Have you ever been your own worst enemy? Most of us have. Avoiding that scenario begins when we first pay attention to our own red flags.
- When are you most prone to sell yourself on a bad idea?
- Have you ever been your own worst enemy? If yes, what can you see now that you couldn’t see then?
- How do you navigate a dilemma in which circumstances seem to suggest one direction, but your conscience points in a different direction?
- Is there anyone in your life who will tell you when they sense something isn’t right about a decision you’re considering? If no, who can you give permission to do so? If yes, how do you usually respond to their feedback?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So here’s a question for you, have you ever been your own worst enemy? Have you ever been your own worst enemy? And the answer is yes, you have been your own worst enemy. Maybe not some big macro big area or some big decision that kind of undermined your whole future but at some point in all of our lives, we have been our own worst enemy. I was trying to think of a time to tell you about and be vulnerable, and all of the ones where I was my worst enemy I’m too embarrassed, but I did think of one big one. I was my own worst enemy my first semester in college when I found out at the end of that first semester, I was on academic warning.
And then I was my own worst enemy my second semester… I was on the semester system, when I found out I was on academic probation. The thing that makes it so memorable is not that part, it’s the next part. I remember that specifically my mom said she wanted to talk to me about college.
So I was living at home, going to Georgia State, and so she sits me down at the kitchen table. You know there’s just certain memories that are etched in your mind. You can see the colors on the wall. And this is one of those moments. She sat me down, and I thought she was gonna give me the pep talk like, “Andy you can do anything you set your mind to, and if you believe you can achieve and you can do all things through Christ.” I don’t know what she was gonna say, but I’m ready for the, “Andy, you need to buckle down.” and here’s what she said. And I quote, “Andy, college is not for everyone.”
That is a direct quote. “Andy, college is not for everyone.” And I realized even my own mom didn’t really think I had what it took to get through college. [laughter] And I went from becoming my own worst enemy to becoming my own best friend [laughter] because it scared me so much. Now, all of us have kind of interesting kinda look back and laugh stories, but have you ever seen anyone who did this up, like did this up big? They became their own worst enemy with their career, or in their marriage, or with their finances, or a relationship with one of their children. And you stand back and you see it happening, you see it happening, kind of unrolling and unraveling and you’re thinking, “You’re doing this to yourself.”
But here’s the thing, that’s true of all of us, and I’m talking to me as well as you. We all have the potential. I don’t even know you, but this is what I know about you. Every single one of us has the potential to become our own worst enemy, right? And the reason I know that is because you, and this is all of us but I’m picking on you for a second, you have participated in all of your bad decisions, right? [laughter] You have participated in 100 of your bad decisions. In fact you were… I’m picking on you a little bit and it’s true with me too, that we were the masterminds behind our own bad decisions.
And here’s why this is a big deal. Because a single bad decision… I mean, you know this. A single bad decision is always the first step toward becoming your own worst enemy, right? It’s not like it happens all at one time, it just unravels over time. And the people that you’ve watched become their own worst enemy in a big way, it started with small things; it started with one simple, single decision, right? Because every habit, every habit begins with the first time. And every pattern begins with the first line. And every journey begins with a first step. So we all have the potential to become our own worst enemy if we’re not careful.
So in this series, what I wanna do is I wanna suggest three habits, three habits that really serve as preemptive habits to ensure that you don’t become and I don’t become and the people we love, don’t become our own worst enemy. So today I’m gonna give you the first habit and then in the next two weeks, we’re gonna talk about habit number two, and habit number three.
So. The first thing, the first thing that we must all do to ensure that we don’t become our own worst enemy is pay attention to the tension. Pay attention to the tension.
Whenever you’re considering any option, any invitation, anything that comes your way, any choice that you’re about to make, and it causes, if the option your considering causes any sense of hesitation, a little bit of tension, a little bit of pause, it in any kind of way dings your conscience, stop and pay attention to that tension. Don’t start selling yourself; start listening. Don’t sell yourself; start listening. Because here’s what happens, and we know this. As soon as you see something you want, as soon as you get invited to something you’re interested in, as soon as there is an option that kind of inflames an appetite, as soon as you see someone that you want, what do you do? You do the same thing I do. You start selling yourself; you start selling yourself on this idea.
