Self-denial: A Key Tool to Achieving Greatness


What is Self Denial?

The dictionary defines denial as the act of refusing to comply with a request. Self-denial is the
refusal to comply with the requests of the body.

In the Scriptures, Jesus commanded every believer to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him. The Scripture has been misunderstood too often. Self-denial does not mean to hate oneself. Neither does it mean trivializing one’s desires and distinctiveness?  Also, selflessness to others as a sole determinant of satisfaction do not truly define self-denial. Jesus’ admonition to every believer chosen and living in conformity with His example is to set aside selfish interests and express a willingness to endure whatever hardship that may come. The self-denial command is a posture towards God, first of all.


“This quality of self-denial in the pursuit of a longer-term goal and, indeed, the willpower to maintain
the denial, is excellent training for the boardroom.” -John Viney

Why Self Denial?

Man is by nature selfish. Its primary intention is to satisfy himself and seek comfort. Unfortunately, this satisfaction does not please God and often is not beneficial. Hence,  anyone who walks by the flesh will find it difficult to possess the incorruptible crown – greatness.

Self-denial helps us to put off the old man with his deeds in our lives and helps us to put on the new man which is renewed (Col 3:5-10). Thus, it would be easy to attain excellence.

Self Denial and Discipline

Discipline is a secret to greatness. However, discipline isn’t just about doing more things, it is about what you are denying yourself right now. You need to begin to ask yourself what you need to stop doing?

Here are a few circumstances you need self-denial

● The need to look like you are right all the time.
● The satisfaction of being recognized as the leader.
● You can possibly deny yourself the comfort of not needing to worry about your future.
● Choose to deny yourself the rewards of getting what you want right now for futuristic benefit.
●The illusion that no one is better than you is part of what you should deny yourself.
● Deny yourself the luxury of getting it right the first time.
●  The urge to be the victim and accepting pity from others around you.

How can Christian professionals develop a healthy sense of self, necessary to excellently lead while at the same time denying themselves?

1. Followership

Embracing the life of followership is an unspoken stepping stone to greatness. The life of Jesus is an exemplary one. Followership entails submission to those with authority over us and those over whom we have authority. This quality in Jesus is what made him exalted. For example, If a subordinate is working on a project you’re quite excited about, it is self-denial to respect the ideas and not criticize them destructively.

2. Courage

Courage is the willingness to step forward in risky situations. When we struggle with a decision, our self-control is actually being challenged. At that moment, your comfort-seeking self would not subscribe to the idea, as you may also be subject to ridicule. It only takes courage and self-denial to ensure the action is taken despite the seemingly risky unfavourable situation. Only a few persons have trod this pathway of greatness.

3. Transitions

Making changes is one scary step to take in life. Many changes are self-denying as most would
require giving up something, usually of value. Even though the journey may be unpalatable, the reward is however inevitable.

4. Flow

Another area of Self-denial is Flow. Flow is defined by Psychologists as the characteristic of becoming totally absorbed in a task. When you flow, you are able to focus on a task at hand
defying desires, gratifications, and distractions. It is to ensure a goal is being focused upon.

5. Solitude

Solitude is a secret of denying one’s self. This is simply because self-denial starts with confronting one’s self. Ensure your true self is always nakedly visible to yourself. I know we tend to escape being alone by engaging our phones and turning on the TV. Like Jesus, seek periods of solitude for your rejuvenation. Jesus’ occasional escapes from the crowd contributed to His ministerial success.

6. Practise discipline

Learn to say no to some of your impulses. Train yourself to do what you know is the right step even though you don’t feel like it. Skip a favourite TV program once in a while to do something worthwhile. Resist the urge to scream at someone who has angered you. Remember, you are living in conformity to Christ’s example.

Denying yourself of something would enforce greatness, as practising self-denial would help you develop the habit of keeping on track toward your goals. Self-denial also leads to promotion, prosperity, favour, as exemplified in the life of Daniel in the Scriptures. If you constantly bow to God’s will every step of your way, God’s will for you, which is Greatness, would be glorified.

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