But at times when I watch a great hero story, underneath my excitement and joy over good triumphing there is something darker - something that smacks of envy, jealousy, discontent. Why? Because deep down, I wish that hero was me. Something in me longs for that rush of self-satisfaction, the pleasure of "feeling good about me", to know, or at least believe, I came through, I matter, I made a difference, I am valuable and therefore worthy of acceptance, approval, love. But the operative word is always "I." And therein lies the potential relational toxicity.
Is it wrong to come through, or to want to come through? I don't think so. We were created to be in relationships, to love, help, encourage, protect, care, save even. But why do we want to do it? And what happens if we don't succeed? Those two questions, related to motive and outcome, make all the difference.
If my primary motivation for entering into another's story is so I can feel good about me, so I can get a hit of the 'hero' drug to calm or dispel my own fear of feeling inadequate, worthless, or insignificant, my 'heroing' has hurt. Instead of being curious and caring I've pried. Instead of being open and invitational I've demanded more details. Instead of listening to a hurting or confused heart, I've rushed to dispense my wisdom and insight. And at the end of it all, instead of being humbled by my own inadequacy in the face of another's deep pain, tragedy or chaos, I've felt proud of how much they shared and how much I was there for them. Or, if it didn't go well from my perspective, if I failed in my heroing, I've felt bummed, frustrated and empty. Tragically, regardless of the outcome, if my motive was me I remained oblivious to how much damage I did and how much I likely hindered the true work of the Holy Spirit.
I have a reminder on my desk, a small, three-sided piece of engraved marble that I've looked at numerous times while writing this. On one side it has black felt so it doesn't scratch my desk. On a second side it has Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus." On the third side it has this from Mother Teresa:
"We can do no great things; only small things with great love."I bought it years ago when I recognized my penchant for wanting to do great things so I could feel good about me. The Holy Spirit used it to prick my ego bubble and remind me that my job is to love and point people to Jesus as the true Hero of everyone's story.
But man, that selfish desire to be the hero runs deep in me, a dragon that has to be slain over and over again. Gratefully, Jesus has instilled an even deeper desire in my new heart, a desire to embrace my own inadequacy as the necessary starting point for loving well, and to cultivate a mindset that trusts that God is Hero enough, both for me and anyone He brings my way.