God is, you’re not going to have a proper view of yourself. Then, the third question is: “Who are these people—who are others—and how should I relate to them?”
Bob: And shouldn’t it matter, at some level, Ed—shouldn’t we care what other people think about us? I mean, I remember listening to a lecture, years ago, by a secular—I think he is a psychologist—Daniel Goleman, who wrote a book on emotional intelligence. He said, “These people who are successful are people who are self-aware—they understand who they are / they understand what other people think about them.”
There is some health to being aware of these things; right?
Ed: “How can we be affected by the disapproval and rejection of other people but not dominated by it / but not owned by it?” That’s—
Bob: That’s the tension.
Ed: That’s the subtle difference; but it’s a very, very important difference.
Dennis: So, you are saying, Ed, that it’s not wrong to want people to like you? It is wrong when it becomes an idol. In fact, that’s what you really talk about in this section about “Who am I?” You talk about idol worship. Loving ourselves too much is definitely idol worship.
Ed: Yes, Dennis, there—what you just did is—you took an ancient concept, which is largely irrelevant because we don’t have a bunch of idols laying around in our houses—and you’ve just updated it and made it very, very meaningful because what you are saying is—those questions of: “What do you think of me? Why do I care?”—when other people are ruling us—notice, we just nudge that language a little bit—they become our god.
They become the very center of our lives. That could be, certainly, called idolatry. Now, Scripture just opens up beautifully. Now, how do you—what’s the way to deal with idolatry? Well, certainly, one way is we know the true God—we know the true God: “Who is this God that we are called to worship?”
Dennis: One of the things you point out in your book is that some of those voices—that can be controlling, that we are enslaved to, that have us in prison, so to speak—are our parents. It’s interesting that you said that in your book because I’d begun to reflect on it and I thought, “You know, the fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments is, in a way, trying to help us properly relate back to our parents, as we grow up, and not be controlled by them.”
The fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you,”—that you may live a long life and that you will be blessed in your life.
I just rereleased a book that I had written a number of years ago—but we’ve updated it—called The Forgotten Commandment. Ed, I think, as people honor their parents—and in this book, I call people to write a tribute to their parents. I have heard, repeatedly, what’s happened in those situations—those adult children are released from the idol. They are released from the opinion of their parents—maybe not totally—but from the controlling imprisonment that a parent may have on their lives.
Ed: That’s a great way to proceed with that question, “Who is God?” What you are saying is: “We want to be more controlled by who God is and what He says rather than rejection we have experienced from our parents.” As a result, you are saying, “We want—we want to love our parents more than we want to be approved by our parents.”
Ed: That’s what you are calling people to do with that book on the tribute. We were created to want to love more than we want to be loved. You are asking men and women to truly be human in their relationship with their parents. As a result, the idea of—all of a sudden, feeling as though that rejection—it’s like they disrobe it. It no longer controls them / it no longer weighs them down.
It’s because they have—in the background, the Spirit has been doing something. They’ve known their God—they’ve been pursuing God / they’ve been responding to Him—and they are saying, “No, the rejection of other people will not keep me from loving them.”
Bob: The two questions that are the title of your book—“What do you think of me? Why do I care?”—don’t you find there are some people who are asking that question perpetually of God? They are enslaved in their relationship with God because they have answers to those questions in their minds that aren’t, necessarily, biblical answers.
They think their performance is going to define their relationship with God, and they are constantly trying to win His approval and His performance—which at one level, we want to commend—but on another level, it can drive you off the cliff; right?
Ed: Yes, here is the question we are starting with: “What do you think about me? Why do I care about that so much?” We are going to these more basic questions: “Who is God? Who am I? Who are other people?” Absolutely, that question: “Who is God?”—to pause on that one—perhaps, Bob, what I think you are suggesting, is: “Who do we really think that God is?” because the way we really think about God is not necessarily what Scripture says about who our God is.
And Dennis, going back to your comment—so often, God simply wears the mask of our parents. His voice sounds peculiarly like a parent who strongly rejected us. I think that is probably the first step in answering that question, “Who is God?”
Well, “Who do we presently think God is?”—because it might not be the way He actually has revealed Himself to us. So, it’s a big question.
Bob: I think it’s good for people—it’s good for me to meditate on the declaration that God makes in Exodus, and then several times in the Scriptures, where it says: “The Lord our God is full of compassion. He is full of mercy. His loving kindness endures forever. He will not visit the iniquity on generations.” There is just this reminder that God is a God of grace, He is a God of mercy, He is a God of forgiveness; and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We can get off the performance wheel in our relationship with God and find rest in knowing Him and being known by Him; right?
Ed: That Exodus 32 passage is a great way—one of the best Old Testament passages for knowing God more accurately. “Who are we?” We are a bunch of idolaters who, as soon as we think God is in the mountains, we are off, worshiping our idols.
“Who is God?” What does He say to us while we are in the midst of pursuing our idols? He says in Exodus 32, “The gracious and compassionate God—slow to anger.” That’s a forerunner of knowing who Jesus really is.
