What Does Deferring Your Preferences Look Like?

u_rightContinued from here.

For me, the word “humility” was difficult to wrap my mind around. I had trouble understanding how to take this concept and put it into practice. C.S. Lewis got me pointed in the right direction with this quote:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

I used to believe I was a humble person because I had very low self-esteem, but I learned in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender that having a low opinion of yourself is just as prideful as having too high of an opinion of yourself. Pride is simply having yourself on your mind (or being selfish, self-absorbed, or self-focused). I was constantly on my mind as I meditated upon all of the things that were “wrong” with me.

So, I understood that I needed to get myself off my mind, but I did not know how to actually DO that. This is when the Holy Spirit “whispered” that I needed to start deferring my preferences, which is replacing thoughts of myself with thoughts of others. For example, I’ll defer the nicer chair to someone else or defer my preference for where to eat dinner to the other person. While this is something I used to do to manipulate the other person’s approval as a people pleaser, my motivation is now completely different. I love God enough to want to obey Him, and he told me to defer my preferences, so I choose to let the other person have his or her way because I love God. A huge difference is that the other person’s response is irrelevant whereas it was all that mattered in my people-pleasing days. Whether or not the other person notices or cares that I deferred my preferences, God notices.

Interestingly, even though I no longer get my own way most of the time, I am much happier. More specifically, I experience joy and peace that eluded me when I was selfish. I used to believe that getting what I wanted would make me happy, but I have actually found more happiness by choosing not getting what I want as I defer my preferences to the people around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking and saying, “U Right, U Right.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Deferring Your Preferences to Develop Humility

do_you_like_meContinued from here.

Now that we understand the problem, what is the solution? Just as I have found that having difficulty interacting with other people is a red flag for a pride problem, I have conversely found that easily getting along with other people is indicative of growth in humility. When I no longer expect everything to go my way and, instead, make a conscious effort to help things go someone else’s way, people are much easier to get along with.

Keep in mind, though, that I’m not talking about being a people pleaser, which was a problem for me for decades. I was the world’s biggest people pleaser, which from the outside might look like humility, but it was actually another form of pride. People pleasing is seeking to manipulate others to approve of you whereas humility is deferring your preferences out of love for God. The motivation is the key difference. People pleasing ultimately leads to a flare up in pride when the manipulations don’t get the results you want. With humility, you are simply seeking to please God, so the other person’s reaction does not matter.

When I was seeking to please others to gain their approval, I was the central focus of my thoughts. I knew that someone wanted X to be happy, so I twisted myself into a pretzel to make X happen for that person, hoping that by bringing X about, the person would approve of me and love me. Unfortunately, bringing about X was never enough. Once the person had X, s/he then needed Y to be happy … and then Z … Because I am not God, I could not make everything happen as that person wanted. My motivation was purely selfish, and people pleasing was exhausting. I ultimately could not fully please anyone, and I would feel sorry for myself that I was not receiving the love I sought, even after all the work I put into trying to manipulate the world for the other person.

Ironically, people tend to like me more since I developed humility and am no longer seeking their approval. Only God’s opinion of me matters, and this shift in perspective has radically changed my relationships and my view of myself. My self-esteem is no longer based upon what anyone else thinks of me. God loves me exactly as I am, so my needs are met, regardless of anyone else’s opinion of me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace asking, “Do you like me?” with check boxes for Yes, No, and Maybe. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Spiritually Mature People Defer their Preferences

i_got_thisContinued from here.

Loving your neighbor as yourself requires us to prioritize other people above ourselves, so spiritually mature people repeatedly defer their own preferences in honor of others. Nothing about this process comes naturally because of our selfish sinful nature. The natural state for each of us is to choose the best for ourselves and follow our feelings. Only through spiritual maturity do we learn to humble ourselves as we honor others.

The way I learned this trait most effectively was by becoming a parent. I could not meet my baby’s needs without deferring my own preferences (such as sleep!) repeatedly as I placed my baby’s needs above my own. God gives new parents the grace of bonding through intense love, which helps them overcome their natural selfishness to prioritize the needs of a new baby.

Unfortunately, we don’t get the same feelings when it comes to deferring our preferences for annoying family members … or the people at work who are trying to sabotage us … or those who are bullying our child. When it comes to loving our enemies, obedience happens through a choice to obey God despite what we feel, and that’s hard to do. It takes spiritual maturity to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.

My preference was to hate my childhood abusers, nurse my bitterness, and hope they all burn eternally in hell. However, God commanded me to forgive them, which I truly, from the bottom of my heart, did not want to do. God placed a question on my heart: did I love Him more than I hated my enemies? If I loved Him more, then I needed to forgive them, not because they deserved it but because I would obey God out of love. Obeying God by forgiving my enemies through repeated prayer for them was one of my most life-changing experiences. It was through forgiving them that God healed my brokenness.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “I got this.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]