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Why I need a Saviour, not a self-help manual

A little confession of mine...

I desire in all things to be effortlessly superior

Of course between effortless and superior there’s a trade-off.

Usually I favour the effortless.

I only do what’s easy or what shows me off best.

I serve myself.  Always.  Even when I’m serving you.

I’m entitled – entitled to ease, respect, acclaim, admiration, understanding.

I'm outraged when this sovereign sphere is infringed.


I try to appear better than I am

I need to be right

I enter each conversation with a persona and an agenda

I don’t enter the conversation with me and a servant heart

I rob people of a true heart-to-heart by trying to appear cool/knowledgeable/funny/attractive

If I can’t appear cool/knowledgeable/funny/attractive I’ll withdraw

I’ll give you my talents, knowledge, anecdotes, humour.  I won’t give you me.

The ‘me’ and the persona have become difficult to disentangle anyway.


I’m not a bit player in your story, you’re a bit player in mine.

In my story I am a noble sufferer, a heroic knight, a whimsical comic and a wise sage.

I force myself into this role.  And I will force you to play along with my fantasy.


Your mistakes are crude, mine are complicated

Your mistakes have no excuses, mine have many excuses.  Let me list them...

Your mistakes show your true colours, mine are out of character


If your sins are different to mine, I dismiss you as freakish

If your sins are the same as mine, my inside knowledge makes me dismiss you all the more


I’m devastated by my sins – but only for how bad they made me look (to others and to myself)

I hate myself – but only because I think I deserve better

I’m self-deprecating – but only because it plays well

I’m shy – but only as a cover for real engagement

I’m quiet – but not listening.  Just self-absorbed.


By the way... I desperately don’t want you to know all these things.   So I’ve got to keep you close enough to buy the persona but not close enough to see through it.  In other words, I’ve got to manipulate you.  Constantly.

I have a plethora of warm, witty, charming falsehoods to draw you in.

I have an arsenal of cold, sharp, closed quips to keep you back.

This is my complicated splendour.



0 thoughts on “Why I need a Saviour, not a self-help manual

  1. DCA

    You're right--these are all the prideful things that we need to be saved from. A self-help book may give you insights, but it does not have power behind it, as praying for transformation from God does.

    Thank you for baring your challenges to inspire us to rise up from ours. Be blessed, bruh!

  2. Dev

    you have to wonder why on earth anyone would write books to help us become MORE inward looking !!

    they should call them sin manuals

  3. John B

    We're not the heroes of our own stories. Our sin isn't determinative or ultimate; it's not the story. The Truth is God's love manifested to us in Christ. Because God became one of us, sin is no longer a crisis. The Father is merciful and adopts us as His own children, when we receive His Son as our Savior. In revealing to us the personas that we adopt, the Holy Spirit emancipates us from our idealized attachment to self, and weds us to Christ. Jesus loves you. Shalom.

  4. codepoke

    Beautifully rendered, Glen. Accurate and clean. I like it as a description of our relationally-challenged condition. Still, when you say you don't need a self-help manual you introduce a false dichotomy. Tell me where having Christ means I ought not work to grow in any of those areas?

    If you rewrote your poem as a Christian, would it say something like:

    I am much better than I was because I have Christ
    I am right because Christ is right in me
    I enter each conversation with a persona and an agenda and Christ
    I automatically enter the conversation with me and a servant heart because if I'm conversing Christ is conversing
    I rob people of a true heart-to-heart by pretending Christ in me automatically talks to Christ in them
    If I can’t appear [wonderful] it's because they can't see what's really in me now
    I’ll give you Christ in me. I won’t give you me.
    The ‘me’ and the persona and the Christ I hide behind have become difficult to disentangle anyway.

    It seems making Christ and self-help mutually exclusive is a red-herring. Knowing Christ accepts the real me emboldens me to risk growing in all these areas. Being surrounded by saints who've successfully navigated some of these risks supports me. But to say that Christ being my righteousness makes Him also my relationships is a category error.

    And yes, I've made exactly the mistake I reworded above.

