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Vanity and conceit: What are your intentions behind your actions?
Vanity is not native only to confident people or to certain personality types. Vanity is common to mankind – male and female, young and old.
Definition of vanity (Merriam-Webster):
1: inflated pride in oneself or one’s appearance: conceit
2: something that is vain, empty, or valueless
What are my intentions?
Vanity is being fixated on myself, and my appearance, to the point where it takes up time in my thoughts and may even cause anxiety and stress. Vanity can be found in those who are confident and self-assured and think highly of themselves. However, vanity and self-absorption are also present in those with low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
“… love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up …” 1 Corinthians 13:4.
Today’s social media culture dictates that it is “normal” and commendable to promote myself, draw attention to myself, and put the best possible image of myself and my life on display. Why would I want to do this? It is good to think about my motives. Is my intention to be pleasing to God?
Perhaps, whether consciously or sub-consciously, it is to get an ego boost, to fit in, or to be accepted by others. Maybe it’s even to escape from my reality and live in a fabricated world which I would like to convince others and myself of, for example. What is driving my actions? Is it a pure love for God, to do His will? It is helpful to take a step back and take an honest look at myself. Am I serving my vanity and my ego when I should be serving God? What are my motives? Am I super conscious of myself, my appearance, who is going to see my post, my outfit, etc.? Are my thoughts wrapped up in myself and the impression I make? Is it driven by conceit? All of this is contrary to God's Word!
Would this happen if I were truly whole-heartedly interested in pleasing Him only, in every moment?
It may be that my motives stem from a place of low self-esteem, which can create justification for vanity and self-absorption. However, getting liberated from my low self-esteem is the best place to start!
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The cure to low self-esteem
In my personal struggle with low self-esteem, I prayed to God for help and revelation. I wanted to be free from my tormenting thoughts. Life was stressful and confusing, and I was never good enough in my own eyes, no matter what I did, wore, or looked like. Laying hold of many verses throughout the Bible, and really believing in them personally for myself, liberated me from this life of bondage!
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Read the whole of Psalm 139.)
Reading these verses, I found that it was not possible to have faith in them and not be satisfied with the way God made me. Who am I to contest what God has created? Who am I to say that what He made was not good enough? He fashioned my body, personality, and whole being, with strengths and weaknesses, just as He pleased. It is not my place to step in and decide that God’s creation is not good enough. Behind this low self-esteem actually lies extreme pride and a lust to be something greater (in my eyes) than what God intended.
The key to being liberated from self-absorption and vanity
The amazing thing is that through the gospel, regardless of my tendencies (whether my vanity and self-absorption come from a place of low self-esteem, or from a place of egotism), the solution is the same!
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
There is nothing more liberating than letting Christ live through me, and allowing God’s Spirit to have free reign in my body. By default, this pushes vanity and self-absorption right out the door. Instead of dwelling on thoughts revolving around myself, I instead seek to bless others, and find His will.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
Is there anything better I could use my body and life for in my short time here on earth? Instead of spending my thoughts on useless obsessing around my own self, I can be freed and live a life of purpose, joy and peace. I was bought at a price, and I can use the body God gave me to be a blessing and glorify Him with it! Nothing is more fulfilling than living a life where God directs my paths. Then I can trust that He is creating me into His image, and what could be more beautiful and attractive than that?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.