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Review: Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller

Everywhere you look, you see them:  people who are obsessed with themselves.  To be honest, we see such a person when we look in the mirror as well. We all are self-centered, at least to some degree, and our individualistic, on-display culture aggravates this natural tendency.

But, as Rick Warren famously said, “It’s not about you.”

In Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not About You, Sharon Hodde Miller builds on this concept, showing how liberating it is to realize that our lives are not about ourselves, but about God.  “If we could only focus a little less on ourselves and a little more on God, our shoulders would feel so much lighter….But the challenge is, how?”

This is a very personal book. Sharon shares how she hurt herself and others by her self-focus and how God changed that, and then she draws conclusions and generalizations that apply to others as well.

Distinguishing between two often-linked root causes of insecurity—low self-esteem and self-preoccupation—Sharon also noticed differing cures.  If a person has low self-esteem, having been hurt, abused, or lied to, they need to take time to learn God’s truth about themselves and to heal.  On the other hand, the cure for self-preoccupation is to learn what Tim Keller calls ‘self-forgetfulness’, the very opposite of self-focus, and a concept that Sharon spends the rest of the book explaining.   Since our human nature defaults to self-centeredness, this is no small project.

With prayer, Bible study, much reflection, and the input of godly mentors, Sharon learned that her life was not about her.  Even though we may think that we are different, just a bit better, and not overwhelmed by the idol of self, it is convicting to read the details about how we make God, family, appearance, possessions, friendships, calling, and church about us.  Yet none of them are.

As Sharon writes, “Whenever we put anything before God,  it’s only a matter of time before it turns on us,” and,  “I couldn’t enjoy the freedom of living for Christ, because I wasn’t living for Christ.  I was living for me.”

The solution Sharon discovered to her insecurity and self-focus, one that has been discovered and rediscovered through the millennia, is four-fold:

  • Love God and praise him,
  • Love people,
  • Live purposefully,
  • Die to self.

These are all such commonplace Christian ideas, yet understanding and living them is the focus of our lives.  Though they are simple, they are also profound, and I suspect it will take our whole lifetime to understand what they really mean.

Sharon Hodde Miller shares much wisdom in this book and I learned a lot from her, not the least being that it really bothers me to think of myself as self-focused.  That, of course, is a red flag.

Free of Me can simply be read—that is by far the ‘safer’ route—or it can be studied carefully and applied.  Sharon includes a key verse, a prayer, and some penetrating discussion questions at the end of each chapter.  An in-depth group study guide is also available.

Either way, it is important to recognize, regularly, the reality of our self-centeredness, this pervasive tendency that we drift into over and over.  This book can help.   Ann Voskamp said , “Free of Me may be one of the most important truths for our times.”  And, you know, she is right.

“It’s not about you,” is a life-giving truth that we Christians need to learn to live, and it is a truth that this broken world desperately needs to hear.   

May God bless us all as we learn to live for him and for others rather than for ourselves!

A review of Embracing Obscurity discusses this whole concept from a different point of view.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller.

This article may be linked to Raising Homemakers, Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

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