  5. Glen

    Thanks John and Code.

    I see my post as (1) Glen in Adam/under law/in the flesh.
    John's comment is (2) Glen in Christ/under grace/in the Spirit.
    Code's comment is (3) Glen being sanctified by grace.

    I think they're all true.

    I deliberately stopped short of (3) and only hinted at (2) in the title because I didn't want to portray my hope as anywhere lying within me.

    I toyed with expressing hope in a heart freed by the gospel, a new energy and new Spirit within, perfect love driving out fear etc, etc. All of that stuff is true. But I didn't want that to be the punchline. Because it's not the ultimate answer. The ultimate answer is Christ for me and outside me (even though Christ in me is completely true and relevant). But I think even this (2) doesn't bite until (1) is driven home (Dave K if you're reading - this is for you!).

    But absolutely (3) is completely Scriptural and must get a decent airing (with those caveats in place) - not for God's sake but for the sake of my friends and family who have to put up with me! They're very much hoping for a bit of infused grace, sanctification, gospel fruit, anything!

  6. codepoke

    > They’re very much hoping for a bit of infused grace, sanctification, gospel fruit, anything!

    Hehehe. Indeed.

    I like it again. Still, me being me, I need to clarify exactly what you mean.

    > Because it’s not the ultimate answer.

    Sanctification by grace requires an awful lot of sweat, right? Justification by faith is a sweat-free endeavor, but relationship requires work. God accepts us wholly, but we still only relate to Him by investment. He inhabits us as a holy God within a holy creation but He doesn't relate to us apart from our relating to Him. That requires trying, failing, learning and the experience of being accepted through all that. Relating to brothers and sisters in Christ differs in that blood and tears are often added to the sweat, but relationship always requires investment.

    The term, "santification by grace," always left me feeling like it was an effortless process. Imagine my surprise when I learned how much more efficiently I could work with the tutelage of people older and wiser than myself, the kind of people who've written many of those self-help books your title says we don't need. I was shocked to learn how much santification by grace looks like "growing up," and how badly I needed to get on with the gruesome business of finding out why people didn't like to be around me. It wasn't because I was so knowledgable, spiritual, or artistic, as you pointed out. But it also wasn't cured by learning the many facets grace or the work of the Trinity more perfectly.

    > They’re very much hoping for a bit of infused grace, sanctification, gospel fruit, anything!

    Or maybe a little hard self-help after all.

  7. Glen

    Hi Code - yes clarifying terms is all important. My title for the post was a very last second decision. All I wanted to do was contrast help outside to help within. An honest look within (confession) needs to be met *ultimately* with a desperate look without (faith) - even though it's indeed true that Christ gives me a new heart and Spirit and new resources for change etc, etc.

    If by self-help you mean practical encouragements to look to the Saviour and His resources and appropriate gospel truth in all areas of life etc, etc, then that can be a very helpful thing in battling (3) - once a person is crystal clear on 1 and 2.

    Marc's comment above points us in an interesting direction - that even our confessions are tainted by sin. As an old Archbishop used to say 'Even our tears of repentance need washing in the blood of Jesus.' For that sort of reason I want to make sure 2 is the bottom line (while recognizing that 3-type 'working out our salvation' is essential if we want to bear fruit in love).

    Luther said something like: "I live above myself in God through faith. I live beneath myself in my neighbour through love." For the sake of that neighbour-love I certainly will need to address that selfishness within. And if a helpful resource in that department calls itself 'self-help' then I won't quibble. But the look within is thereby strictly set in the context of outward-focused faith and love. If the self becomes the ultimate object of the self-help I think it becomes unhelpful, even if that help is caged in the most pietistic sounding terms of 'personal holiness' or whatever.

  8. coomar

    Sinking feeling...

    This is one of those time when the words from "Create in Me" (Sovereign Grace) take on a whole new depth.

    'Sin has brought me to my knees. Mercy lifts me to my feet.'

  9. Steven Hovater

    This poem is so wonderfully naked! If we could just get our heads around what it means for other people to be just as complicated as we are, it would remake the world for us.

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