What’s wrong with that statement in the title?
Answer . . .
There’s no antecedent for the “it.”
(As a writer, editor, and English teacher, I’m troubled by a missing antecedent because of the ambiguity it creates. And yes, that sentence was a little bit “about me.”)
So I had to do some research to find out what people think the “it” refers to. Turns out different people think it refers to different things. Imagine that. Gotta love ambiguity.
The various meanings of “It’s not about you.”
- The “it” in “It’s not about you” sometimes means the other person’s rude behavior that indicates his hang-ups. (This includes the use of these words as a break-up line.) It’s used to help people feel better after being snubbed or otherwise treated badly.
- The “it” in “It’s not about you” sometimes mean “this social gathering of mutual interaction.” So yeah, in that case it’s not about you any more than it’s about anyone else. Which reminded me of this Brian Regan skit, which I believe is timely to watch again right now.
Ahem. More to the point . . .
- The “it” in “It’s not about you” sometimes means “your life.” After all, the very first line of the wild bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life is “It’s not about you,” and immediately Rick Warren makes it clear he’s talking about your life. Your life is not about you. Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado have echoed the sentiment, among many, many others.
Your life is not about you?
For most Christians, when they say, “It’s not about you,” that’s what they mean. After all, how can such heavy-weight Christian leaders be wrong? (Even though as you can see here Rick Warren himself obviously believes that his life is about him to at least some extent.)
This translates for most to mean we shouldn’t talk about ourselves. So on a blog, for example, on the page that says “About Me,” a Christian blogger might say “It’s not.” (I actually saw this once.)
Now you may tell me that you know Rick Warren, et al, weren’t really saying your life isn’t about you at all, because that doesn’t make any sense, but simply that you’re not supposed to draw attention to yourself. I heard it again just the other day in a similar vein. “Christianity isn’t about us. It’s about God.”
But consider that besides the fact that this line is confusing, compare it to what really is in the Bible.
Is it in the Bible?
David the psalmist believed his life was about him. Have you ever noticed how many first-person-singular pronouns are used in the psalms? Paul the apostle believed his life was about him. Have you ever noticed how many first-person-singular pronouns are used in the epistles?
David, Paul, and others who have followed in their footsteps with a solid identity, have understood that their lives, which have as their focus knowing God and themselves and loving God and understanding His ways and making Him known to others, are still about them.
Used to shame and silence . . .
I sit with people who have been deeply betrayed, abandoned, and abused, telling them that in the Kingdom of God they really do matter . . .
And I find that “It’s not about you” is one more tool to shut people down who have a story that needs to be heard. Their lives, which are of necessity about them, contain stories of trauma and moral injury, that they desperately need someone to hear and believe.
And yet, when they’ve tried to speak, perhaps in a church small-group setting, about their trauma, they’ve been told that their lives aren’t about them.
One day some of them who have been so silenced will be able to tell it to others when they ultimately speak or write their book. Many of them will be able to give testimony to the One who was faithful through all the trauma they endured, to bring them to healing.
One day . . . when they have voices.
A few Scriptures that are “about you” as children of God in Jesus Christ
As one of my readers, Jane Bartlemas, observed to me,
Maybe some believers do need to be taken down a notch or two in their assessment of themselves, but the Truth should never be twisted in order to accomplish this. There are also those sitting in the pews who have the opposite problem. Our self-image doesn’t need deflating. On the contrary, we need to be reminded of God’s personal and limitless love.
No, it’s not “all about me,” but it is about how much I am loved and valued by the one who always tells the truth.
God has told us in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing,
nothing can separate us [those who are in Christ] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Is that about you, O weak child of God? Yes, yes it is.
In 1 John 3:1 John says,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are!
Is that about you, you who have trusted in Jesus Christ? Oh yes, yes it is.
In Ephesians 3:17-19 Paul prayed a beautiful prayer for the Ephesian Christians, a prayer that extrapolates to all Christians, to know the love of Christ for them . . .
that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.
Amazingly, His love for you is about you.
Ten years ago this month when I joined Facebook, this is what I wrote under the “About Me” section. (That’s what it was called in those days.)
When my bones were broken so that I couldn’t reach out to Him, my mighty Savior, Jesus Christ, whose bones were never broken, picked me up out of the pit and set my feet on a rock. Through my God, scales continue to fall from my once-blinded eyes. My once-feeble knees and once-crippled feet are continuing to be more and more strengthened and lifted up.
Jesus Christ, who turned the wrath of God away from me, resurrected me when He arose and presented me with the astounding gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ in me, the hope of glory. He ascended victorious and carried me with Him into the heavenly places, where I am seated with Him.
Jesus is the spring and fountain of my faith. Jesus is the ocean to which my faith is flowing. He has amazed me and overwhelmed me with His love. He has set a fire in my soul.
I want to be the spring out of which the mighty Holy Spirit river flows that my Savior promised in John 7. I long to run, with patience and joy, the great race that is the Christian life, and to point others the way. “Look! There’s Jesus! The Beautiful One! Run to Him!”
As I look to Him alone for all my holiness, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, I find that I am compassed about with songs of deliverance, I am clothed with the armor of light, and a two-edged sword is placed in my hand.
There are giants in the land. But we are well able to overcome them.
Here’s the Joy for the people of God. Your life is about Him. But it is about you.
Because you are His. And He is yours.
And He cares . . . about you.