Welcome to the Book Journey of Overrated by Eugene Cho.
Have you read the book review and schedule for this book journey?
If not, you can find it here.
Chapter Six – Asking the Hard Questions: Self-Examination
In Chapter Six, Cho begs readers to consider the question: “If you want to change the world, then why, exactly, do you want to do that?”
It’s imperative to honestly assess our motives for promoting justice and working towards it. As Cho says, “If you proclaim that you’re going to change the world, I hope you’ve taken the time to pray, listen, wait, discern, engage in self-reflection, and create a good plan.” In Cho’s case, doing justice fleshed out as a church plant, a cafe, and starting a nonprofit. Whatever work we are called to, we must ask ourselves and to invite others to ask of us the hard questions, as provided by Cho throughout this chapter:
- Is this for my own greed? For my own happiness?
- Why do I want to be involved in the work of justice?
- Why do I feel called to this work?
- Am I sure this isn’t all about me?
- Do I want to impact people’s lives?
- Do I want my own life to be changed?
- Or do I just want to make a name for myself?
- Is this God’s glory, or is it self-promotion?
- Why are we so obsessed with building our platforms?
- Why are we do obsessed with a spectacular spirituality?
Why do we need to examine ourselves and our motives?
Cho boils it down to a few main reasons we must engage in self-examination initially and regularly:
We must self-examine in order to prevent harm to ourselves and our calling.
“Check yourself before you wreck yourself,” says Cho. In other words, we must consider the ramifications and count the cost of our actions in order to prevent burn-out and short-cutting along the way. We must establish our why early on to ensure we stay faithful.
As Cho puts it: “There’s a cost to following Jesus. There’s a cost to living generously. There’s a cost to seeking justice. There’s a cost to living sacrificially. There’s a cost to obedience. So put aside those whimsical, flippant answers. Instead, ask yourself the hard questions.”
We must self-examine in order to prevent harm to others, namely those we intend to bless.
To illustrate this point, Cho shares a story of friends who desired to make a difference in an African village. While visiting, they witnessed the need for education and rather impulsively promised the Africans that they would return to the USA, “raise money and awareness, and finance the education of all the children in the entire village,” says Cho. News of these American heroes spread through the village, photos were taken, and everyone rejoiced for the duration of the two-week mission trip. In the end, the good intentions didn’t materialize and only part of the funding was raised for only some of the village kids. Sadly, as leaders tried to determine which children would get the scholarship funds, much fighting and debate and eventual divisions resulted in the village. Without necessary planning, processing, and asking of the hard questions, avoidable harm came to the village.
We must self-examine in order to remain accountable and honest with others.
Another story is shared in this chapter to demonstrate the necessity for honesty and accountability through regular self-examination. Cho describes story behind the once popular book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The story tells of Mortenson’s experience in Pakistan while attempting to climb the world’s second tallest mountain, K2. With the intention to help build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and promote peace and education, Mortenson founded Central Asia Institute. Unfortunately, much of his story about the time in Pakistan was proven false; specifically, Mortenson fabricated his abduction by the Taliban and that villagers took him in after his climb. When all the truth came out, the co-author, Relin, tragically chose to end his own life, unable to cope with the negative exposure and the unveiling of the scandal.
In short, marketing a good story may solicit more donors and better press, but the ramifications are devastating. Thus, committing to live a good story with accountability and honesty to onlookers is far more effective than telling a good story, as Cho points out.
We must self-examine in order to stay surrendered to God and His glory.
Cho says: “Listen: Just do your thing with passion, joy, and humility, and folks will notice. Actually, even if no one notices, be faithful to what God has called you. Remember, we do what we do not for people’s applause but for God’s glory. Don’t be held captive to either praise or criticism. Know who you are, what you’re about, and most important, who you serve.”
Further, “We do what we do because we love God and we love the people whom God loves. We love the things that God loves and what reflects the character of God,” explains Cho.
The Reward for Self-Examination
There is good fruit that comes from the honest, vulnerable, and sometimes painful action of consistent self-reflection. Throughout this chapter, Cho says that being willing to ask ourselves the hard questions and receive them from others ensures:
- a better chance of making our intentions amount to something.
- that the work is not all about us, with a deeper significance that goes beyond us.
- that we are more faithful for the long-haul.
- a deeper foundation for the work.
- that the work is done in a more honest, dignified, and God-honoring way.
Closing and encouragement
Cho shares the following, challenging and helpful words for those in the work of justice: “I want to affirm and encourage people who want to do good things. I also want to challenge them not to accept a plan that is mediocre when it could be excellent. I want to better prepare them. I want to set them up to have a major impact. I want to set them up for faithful work.
If we are motivated and fueled by things that might not resonate with God’s kingdom, we can get burned out with the work and hurt people. We’ll end up doing much harm along the way. In an age of excessive self-broadcasting, the discipline of self-examination and introspection are the keys to wisdom and balance.“
Here are some posts related to topics in this chapter.
- So, what do you do for a living?
- Why we do what we do
- Here lies a fallen do-gooder
- The tension of truth
- When it’s time to live words rather than write them
- So you want to live missionally?
- When the mission field slips in under your feet
- Dear World-Changer
Remember, quotes from the book are posted daily on my Front Porch, Inspired Facebook page. Summaries and discussion questions for chapters 7 and 8 will be posted starting Friday, November 27.
NOTE: The summary and discussion questions for Chapter Five are included in a separate post.