And what’s interesting is we lie to ourselves, and then we believe our own lives. I think only human beings are capable of this. We make up things, and then choose to believe the things that we made up. And here’s how I know that’s true. You have to be a little creative, okay. If a sales person, if a sales person used the same pitch on you that you use on yourself, if a sales person in an actual retail environment, used the same sales pitch on you that you use on yourself, you would be so offended, you would walk out of that establishment. I mean, imagine if somebody, you’re standing there negotiating or you’re thinking about purchasing something and they said something like this, “Hey, if you get home and decide you don’t like it, just donate it.”
But how many times has that run through your mind as you’re about to buy something online? But if somebody actually said this to you, you’d be like, ” Do what?” How about this? “Hey, I see that you already have one that does everything this one does, but this one is a newer.” [laughter] I mean, you would look at the person like, “That’s your pitch, that’s it,” but that’s the kind of stuff we tell ourselves all the time. How about this? “Yes, sirree. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. So just don’t tell anyone.”
Now we’re gonna dig a little deeper. You ready? “Sure your husband would be hurt and offended if he found out, but your husband isn’t bright enough to find out.”
I mean, how offended would you be ladies, if somebody said that about your husband? But what do you tell yourself when you start trying to sell yourself on a bad idea? “Well, he… ” Okay, we’re gonna go both sides of this. “Yes, your girlfriend, would be devastated, but let’s face it, she’s not nearly as attractive.” If somebody actually said something bad about your girlfriend, you would be so offended. But listen to the self-talk, listen to the narrative you create. We’re gonna talk a lot about the narratives next time. If someone actually said to us, the things that we say to ourselves to sell ourselves on a bad idea that sets us up to become our own worst enemy, we would be so extraordinarily offended. This is why you can’t afford and I can’t afford to start selling ourselves; instead we need to pay attention to the tension.
The moment… I mean this is the habit right here. The moment you start selling yourself hit pause. The moment you… ‘Cause we do this every day, we do this all the time. The moment you start creating an internal narrative as to why something is okay, or something’s justifiable, or something is permissible, in that moment we should just hit pause and say, “Wait a minute. I’m doing it. I’m doing that thing. I am making things up and choosing to believe them in order to do something that something in me is telling me maybe I should hit pause.” Because remember this, if you don’t hear anything else I say today, this is it. Remember we rarely, we rarely, we rarely have to sell ourselves on a good idea. You rarely have to talk yourself into knowing when something is the right thing, the wise thing, the prudent thing to do.
Now, there is a fascinating piece of narrative in the Hebrew Bible that us Christians call the Old Testament, but it started off as the Hebrew Bible, or the Jewish Scripture. There’s this fascinating piece of narrative. If you grew up in church, surely you have heard this before, at some point, if not, then you’re in for a treat because this is one of the most interesting detail ridden stories in the entire Old Testament. And it illustrates, better than illustrate this story actually illuminates or brings insight into this whole idea of paying attention to the tension. The story revolves around King David, who was Israel’s Second King, but the story actually takes place before he became king.
Now, if you know anything about the Hebrew Bible or the history of the Jews, David, who became Israel’s second King, stepped on to the pages of history as a shepherd boy. And then he was thrown head… Suddenly he stepped into the spotlight when he killed Goliath, the story of David and Goliath and he became legendary almost overnight because he was this young man who faced this giant, this Philistine, who was taunting the armies of Israel. And boom, suddenly he’s famous. Well, King Saul, who was the king at the time, Israel’s first king, of course, brings him close because he’s become a legend and he gives him prominence with the military; he eventually marries him off to one of his daughters, so now the king is his father-in-law.
But then, as time goes by David becomes so popular, Saul realizes that David is a threat to his dynasty In fact, the rumor was at that time that David had already been anointed as the next King of Israel as a little boy, because in fact he had.
