Letting Go of Ego (Newsletter 4-5)


IN 1914, THE FOLLOWING ad­vertisement appeared in the London newspapers: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, and safe return doubtful. Hon­or and recognition in case of success.” Twenty-six men were needed. Thousands applied.

On December 5, 1914, Ernest Shackleton, with twenty-six men and one stowaway, sailed to the continent of Antarctica to complete the adventure of a lifetime-the first overland crossing of Antarctica. By his best estimate, it could be done in 120 days, but it would be 634 days before they returned.

What led thousands to apply? Haz­ardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. And safe return doubtful. I believe the answer is found in the last sentence: “Honor and recognition in case of success.”


There is a desire in every one of us to be spectacular, powerful, self-sufficient, and independent. We, in many ways, are driven by our ego. Jesus, however, when calling His disciples to follow Him, instructed them to deny self. This forsak­ing-of-self agenda and embracing God’s agenda suggests a person following Jesus must let go of ego.

The disciples struggled with this.

They did not understand His kingdom. They desired to be first, to establish an earthly kingdom, to hold positions of power, to act as though they were great. Jesus, however, opposed such mind sets and values, and sought to change them. Interestingly, those who embraced this change went on to do great things.

Jim Collins, in Good to Great, main­tains great leaders demonstrate great humility. In Collins’s research of leaders who led good organizations to become great organizations, he discovered the “leaders never wanted to become larg­er-than-life heroes,” rather they “were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.” People who ended up doing great things were those who did not focus on doing great things.

We must be careful where our focus lies. Our focus should not be on doing great things for God. Instead, it should be on allowing Him to do great things in us. We must resist the temptation to be spectacular, powerful, self-sufficient, and independent. The pursuit of such things is driven by our ego. We must allow God to change us. We must let go of ego.


One of the ways we know we no longer think about ourselves anymore is in how we deal with criticism. We will encounter many opportunities to be hurt and offended by people. And the amount of ego we allow to reside within us will largely determine how we handle such moments.

Basing his comments on Paul’s writings in I Corinthians 3:21–4:7, Tim Keller, in The Freedom of Self-Forget­fulness, states the “self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism.”

It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them. Why? Because a person who is dev­astated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people’s opinions.

The world tells the person who is thin-skinned and devastated by criticism to deal with it by saying, “Who cares what they think? I know what I think. Who cares what they think? It doesn’t bother me.”

So, people are either devastated by criticism-or they are not devastated by criticism because they do not listen to it. They will not listen to it or learn from it because they do not care about it. They know who they are and what they think.

In other words, our only solution to low self-esteem is pride. But that is no so­lution. Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us.


Pop psychology tells us we need a healthy ego. It tries to convince us that the solution to low self-esteem is to build up one’s ego. Many embrace its teachings. Jesus’ teachings, however, are quite dif­ferent.

The greatest is not the one with the king-sized ego. Not even close. The greatest is the one who lets go of ego.

One day a dispute arose among the disciples as to which one of them would be the greatest. “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘bene­factors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:25- 26,NKN).

The greatest is not the one with the king-sized ego. Not even close. The great­est is the one who lets go of ego.