Father completely checked me the other day through the mouth of someone I respect. (Yes, He chastens those He loves.) I was sharing about how I’ve been walking through a process of breaking free from people pleasing. I’m SO much better than I was, but the fact is there’s still more there, and frankly it needs to go. Father apparently agreed because He chose that moment to bring the root to light, and that light is expelling darkness.
He said what I struggled with was a form of pride. Not pride as in arrogance, pride as in caring too much what others think. Pride as in vanity.
Here’s a few snippets from Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary definition of vanity:
- inflated pride in oneself or in one’s appearance, attainments, performance, possessions, or successes
- hunger for praise or admiration
- love of the good opinion of others
As I have pondered this extensively, Father has shown me many areas of my life this vanity has touched and I have realized that it has been deeply ingrained for as long as I can remember.
I remember being 13 yrs old and going over the “resume” of my life and being pleased with the way it sounded. I actually was angry when my parents moved us from New York to Missouri… after all, who wants to live in a “fly-over state”? At the time, I placed no value or importance in the fact that it was Father (YHWH) who told them to move us here. I was more concerned with how I “looked” – such vanity.
Let me pause and share a principle with you of how the enemy works. We all know he comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I think sometimes we forget logistically what that can look like from a practical standpoint. The enemy loves to twist and pervert our strengths, which is why our greatest strengths can also be our weaknesses. He doesn’t have authority to remove our strengths, but if he can get us to skew the way we move in them he can thwart the purpose the strength was given for.
So for example, Father has given me a gift of counsel as well as calling me to intercession. In the way He wired me, both these things come with a sensitivity to others and what they may be thinking or feeling. Since the enemy is not able to remove this God-given sensitivity, he perverted it by getting me in a cycle of obsession about what people are thinking or feeling about ME. Which is pride… vanity.
Let me candidly share some of the areas of my life I’ve seen this play out in:
- Most obviously general people pleasing, which manifested as doing things out of a fleshly desire to appear a certain way (e.g. responsible, committed). It’s not as though I am NOT those things, but it is an unhealthy desire to be sure others know my heart motivations so I might be rightly understood, rather than simply being obedient to God and trusting my reputation with Him. This is vanity.
- I have not stepped out in music ministry more because I am not able to perform at the standard *I* hold myself to and for fear others will be holding me to the same standard rather than desiring to create a sound that pleases Him at ANY time He would call me to do so not just in the confines of an empty house. This is vanity.
- I have held back in my ministering with flags and dance because after all who wants to see a woman my size in motion? When I should have poured out with abandon the praise He is so richly due. This is vanity.
- I have taken titles in people’s lives (e.g. mom, grandma) that did not belong to me because of a desire to be validated and give permanency and importance to the relationship rather than trusting the relationship in Father’s hands. This is vanity.
There are so many areas I see that vanity has taken hold! When I was younger it caused me to make MANY decisions that were harmful to me (and others) and hurt the heart of the Father. As an adult, I don’t make choices like that anymore – when I hear His voice I WILL obey regardless of consequence, but I confess I argue with Him a lot about what so-and-so will think and how whatever He’s calling me to do will “look” (Perfect example in a blog post from Oct 2009). Countless hours of brain activity are wasted on such vanity that profits nothing.
In the scriptures there’s actually multiple words that are translated as “vanity” but the one that most closely aligns with vanity in this context is Strongs #7723
- emptiness, vanity, falsehood
- emptiness, nothingness, vanity
- emptiness of speech, lying
- worthlessness (of conduct)
The verse Father highlighted to me that includes this word was Psalm 24:4 while describing who may ascend the hill of the LORD:
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
The NKJV translates this word as “idol”. The connection this draws for me is that in essence vanity is holding yourself up as an idol. This leads me to a couple things I want to repent for:
- I repent for having ever said that I was not “called” to flagging simply because I felt like I looked foolish doing it.
- I repent for wasting precious time and energy on empty, worthless, vain thoughts.
- I repent for having wasted others’ time by trying to explain my actions to make sure my motives were properly understood rather than trusting You to help them know my heart and understand.
- I repent for having held myself and my reputation as an idol.
- I repent for not trusting You, Father, to humble me when You wanted me humbled, and lift me up when You wanted me lifted up.
I thank You for Your mercy Father in exhorting me on this issue and for your grace as You have forgiven me.
Let me close by challenging you to take stock in your own life. Are there areas that vanity is inhibiting your willingness to step out or to be obedient? Let me just tell you the amount of freedom I’ve felt in the last 48 hours (since the exhortation was given) has felt amazing! Here are a couple verses that I had to prayerfully consider if I really believed and I challenge you to do the same as you seek to break any hold of vanity in your life:
- Psalm 56:11 – In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
- 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 – Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.
Father, I pray that You would give wisdom and insight to all of us so every tentacle that vanity has in any of our lives would be removed and the root cut out. Forgive us for not focusing wholeheartedly on You and rather placing the focus on ourselves. Thank you for Your forgiveness and grace and for helping us to walk out change. Thank You for not removing our calls and giftings when we’ve allowed the enemy to twist them, but instead growing and leading us back to a place of right relationship with You with a testimony of how You move. You are truly awesome! Be exalted in our lives…