So then one afternoon, he loses his temper and he tries to kill David and David flees. He flees, he has to leave the city; he can’t go home ’cause it would put his family in danger. So he leaves, he makes several really, really bad decisions and he becomes an outlaw. And as a result of him being so famous, all the other fugitives in the land around that region of the world who were related to the Jewish people at the time… They weren’t called Jewish people at the time. But the Hebrews, at the time, they all started following David, and the next thing you know, he’s got his own band of merry men. And eventually it becomes like a small army, but it’s a small army without a home’ because they’re all outlaws. It’s a small army of men who can’t go home,
Well, meanwhile, Saul is busy running the kingdom, but he’s always on the look out for David and he has spies everywhere looking for David because he needs to eliminate David before he dies, so that his son Jonathan can become the next king rather than David becoming the next king of Israel. And one afternoon he gets a report that David and his merry men have been spotted in the desert or the region of En Gedi. And if you’ve ever been to the Holy Land, or if you’ve ever been to Jerusalem, you can actually visit this area of the world; it’s just along the Dead Sea, and it just looks exactly like this. It is just barren wasteland with a few oases sprinkled here and there; it is full of caves and mountains and again it borders… You can see this next picture kind of borders on the Dead Sea. So this is the region that Saul hears that David and his men are.
So the text says, that Saul took 3,000, which was way more men than he needed to fight David. But again, David is a valiant warrior; he’s famous for his ability to fight out in the open. So he take 3,000 able young men from all of Israel, and he sets out to look for David and his men. So they’re gone for several days and eventually they come to an area that we’re not sure exactly where it is, but when this was originally written the people who originally read it, knew exactly what the author meant. He came to the sheep pens, and there was a cave there. And actually, when you go to this region of Israel, there are caves everywhere. There was a cave there and Saul went in to relieve himself.
Fun fact, maybe. I think this is the only reference to going to the bathroom in the whole Bible, [laughter] but I could be wrong about that. Okay, I don’t know what everybody else did, but at least Saul, we know had to relieve himself. And this is a strategic part of the story and it’s why the author included it. So here’s the picture, 3,000 men, that’s a lot of people, a long caravan with some camp followers, with wagons, with food, this is a big ordeal. Saul is a little bit back from the front. Saul has to go to the bathroom. Now, if you’re just a regular guy in the army and you have to go to the bathroom you deal with it. But when you’re the king, you can stop the whole caravan, get off your mule, he rode a mule, and he makes his way up to this cave by himself to use the bathroom while everybody else waited. And if you’ve heard this story before, here’s where it takes the most interesting twist.
David and his men were actually in the very cave that King Saul chose to stop and use his private bathroom. And they’re far back in the cave. Now, what are the odds of that? There aren’t even any odds, right? Talk about the stars lining up, talking about God smiling on you, or the God’s smiling on you, I mean this is a best-case scenario. This was an answer, as we’re gonna see in just a minute, this was an answer to David’s prayer.
God had clearly delivered David’s enemy, I mean literally into his hands. David had already been anointed king. Everybody knows he’s the next guy. The only thing standing in the way of David becoming the next king is Saul, and here he is. And if we don’t think that’s what was running through David’s mind we know that’s what was running through David’s men’s mind because the text says this is what his men whispered to him far back in the cave. The men said to David, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand for you to deal with them as you wish.'” This is what David had told his men over and over and over as they sat around the campfire at night. He would say to them, “Look, guys, just a little bit longer, just a little bit longer, stay with me just a little bit longer. Eventually, I’ll be the king. And when I become the king, I’m gonna reward those of you who were most loyal to me during the mean times and the lean times in these difficult times.
So they’re looking at David saying, “This is the very thing God promised you, and now the waiting is over! Kill the king and let’s go home.” And the optics on this would have been amazing. So now let’s imagine we’re outside the cave. We’re lined up, bored and yawning, and waiting for the king to come out. We keep glancing over at the cave. King Saul went in. David steps out with King Saul’s head in his hand. And everybody in that caravan would immediately recognize, David as the king of Israel. No civil war. Very little bloodshed. Lives spared.
So can you imagine the adrenaline? Can you imagine the emotion in the cave The pressure he felt to act. We can’t even imagine it. But the text tells us. And as the story unfolds, David felt something else as well, there was a tension. There was a hesitation; there was a tension that didn’t make any sense in light of the circumstances. There was a hesitation that didn’t make any sense in light of the flow of the story and the flow of his life. This tension made absolutely no sense, and so he ignored it. And he did what any of us would probably have done if we had the opportunity. The text says that David took out his knife, and he slowly crept up unnoticed behind King Saul.
