All About Me
I spoke to an appreciative audience at a respected national conference. I received a standing ovation and heard the accolades of hundreds. I listened as attendees, eyes filled with tears, thanked me for speaking a word on their behalf. You’d think that would be enough to fill the fuel tanks of my ego, right? Yeah, think again.
The day after my keynote speech I was talking with two other main speakers. I thanked one for her authenticity and the integrity of her message. I thanked another for the trail he blazed for all of us who live among the publicly vilified. As the delightful conversation unfolded, I found an old discomfort creeping into the pit of my stomach. It was not joy or gratitude. No, it was disappointment that one of the two speakers had not affirmed my message.
Later in the conversation the speaker did say, “Your message was terrific!” but by then I was feeling too guilty to take in the compliment. I wanted to stand outside my own self, point and say, “I’m not with her. She’s a bottomless pit of need for affirmation. Keep your distance. She could suck your soul dry.”
How could a 52-year-old woman (yeah 52 – that’s what the computer typed so I’m stickin’ with it) who had just received the most extraordinary response of her career, stand in need of more affirmation?
Richard Rohr says in the second half of life we finally come to the place in which we find our deepest sense of satisfaction from deep within our own soul, not from the affirmation of others. So, uh, am I not yet in the second half of life? I’m well into the second half of my life yet here I stand, still hoping my Nielson ratings are holding. I feel like the narcissist who says, “Well, enough about me. What do you think about me?”
In our deep spaces we all want to be adored. If only we could truly grasp the truth that we already are. But alas, we have a difficult time seeing beyond the frosted lenses of our own wounded eyes.
The public platform is a vulnerable place to stand. Americans consistently say their greatest fear is speaking in public. On your better days you find the courage to place yourself there because you believe you have a word that must be spoken. On your lesser days you realize you are standing there because you have an ego in need of affirmation. Better days and lesser days will always be with us.
I shall speak again, and of one thing I can be certain. Should Jesus himself come up afterwards and say, “Paula, my dear child, I love you!” my response will likely be, “Yeah, but did you like my message?”
And so it goes.