If there’s one thing I’ve discovered from observing my children these past few years, it’s that they really hate being stared at. It freaks them out. They bury themselves behind the sofa cushions to avoid the piercing gaze of my Newman-esque* eyes. They throw their silkies at me. They give me The Look. The second thing I’ve discovered is that selfishness is not a learned behavior. (Unless my wife taught it to them while I was outside pulling weeds.) Satisfying the “I” has been their primary goal from the word waaaaaah. Which was cute when they just wanted to be fed. Less so when they imply I’m some sort of undergarment sherpa and potty seat wrangler.

As they grow, however, it’s reassuring to know that the culture at large will discourage such self-centered attitudes, and instead promote a true sense of Christian charity and I-am-secondness. Sorry, that must be the Canadian “Zyrtec-D” talking. Because – and I’m not spilling any trade secrets here – there may be no “I” in “team,” but there’s plenty of “me” to be actualized to the fullest extent of my spiritual beingness if the purveyors of pop culture are to be believed.

But it’s not just the obvious New Age wags spewing forth the mantra of self-centeredness that has me worried. No, it’s the way that the elevation of the self has permeated the culture to such an extent that we don’t even give it a second glance, askew or otherwise. This two-bit, “my way or the highway” psychology sounds great on it’s surface because, duh, it appeals to our basest sense of pride. Also, as we shall see, it often comes set to a nifty beat. However, sans a focus on Christ, it is all destined to go the way of disco. So, let us examine some of the more popular clichés of popular self-propitiation and droppeth some Holy Ghost bombs upon them, ye and such forth and whatnoteth.

This above all: to thine own self be true. Often paraphrased as “be true to yourself,” this bromide is often trotted out as a valid reason for breaking up with one’s baby mama or choosing to sing a Celine Dion song on “American Idol.” Sure, it’s from a little-known Shakespeare play called “Hamlet.” But it was spoken by one of the most duplicitous villains ever to stumble through iambic pentameter, Polonius. You know, the guy you sort of remember from high school English. No, not the one played in a BBC miniseries by Colin Firth. Oh, forget it. Regardless, being true to your own self does little good if said self enjoys consuming entire boxes of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls in one setting. Or so I imagine. We are called to be true to Christ. Because even when he spent 40 days in the wilderness, he never once spoke an Oatmeal Cream Pie into existence. It’s in Mark, look it up.

I did it my way. Frank Sinatra was many things. A fine balladeer. A hit with the dames. A man who really knew how to wear a hat. But when it comes to personal mantras, Old Blue Eyes could have done a bit better than espousing this bit o’ hoo-haw (pardon the language) that was adapted by Paul Anka from – if my two years of high school German are any help – a French song about mime solidarity. (And just by typing that, a neighbor of French descent spontaneously surrendered his leaf blower to me.) The crux of the song is that, when one reaches the end of one’s mortal coil, one can look back and be proud to have done things “my way.” As if that carries special weight with the cosmos. “Well, Bob, I see here that you cheated on your wife, taxes, business partners and Words with Friends, but at least you did things your way – off to Paradise with you!” To which Jesus simply says, “I am the way.”

Follow your bliss/heart/dreams. I see this bit regurgitated as sound advice for everyone from college kids entering the workforce to people in troubled marriages. Apparently, the heart knows more than the rest of our bodies when it comes to life’s important decisions, and following its capricious moods will lead to a life filled with snuggly kitties, rainbows and Snickers-like satisfaction in a life well-lived. Frankly, if I’m going to trust a body part to determine any segment of my life’s journey, I’ll go with my gut. At least it will lead me to In-N-Out. For everything else, I recommend following the truth of God’s word.

Here I go again on my own, walking down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. Sure, it’s fun to crank up the Whitesnake on the way to work and snap a vocal cord trying to match David Coverdale’s Aquanet-enhanced wailing. But if you think this 80s anthem has enough mojo to get you through the valley of the shadow of death, well, I have two words for you: White Jaguar.

Anything Oprah says. I don’t know how or why Oprah Winfrey went from spouting, “You go, girl!” to “Self-actualize your inner goddess, goddess!” I’m just glad she’s taken her Eckhart Tolle teachings off mainstream television and into the netherworld of basic cable. While it’s true that you should be the best you you can be, the best you happens when you let God shape you in His image. Not when you release the Gayle-shaped diva inside.

I know why we turn to these phrases, these false promises. They appease our itching ears and nascent belief that, deep down, we’re all pretty okay. It’s much less fun to admit that we’ve sinned and come short of the glory of God. Or that we need to take up our cross and follow Him. But as Matthew recorded Christ in chapter 7 of his gospel: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” So to my kids I will say, be one of the few, the called, the truly complete. Not in yourselves, but in Christ.

*“Seinfeld” Newman, not Paul.