“The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.” – Adam Smith
Recognizing the flesh is easier when it has obvious, radical negative expressions. It’s easy to see the junk when “performance flesh” disintegrates in a flame of burnout, when “superior flesh” lashes out with words of arrogance, or when “caretaker flesh” perpetuates destructive, dependent relationships.
But sometimes the flesh manifests itself in ways that seem positive. I mean, is it wrong to want to please people? Is it wrong to want to do really well and perform well? Is it wrong to want to protect people? The answer doesn’t have as much to do with the what as the why.
One of my own flesh patterns is the “pleaser flesh;” I do things for others so they will like me. Back before Libby and I figured out this whole “crucify the flesh” thing, I would sense that she was upset with me, and that would make me uncomfortable. In response, I would try to please her to earn her acceptance. I would clean the kitchen and surprise her. She’d come home, see it clean, and grunt at me and promptly get mad.
Shocked and definitely disappointed, I would say, “How could you be mad at me? I just cleaned the whole kitchen!” But one time she said, “I don’t know why I’m mad at you, it just feels yucky.” Why did my attempt to please her feel yucky? Because I was cleaning the kitchen to manipulate her, to get her to like me, to control our relationship. She could sense it. She could feel it, and it was “yuck.”
I learned a lot about my flesh from that experience, but I could have just as easily learned if from the Word. (Now that I think about it, it would have been a LOT easier and saved a lot of heartache if I could have seen it in the Bible first!)
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. — Galatians 1:10
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” —1 Samuel 16:7
Anything wrong with cleaning the kitchen? Of course not… IF you are walking in the Spirit. You may get a completely different reaction for the same action. Why? Because in the Spirit I’m serving her to love her; in the flesh I’m serving her to get something. Do you see the difference? It doesn’t guarantee that your actions in the Spirit will have the desired effect, but at least I could. Flesh stinks even when doing “good things” and your spouse can sniff it a mile away.
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