And notice how that deals with that question: “What do you think about me, and why do I care?”—it makes it a little less important because we’ve seen someone who is so much more important than the opinions of other people. It’s not that they don’t affect us anymore. They just don’t have center stage because we know our God, truly; and there is nothing more blessed than that.
Dennis: Okay, let’s go back to Bob’s teenage years and his confession that he made, earlier, about how he was trying to be the center of the party.
Bob: And by the way, there is a little epilogue to that because for the next year after that, I was going to my friends and I was saying: “I’ve become aware of an issue with pride in my life.
“It’s something that I struggle with.” What I found was I got approval and favor if I was confessing like that. So, for about a year, without dealing with my pride, I just used that as a way to continue to get—
Dennis: So, you weren’t actually dealing with it?
Bob: No. I wasn’t dealing with anything because what I found was just a trick—if I just say, “Yes, I’m really dealing with this pride issue,” people thought more highly of me. I thought: “That’s a great trick. I’m going to keep trying that.”
Dennis: So, that’s a good—that’s really a good segue into my question for parents now. Help a parent know how to equip a teenager who—this illustrates the way they think. I mean, it’s a period in life where their emotional maturity, spiritual maturity, physical maturity hasn’t caught up—it’s not in place. All formation of character and everything is not finished. There have been a lot of blocks laid by the parent, but they’re emerging into adulthood. Coach a parent in how to take a child, at that point, who really is struggling with being enormously selfish and building into their lives so that selfishness doesn’t win the day.
Ed: So, we have these three questions that we are considering—we want to keep those before our children: “Who really is this God?” “Who are we?” and “Who are other people?” We want those questions to be a part of our conversations with our children.
And I think, Dennis, one of the things you are getting at is sort of that question: “Who am I?” Going back to Bob’s illustration—Bob, who are you? Let’s start with God. We have a God who delights in forgiving sins—that makes Him stand out among all the made-up god’s in the world. You don’t have to win His favor back. He delights in forgiving sins. “Who are we?” We are people who—we want to be great—
Ed: —something where we can say, “This is ours.” Well, if we understand Scripture correctly, that really makes sense. As human beings, we want to stand out; but it also makes sense that it’s an expression of our own pride.
We want something, in ourselves, that we can call our own.
So, what do parents offer to their children?—same thing they offer to themselves. Part of growing in wisdom is—we are people who simply confess our sins. And here is what we know about our lives right now—that we are more prideful than we realize. Even when we feel really low, we can scratch around and find the little bit more pride than we realize.
And for me, personally, this question: “What do you think about me?” and “Why do I care?”—it leads me to a confession that goes like this: “Lord, why do I care so much about me? Would You reorient me and help me to care about other people a little bit more than me? Help me care about who You are more than I care about myself.”
So, that’s—how do you grow in wisdom? Well, we teach our children how to confess things—and not just that they were mean to their brother or sister—but to go deeper than that—
—that we are, ultimately, prideful people / we want to be above rather than under—to be able to confess—but also, to have joy in confession because we know the God who loves to forgive His people.
Dennis: That’s excellent. I hope parents really heard what you said there. I want to add two additional things to your statement. Number one, I think we have to teach our kids that it is God who made us.
Ed: Which, by the way, means you have dibs over whatever you’ve made—that belongs to you.
Ed: So, if God is our Creator, it means we belong to Him.
Dennis: Then, He went and repurchased you with the redemption through the message of Easter. You’ve got the gospel right there. But then, the second thing is that God has a plan for your life, as a teenager: “As you fulfill Almighty God’s plan, you are going to be living out the ultimate adventure / the ultimate journey—walking with the Creator of the universe, in this broken world, offering hope to other people.
“As a teenager, you”—listen to me, son / listen to me, my daughter—“you need to be on a mission. You don’t need to be a mission field. You need to be about what God has for your life, in fulfilling what He has for you and impacting other people.” I’ll tell you what—the teenager, who is on a mission, stands out in the very best sense of that phrase.
Bob: I think, sometimes, when we tell our teenagers, “God has a plan for your life,” we are thinking and they are thinking: “Well, yes, one day, God wants me to live out that plan. Right now, I’m a teenager; but God’s plan for my life is kind of post-college.” You’re saying: “God has a plan for you right now / today to be on that mission. It’s not something that you wait until you graduate from college and, then, the plan kicks in”—right?
Dennis: And teenagers desperately need that mission and that vision for life now. They don’t need it later. They need it now because the peer pressure and the culture’s pressure are very real.
Bob: And I think they need to have an accurate answer to: “Who am I?” “Who is God?” and “Who are other people?”—the three questions that Ed points us to in the book— What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
And I have already mentioned this week that I passed this on to the guy who runs Student Ministries at our church. It’s being used with our students this fall. It’s a great book for young people to work their way through. And I think it’s a good book for all of us to spend some time exploring. You could do this as a family.
We’ve got the book—What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?—in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. When you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, in the upper left-hand corner of the page, it says, “GO DEEPER.” If you click there, you’ll see the screen shot of the book. You can click on that and order from us if you’d like. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Go to the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” to order Ed’s book. Or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to conclude our conversation with Ed Welch as we talk about these big questions of: “What do you think of me? and “Why do I care?”—our need for the approval of others. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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