But as he gets closer and closer and closer that tension intensifies and intensifies and intensifies, and somehow some way he was able to stop and pay close attention to the tension. And suddenly… And some of you’ve experienced this, I want all of us to experience this eventually. Suddenly, somewhere between the back of that cave and King Saul’s back, suddenly his decision to kill and to murder King Saul was completely reframed. Suddenly, the hesitation that made no sense made perfect sense. “Wait, what am I doing? I’m about to murder the king! Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait. I can’t murder the king. I mean God chose Saul. I can’t replace what God put in place. This is gonna be my legacy, this is gonna be my story, this will be the story that people tell about me. I love the one they sing about David and Goliath, but I don’t know that I want them turning this into a song. I don’t want this to be the story I have to tell my grandchildren.” “Granddaddy grand-papa, tell us how you became king, again, we love the story. You snuck up behind old King Saul and you slit his throat while he was using the potty. [laughter] Tell us that story again.”
Is that really the story you wanna tell? In fact, the text tells us that David was conscience-stricken. And somehow with all this energy and all this testosterone, and all this adrenaline, and everything going on in that cave, suddenly he was stopped. He was able to stop long enough and pay attention to this irrational tension. He was able to pay attention to his irrational conscience, and it saved him from becoming his own worst enemy. He was conscience-stricken, and he snuck up behind King Saul and he took King Saul’s disregarded robe, and he cut off the corner and he went back to the cave.
And his men hiding in the cave, can you imagine? They can’t believe this. Now he has some explaining to do. And they’re like… They just can’t believe what they just saw; this was the perfect opportunity. They can finally go home. There will no longer be a price on their heads. And he said to his men, the text says he said to his men, “The Lord forbid,” this is amazing, “that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed,” Say, “Wait a minute, David, two-and-a-half minutes ago, he wasn’t your master, the Lord’s anointed, two-and-a-half minutes ago he was your enemy, what happened?”
And then the men are saying, “Okay. If you won’t do it, we’ll do it. In fact, we’ll all do it together. If you don’t wanna have blood on your hands, we understand that, just let us do it.” “And with these words,” the text says, “with these words, David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul, and Saul left the cave and went on his way.” So close. So close. So close. Let me ask you a question, we’ll get back to a story. Are you close? Are you selling yourself on a bad idea? Are you ignoring your conscience? Is there an internal hesitation and internal tension and you just kind of pushed right by it?
Are you selling yourself on an idea that’s gonna… Or a decision that’s gonna follow you around for the rest of your life? That’s gonna make you a liar for life because you’re never gonna want anybody to know this part of your story. And you’re never gonna want anybody to tell this part of your story. And one day when you have children or one day when you have grandchildren and tell your story, you get to this part, you just are gonna have to skip over it. Are you on the verge of becoming your own worst enemy?
If so, can I just make a suggestion? I’m not the boss of you. I’m not… I can’t tell you what to do, but can I just make a suggestion? Would you at least hit pause, just stop for a moment, selling yourself and just listen, listen, listen, to the wiser voices around you and perhaps listen to that still small voice on the inside of you that’s going, “I don’t think that’s the best thing,” because it may be, I don’t know, just guessing, it may be the whisper of God who loves you, who loves you, and is doing everything he can to keep you from becoming your own worst enemy.
So as the text says, “Saul exits the cave.” He has no clue as to how close he came to joining all of his dead ancestors. He goes back, he gets on his mule. And as he gets on his mule, this is amazing, he hears a voice, and it’s a familiar voice. And it’s coming from the direction of the cave he just exited, and everybody’s head turns, and standing at the mouth of the cave that Saul just came out of is David, flanked by his men. And David bows low in honor of the king. And then he stands up and he holds up the corner of Saul’s robe. And in that moment… And here’s the moment I don’t want you to miss in your life. In that moment… Here’s the moment I want you to be able to tell your kids or grandkids about and your friends about someday, your future husband or wife some day. In that moment, everybody there knew who the better man was.
It was David. David gives a little speech, it’s very interesting. I’m not gonna read the whole thing, but at the end of the speech here’s how he concludes. He says, “Saul, may the Lord be the judge between you and me, and may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. I’m going to do the right thing. I will not take matters into my own hands.” And because David listened to that still, small hesitation, that tension, that little ding of his conscience in a moment when most people would just have paid no attention to it, David decided, and this is where some of you are. David decided not to use Saul’s bad behavior as an excuse for bad behavior.
