12 Steps to Recovering from Self-Addiction
Note: the following scenario occurred solely in the author’s imagination; any resemblance to actual persons or events is (mostly) coincidental.
“Hello,” I greet the circle of faces attending the self-addiction support group. “My name is Patricia and I’m addicted to — myself.”
“I didn’t think I’d become an addiction, until I realized how much time and energy I pour into trying to construct a good self-image, working to be liked, living to serve myself. I don’t see Jesus doing that. It’s time for a change.”
Heads nod empathetically, and story-sharing begins. One girl, admitting to spending a full hour daily in front of the mirror, exclaims, “that’s fifteen days of navel-gazing annually!” The guy on my left confesses his smartphone harbors 700 selfies; another person describes how his personal presentation online became the center of his focus. “My life seems full,” he reflects, “but it’s full of emptiness.”
Fortunately for us selfaholics, God’s word is packed with tips for combatting self-focused living. The “12 Steps to Recovery” pamphlet I’m holding lists just a few:
1. Admit we need a savior.
The truth is, we’re nothing by ourselves. There is no earthly way to earn God’s acceptance; we need the Heavenly Way, and without him, we’re already dead. Remembering that we deserve nothing, except death, positions us aright in humility.
2. Practice the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 22:4 (NIV) says, “humility is the fear of the Lord,” while Proverbs 8:13 (NKJV) explains, “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” When we despise our pride and humbly put God first, we’re practicing the fear of the Lord — and breaking self-addiction.
Worship is one response to humbly recognizing our position before God. By worshiping, we focus on God’s glory rather than on glorifying ourselves.
4. Embrace the “Johnitude.”
When Jesus drew more attention than John the Baptist, John declared, “he must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV). Adopting this attitude corrects our priorities from being self-focused to Christ-focused.
5. Take the lowest place.
Jesus didn’t only command us to assume the lowest position among others (Luke 14:7-11). He did so himself, according to Philippians 2:5-7 (NLT):
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God… he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”
6. Serve like Christ.
Taking the lowest place has an active side: servanthood. Although as countercultural today as it was when Jesus shocked his disciples by washing their feet (John 13:1-11), servanthood is a lifestyle we’re called to follow.
7. Build others up.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) urges us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” Instead of constantly trying to boost our own image, what would happen if we invested that energy into validating others?
8. Seek others’ interests.
Philippians 2:4 (ESV) admonishes,
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
What can you do today to bless someone else, lift their spirit, or brighten their day?
9. Recognize lies.
Looking out for others isn’t easy in a culture that teaches us to live for ourselves. Pray for wisdom to recognize these culturally-engrained lies, taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV.)
10. Speak truth.
Taking captive every thought requires fighting lies with the truth of God’s word, as Jesus did when he faced temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Memorize scripture that speaks to selfaholism, to combat the “worship yourself” messages we encounter daily.
11. Discipline yourself.
An active way to counter culturally-engrained lies is through discipline and self-control (See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The spiritual discipline of fasting, for instance, helps us practice saying no to self-indulgence.
12. Look at Jesus.
Self-denial lies at the heart of the gospel (Matthew 16:24). We give up pursuing ourselves to death because we’ve found One whom we can pursue to life. Looking steadily into the light of the Son is the only way to become blinded to ourselves.
I glance up from the pamphlet, suddenly seeing the other faces not as “friends” to decorate my social media pages, but as humans whom God fiercely cherishes. And God — He’s no longer a means to whatever end I want in life, but He’s Father, Savior, and King. Though I’m empty-handed before Him, He adores me anyway, making my extraneous efforts to be liked irrelevant.
“Imagine,” pipes up Mirror Girl, “unchained to ourselves, how much time, resources and energy we’ll have for advancing God’s eternal kingdom instead of our own fading images!”
Selfie Guy nods, already deleting pictures from his phone.
I just smile.
Kissing ourselves goodbye will render us counter-revolutionaries in our selfalholic culture.
Somehow, I get the feeling it’s going to be worth it.