Impression Management

Impression ManagementA friend of mine listened to a bit of my story on the Myths of Mammon podcast I did with Wayne Jacobsen.  We were messaging each other about “impression management” and she brought up the same struggle I have.

How do I not try to make myself into a product, knowing that the very nature of the internet is that you have to make an instant impression or people will go elsewhere in a second?

I am certain we are not alone in this struggle.  Here is my heart’s response.

There is a place of freedom and belonging in Jesus that is real and attainable this side of the curtain. I don’t know if I am quite living there yet.  But I have certainly visited from time to time and have had wonderful moments while there.

The struggle with commodifying ourselves and managing impressions stem from not being in that place of freedom and belonging in Jesus. It’s our way of trying to get there apart from him and receiving or earning what he freely gives.  I fight the same tendency on this blog. That is what this is about . . . Celebrity of the Clay Jar.

When we’re in a place of belonging it does not mean we are without temptation or even without failure. It means that we are, for the most part, living as whole people in authenticity as beloved children of our Father. We’re not having to trespass, to go where we are not invited or don’t belong. We’re not requiring the approval or affirmation of others to breathe freely and deeply. We are at rest; we are home.

The truth is God loves us, right where we are, in our sin, shame, and brokenness.  He’s not waiting for us to clean ourselves up before he loves us.  His love is moving us to a place of freedom and wholeness.  We can cooperate with his actions on pathways that carry us into the open space with God. That is what some of the spiritual disciplines are about. But they are not the only way.  The reality is, God brings us there.  He is at work in us both to will and to do.  (Phil 2:13)  He who has begun a good work in us will complete it. (Phil 1:6)  Our part is to respond.  But sometimes the heart aches to get there faster! Like a little child, “are we there yet?”

Living in his love and presence is what we so desperately want from the deepest part of our beings. God wants it for us too. And he is bringing us there at a pace and in a way that won’t destroy our individuality and uniqueness. We must live in a patient trust.  I love him for it!  It allows me to grow and change!  I am me, yet I am him!  Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)  I live, yet not I but Christ! (Gal 2:20) Praise him, forever! :::: sorry, got a little worked up in the spirit there ::::

The best description for me is the life of a Psalm 23 sheep.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk  through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil;  my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord  forever.

The way to wholeness (life, salvation, rest) is a deep inner experience of Father’s love and affection for us. Its reality in our lives displaces all the junk.  We don’t get there by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or performing some action.  This kind of knowledge comes by revelation, and it’s the Father’s response to the cry of our heart, for ourselves or others. (Eph 1:17-21) (Eph 3:14-19)

“Father, what don’t I understand about your love that is causing me to . . .”   That’s a question that Wayne encouraged me to ask several years ago. I still find myself asking it when I recognize that I am not living in the reality of God’s love and affection.  I ask it when I realize I’m trespassing or trying to breathe oxygen in air that is dirty.  And God continues to reveal himself bringing me to greater levels of freedom.

As we learn to live from this place of rest, in wholeness, in healing . . . we are living stones and a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5) bringing a healing balm for the nations.

Do you struggle with impression management?  Have you found a place of rest in God’s love where others’ opinions of you are inconsequential?  Either way, share how you are living it out.

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7 Responses to Impression Management

  1. Warren Aldrich March 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I throw out there what occurs to me. Trying not to tailor it except to be kind to others. This is a change from when I used to be so concerned what others think that I used to worry about the expression on my face.
    Not only was it killing others but it was killing me!!! ;)
    I got better!

    • Kevin Tupper March 17, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      There is a long distance between “except to be kind to others” and “worry about the expression on my face.” What path did you travel to get there?

      • Warren Aldrich March 17, 2013 at 10:59 am #

        Well, it’s a long story for sure. Recovery was linked to an addiction to a relationship (an affair) and then having to live by myself for a couple of months. I had to face myself and become at peace and then finally attained an enjoyment of being with myself. Aided in a huge way by Henri Nouwen’s life and especially his book Reaching Out.
        The more I became at peace with myself and was authentically present to myself and then also found that in a process of involvement with a transformational program that I could be and was successful at assisting and producing those events, I became less narcissistic and able to focus on others more deeply.
        Somewhere in there the self-consciousness disappeared.

  2. Barry Steinman March 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    I seem to have a pretty continual struggle with accepting the image I have of myself. Comparison with others seems to grab me on and off. Sometimes I think that what I see in others is the gifting of God. So I ask myself, how can I compete with God? That sometimes brings me to a place of peace.

    What is strange, is that when I have a positive opinion of myself, I have been so ingrained with religious doctrine, that I think there is nothing good in me, it is only God – so I stop myself from feeling positive. So I am left with the negative emotions of thinking I am a fallen person, and robbed of any positive emotions when I do something I view as good.

    I have wondered if this doctrine that there is nothing good in man at all – is really correct.
    John 1:47 is intersting…
    Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

    Jesus actually looked at a man and said something positive about him. Did Jesus have his theology wrong, or is there innate goodness in men?

  3. Barry Steinman March 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Somehow I think this quote from Margaret Thatcher is connected to impression management:

    “It used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.”
    ― Margaret Thatcher

    Are we more interested in how we appear to others, than in what we do and how our actions affect others?

    • Kevin Tupper March 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      That’s a great question to personalize and reflect on in the moment. Moving from self-consciousness to others-consciousness is the journey for those of us stuck in impression management.

      I think we begin to lose ourselves when we live in the glory of God. At least that is helpful for me.

  4. Sharon Maxwell ( grandmommie ) March 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    Gods word tells us we are all born a sinner,we feel nothing for others. One of the things God knows and we are not aware of is we must forget everything we have learned up to that point .When He reaches out and we are born again we begin to see things how He wants us to see them, He changes our mind,wants and needs in order to do His work, there is No Way we can manage this on our own, nor do we want to.When I came to the end of my natural self He touched me at that very moment, it was nothing I’d ever felt before.I know He was pleased when I said out loud to myself ” this can be nothing but God”. That was about 10 yrs. ago! He has been working on me from that day on, I have not perfected being His disciple nor will I. But I know He is doing a good work in me as I stumble along, learning how often I’m stuck on myself while I feed His sheep. Knowing He loved me first and nothing I do or don’t do He will always love me.

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