So how about you? As you think about the option you’re considering, that big life change you’re considering, that thing you’ve pretty much talked yourself into. In fact, the wheels are already turning. Are you considering, are you considering behaving badly based on somebody else’s bad behavior, because of what they did to you, because of what they’re trying to do to you, because of what everybody else around you does? Come on, are you considering becoming like someone you don’t even like? Are you selling yourself? Remember, we rarely ever have to sell ourself, we rarely have to ever have to sell ourself on the right thing to do.
So now all eyes turned from David to Saul, and he is completely humiliated by David. But here’s the interesting thing, he’s not humiliated by David’s military skill. He’s humiliated by David’s character. He’s humiliated by David’s self-control. He’s humiliated by David’s humility. And Saul has no choice, he turns his army around and he heads back to Jerusalem. That’s the power of paying attention to that tension.
When my daughter, Allie… I have three children, Allie’s our youngest. When she was in the eighth grade she and I were studying for a test together, using the study guide. And as we were studying it occurred to me that her older brother, Garrett, had had the same class with the same teacher the year before, so I went digging around and sure enough I found an old test… This isn’t a parenting seminar, I’m just telling you what happened, okay.
Anyway, so she goes to class the next day, the teacher hands out the test and it’s the same test. Yeah. So that afternoon she gets home from school and I asked what every good parent asks when they have studied with their children for a test. I said, “Allie, how did we do on our test?”
Isn’t that what you ask? You wanna know what kind of grades you made. She said, “Dad, you’re not gonna believe this. It was the same test, and I felt like I was cheating.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, you weren’t cheating, it was the teacher’s fault, if they’re gonna hand these things out they know that these things are floating around.” And I said, “Besides, you’re an A student.” I’m trying to ease her conscience. She said, “No no no, Dad, it’s okay, I told him.” I’m like, “What?”
“You told on yourself!?!” Who’s child are you? So then I had to switch gears like, “Oh, I’m so glad you did. That was the right thing to do. I’m so proud of you. I’m just sorry because I’m the one that got you into trouble, if I need to… ” She’s like, “No, no, I didn’t get in trouble.” He was proud of me for telling him.” I’m like, “Yeah, me too, me too, me too.”
Now, now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s so cute. What’s that got to do with me?” It’s got everything to do with you. Here’s why, because the tension that you are wrestling with right now. The tension you’re wrestling with right now falls somewhere between choosing whether or not to tell your math teacher you studied from an old test and murdering a king.
I think we bookended about everything you and I could experience, right? It’s somewhat this side of murdering a king. It’s probably somewhat this side of what are you gonna tell your math teacher. But the principle is the same. What are you gonna do with that tension? If there’s something that you can’t quite put your finger on, hit pause. If there’s something where you find yourself saying, “I just have an overactive conscience, maybe, but maybe not,” hit pause. If there’s something that someone else has put their finger on and you’re mad at them for bringing it up, but then when you got alone by yourself you can’t get it off your mind, you can’t get it off your heart, it’s bothering you. Here’s my advice, let it bother you! Don’t rush by it. That tension may be God’s way of protecting you from becoming your own worst enemy.
And ask the question, I know it’s painful, but I’m telling you, for some of you this is like a curtain’s gonna open up and you’re gonna have clarity; you’re gonna hate the clarity, but you’re gonna look back and be so grateful for the clarity. And ask the question, “Is there a tension? Is there a tension that deserves my attention? Is there a tension that deserves my attention?” This is a preemptive strike against becoming your own worst enemy because after all, every habit, you know this, every habit begins with the first time, and every pattern begins with the first line, and every journey begins with the first step.
So I’d like for you to consider making this commitment. We’re gonna have a commitment for each of these three ideas. And the first commitment is simply, this is simple, would you be willing to pause until you pinpoint the cause? Would you be willing to make this commitment, “I’m gonna pause until I pinpoint the cause?” Or another way of saying it, “I’m going to explore rather than ignore my conscience.” I’m going to explore why does that bother me. Why am I uneasy about that? Everybody else says it’s okay. Everybody else is involved, and everybody else does it this way. I’m gonna explore rather than ignore my conscience. Is there a tension that deserves your attention? If so, pay attention, because that’s a decision you will never regret. In fact, that’s a decision that will lead to fewer regrets. That’s a decision that will ensure that you don’t become your own worst enemy.