I’ve been stuck in a rut lately—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Yes, part of it is definitely from my heavy course load this semester (seriously—two literature, two writing intensives, and a philosophy course! What was I thinking?). But, honestly, I can handle that. I can handle the time management and the work load. That’s not the problem. My problems this semester stem directly from feeding myself too much junk. Yes, junk. Junk in the form of personal development or self help books.
What? You may think. But isn’t reading self help books supposed to be good for you? In theory, yes, personal development books can be very beneficial. But, like everything else, these books are good in moderation. And for Christians, “moderation” is very low because, while these books are written to help people, they’re written from a secular worldview. They can’t address the state of a Christian’s soul or help a believer with spiritual attacks or struggles. That is not what these books are designed to do.
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And yes, I had been using these books in that way. I was putting Band-Aids on my bullet wounds, playing right into Satan’s hands. For a Christian, self help books are often “quick fixes.” Get your routine right, and everything will fall into place. Do what I say, and your life will be great!! While these books do offer some great advice, none of them addressed the roots of my problems the way the Word of God would. The way a fellow believer would. The way prayer would.
Three distinctive sins began to take over my life as a result of trying to grow from self help books instead of focusing on the one person that could truly bring growth—Jesus Christ.
- Perfectionism—I am not what you would call a perfectionist. My room can get pretty messy. I don’t comb over my school work again and again looking for minuscule mistakes. But, after reading so much this past semester about how I could just be so much better, it was impossible not to begin to demand too much of myself. I am never satisfied with what I accomplish in a day or how I’m spending my time. I never rest in who I am in Christ or who Christ is. This is exhausting.
- Self reliance—I’m not sure which is worse, the perfectionism or the self-reliance. In America, we are taught that self-reliance is the true mark of successful adulthood. But, God didn’t make us to rely on ourselves; he made us to rely on him. When I focus on how to improve myself, I lose sight of my need for God and instead solely rely on myself. This can cause a lot of damage to one’s relationship with Christ.
- Apathy—With all of this pressure I put on myself, I always end up just choosing not to care anymore. I give up and get into a slump. I don’t want to do anything at all – read my Bible, work, do homework—because I will never be able to do it well enough.
But, I don’t want these characteristics to make up my life, so it’s time to make some changes, set some new patterns, and “get my house in order” so to speak.
How I am Changing
- This month I am fasting from self help books. I am not reading any for the month of April; I will read fiction, biographies, theology books (Heaven knows I don’t read enough about my own faith!), etc. But, I will continue to read books that point me to God, such as Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
- After this, I will only read one per month. I am going to be very selective about the self-help books I read. I want books that encourage me and actually help me achieve my goals rather than distracting me from them.
Thanks for joining me this Tuesday! Is perfectionism and self-reliance something you struggle with? How are you working on it? Leave a comment below! God bless!