The Elephant in the Room – Self

An young African-American man looking upward with light shining on his face in a dilapidated old green hued room

Do you feel like God is a million miles away? Do you pray or cry out to Him and nothing appears to happen, or it seems like no one is listening? Have thoughts crossed your mind that God has abandoned you, leaving you on your own? We all tend to feel like this at some point in our lives. Many wrestle often with these feelings. But how seldom it occurs to us that we may have put ourself into this position. Our actions may have actually pushed God away from us.

…when it comes to knowing, understanding, or having any kind of closeness with God, “self” can become the elephant in the room.

People sometimes use the phrase that there’s “an elephant in the room.” This refers to a significant situation or debatable concern that clearly exists, but it is probably best for everyone involved to just ignore or not mention it. And when it comes to knowing, understanding, or having any kind of closeness with God, “self” can become the elephant in the room.  

A graphical image of a black figure pushing against an unseen object

Simply put, God and self cannot share the same space. Either we yield to God and make space for Him in our heart and life, or we push Him out of the picture, leaving us on our own to solve problems that are actually greater than we can handle. If we take this phrase literally, it is just as applicable, because even a baby elephant takes up a considerable amount of area, and, as it grows, there is less and less space for anyone else in the room. Eventually, it becomes all elephant and nothing else! In a similar manner, if we continue to feed and nurture self, it will grow to the point where it dominates all.

It means refraining from thoughts like, ‘What am I going to do today?’ or ‘What are you doing for me?’ or ‘How will I solve the problem’ or ‘Everything here is mine.

Jesus “…said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This doesn’t mean performing self-flagellation, penance, or any other form of physical abuse and punishment on our body. Instead, it means acknowledging that it is “not my will, but Thine” (Luke 22:42 emphasis added) that matters. It means refraining from thoughts like, ‘What am I going to do today?’ or ‘What are you doing for me?’ or ‘How will I solve the problem’ or ‘Everything here is mine.

When we yield ourself to God, we allow His Son to work though us by His Spirit so that His will can be accomplished in our life. We are then able to say, “I [self] am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I [self] live; yet not I [self], but Christ liveth in me”(Galatians 2:20). Our self is not interested in what God desires—in fact, self doesn’t really care about anyone else. Self only wants to please itself.

Young man with hand over mouth and eyes closed eating in a restaurant

God wants us to stop feeding our self with our own desires and the pleasures of this world, and start nourishing our spirit with His Word and worship of Him. After we give our life to God, our spirit’s main concern is not to please self—it seeks to please God. It will also have an unselfish, sacrificial love for others. It wants to uphold what Jesus said, “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

No matter what we do on our own, we can never make our self into what we think we should be—simply because our focus is primarily on our self.

As long as we continue to encourage, exalt and glorify self, we will not be able to experience the love and intimacy of God in our hearts. He will forever be distant to us, because we have not given any place for Him to live within us. Instead, it is all about us. No matter what we do on our own, we can never make our self into what we think we should be—simply because our focus is primarily on our self.

Woodcut drawing of man and woman embracing in an observatory with assorted instruments and an elephant in the background

Therefore, it’s time to stop ignoring that elephant in the room. If we will give our heart over to Jesus so He can work in and through us, we will not continue to strive to please self. Denying self will cause it to shrink, until it is no longer big enough to overcome and control us. Then we will find that as we “Draw [near] to God, …He will draw [near] to [us]”(James 4:8), because there is no longer an elephant called ‘self’ crowding Him out of the room.

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
“All of self, and none of Thee.”


Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on th’ accursed tree,
And my
[longing] heart said faintly,
“Some of self, and some of Thee.”


Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
“Less of self, and more of Thee.”


Higher than the highest heaven,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
“None of self, and all of Thee.”

-Theodore Monod (1836-1921)

[Image credits: Featured image (when available) Mystic Art Design/pixabay: Renan Lima/pexels; OpenClipart Vectors/pixabay; flickr photo by seriykotik1970 shared under a <a href="http://<a title="The Elephant in the Room" href="https://flickr.com/photos/seriykotik/5458307408">The Elephant in the Room</a> flickr photo by <a href="https://flickr.com/people/seriykotik">seriykotik1970</a&gt; shared under a <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">Creative Commons (BY-SA) licenseCreative Commons (BY-SA) license]