In the last months of Senior year while people were choosing which clubs and frats to join, I was googling photo of different countries in sub-Sahara Africa. I was often told how brave or inspiring I was for choosing the mission field. My ego slowly stacked on like bricks on a wall. For every compliment was a brick and for every brick there was fear it would fall.
My savior complex wall grew quickly. I was so afraid it would fall so I protected it with trying to snub compliments instead of taking them with humility. I allowed my good intentions to overshadow bad impact. God started to chip away at my wall and I felt ok with the chipping because it wasn’t noticeable and I didn’t actually have to change.
Then I moved to Ghana and my complex wall came crashing down. It started with the first time I failed as a parent. About 10 hours after becoming a mother, I snapped when my unnamed child broke my $90 ipad case keyboard. Everyday after that God started to show my ugly side of my savior wall the tiny crevices of ego I refused to let go of. ( funny how motherhood can truly bless you and rip you apart in less than 10 hours) My wall brick by brick broke while I started to confront my own racial bias, my ignorance towards racial justice. I tried to hold tight when it all came crumbling down . Previously I felt If I claimed Jesus and hugged orphanage kids, as long as I didn’t listen to the hundreds of studies on attachment I was the hero of the story. I learned a lot of these things before moving to Ghana but I realize everyday is an opportunity to learn to know better and do better.
Recently a friend on Facebook asked me how I separated compassion from a savior complex and I basically wrote a novel the length of the Bible.
And this is what I came up with (at least for myself). I can only speak for myself but If I could guess any missionary can say keeping an ego in check is always a work in progress. No one is perfect, but it is extremely important to keep yourself in check.
I, myself have either been full of myself or so poured into things that I lose sight of healthy boundaries. Compassion fatigue is real and so is a savior complex odd how opposities can implode with each other.
In the past year and half I have had the opportunity through a mentor and a trauma counselor to keep both my ego and mental health/self care accountable. A messy, hard, but beautiful process that I highly recommend for anyone struggling overseas.
Compassion – humility + unwillingness to be corrected, critiqued or confronted = savior complex.
When we allow our compassion to eliminate humility and the art of being confronted on wrongdoing we’ve reached a level of ego that can have harmful impact on the communities we serve.
Compassion + humility – boundaries = compassion fatigue/burn out
Its easy to burn out quickly if you don’t have someone to keep you in check for healthy boundaries and learning to say no while taking care of yourself it becomes dangerous how quickly your intentions to serve can unravel.
When ministry shut down my wall of savior bricks came crashing down. I could no longer hide behind my Instagram of the people we were serving because that was coming to end. I was terrified of what people would think. Would people pull support from my family? Would I be labeled as a failure missionary?
When the wall came crashing down it revealed something I had forgotten, why God had called me in the first place. my love of learning was unleashed and I wanted to face the crumbled wall and dig through the muck. I had seen how good intentions could make for horrible impact by my own mistakes and savior complex. While not everything I did was awful I wanted to learn from my failure and be kept accountable and there was a lot of good God has used me for I was getting ahead of myself.
Coming full circle almost a year later I’ve learned a lot, climbed a lot, fallen a lot, and seeped through the wreckage of the wall I created and watched God beautifully broke down. I also have learned there is no ending to the learning and working through your own failures.
Compassion + Humility+ Healthy Boundaries + listening = stepping stones to successful ministry