The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in An Age of Self Obsession

( 17 )

Overview

That's what you've been told your whole Life. "If you work hard enough, you can be the person you deserve to be-successful, fulfilled, happy." And so we endlessly reach for that goal, constantly comparing ourselves to those around us to see how we measure up. We try, and try, until we find ourselves becoming our own PR firm, spending hours online and in front of the mirror crafting our public images. Meanwhile, behind our carefully cultivated personas, we are frustrated and confused and worn out with the ...

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The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in An Age of Self Obsession

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Overview

That's what you've been told your whole Life. "If you work hard enough, you can be the person you deserve to be-successful, fulfilled, happy." And so we endlessly reach for that goal, constantly comparing ourselves to those around us to see how we measure up. We try, and try, until we find ourselves becoming our own PR firm, spending hours online and in front of the mirror crafting our public images. Meanwhile, behind our carefully cultivated personas, we are frustrated and confused and worn out with the struggle. We are unhappy and unfulfilled-searching for our true selves without a compass.

This is not another self-help book. Rather, The Vertical Self is about laying down the burden of creating your own identity. It is a call to rediscover the one thing that can really fulfill: radical holiness. We are being drawn, cajoled, and beckoned by God to our true selves, Sayers says. Yet this desire is derailed and sabotaged by our culture, which offers cheap imitations of our true identities instead of the image of God. By stepping into this journey of discovering what God truly desires for our lives, we won't just discover a new way of living out our faith-we will discover a liberating, revolutionary, life-embracing way of being truly human.

It's time to choose a new path. Are you ready to find out who you really are?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849920004
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/2/2010
  • Pages: 197
  • Sales rank: 1,408,465
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Sayers is Director of Über, a ministry that specializes in issues of youth and young adult discipleship. He is also pastor of Red East Church in Melbourne, Australia. He is a highly sought after speaker and thinker in the areas of Generation Y, pop culture and mission.
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Read an Excerpt

THE VERTICAL SELF


By MARK SAYERS

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2010 Mark Sayers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-2000-4


Chapter One

Modern Identity

PICK YOUR PERSONALITY

In front of me I have a catalog for cell phones. The front cover of the catalog does not feature a phone or any image at all. There is nothing to show that this catalog is even selling phones. All there is on the cover is one simple word that sums up our age: me.

As I open the catalog, I discover that each page extols the virtues of the latest models of phones for the coming season. Each page features a model or models who in some way attempt to match the "personality" of the phone. The first personality I encounter is the image of a beautiful young woman lounging on a piece of rustic outdoor furniture. Behind her is a lake, complete with untouched forest in the distance. Her hair is long and parted down the middle. She is wearing a pair of bell-bottoms; she could have been transported from Woodstock, although she looks slightly more groomed and tanned. The copy at the bottom of the page uses words such as relaxed and spacious living. I move on from this twenty-first-century hippie with her eco-chic style and bohemian peace and turn the page.

The next ad is in black and white, this one featuring a ruggedly handsome man probably in his early thirties. He wears a largevintage belt buckle and leans on a dirty-looking SUV. He is unshaven, and his clothes look as though they have been lived in. His thumbs are plunged into his pockets-a sign that body-language experts tell us represents sexual aggression-and he is gazing wistfully off into the distance. With his worn jeans and dirty white T-shirt, he could be James Dean's grandson. He is giving off social signals that, when communicated together, are labeled "cool" in our culture.

Another page, another personality. This time it's two young girls on a dance floor. One has a cheeky or naughty expression on her face. The story accompanying the picture tells us that this particular new phone, with its Internet capabilities, is a great way to juggle multiple boyfriends at the same time. The copy features modern-day mantras such as "right now," "sort it out on the fly," "life is random," and the obligatory "social life." The girls look like international models, but one of them, as she looks at the mobile phone, inexplicably seems to be in the midst of sexual ecstasy. The suggestive body language, the clothes, the way one girl looks into the camera seductively, the way the other looks as if she can only be turned on by a cell phone-these all speak of another ubiquitous contemporary personality, the personality of "sexy." I leave behind the pleasure-loving party girls and turn the page.

The picture and feel are different yet again. A young woman stands in the middle of what looks like a Hollywood cocktail party, a city skyline twinkling in the background. She wears a dress that would fit in on the red carpet at the Oscars. She looks like Grace Kelly. In contrast to the people around her, she lights up. Behind her, a stylish and beautiful woman shoots her a glance of envy. She is the epitome of the mysterious quality we label glamorous. The ad copy features terms such as fabulous, daring, stand out, and demand attention.

I turn the page and this time look upon another handsome man, this one in his early forties. He is wearing a suit and sits back confidently at his desk, which overlooks a cityscape. He has the look of power on his face. The text accompanying the picture uses the terms control, command situations, grab opportunities, powerful, and anything is possible.

Welcome to the twenty-first century, where we can now purchase and change personalities the way we can clothes, depending on mood or circumstance. Welcome to the world in which we are told we can be anyone we want to be, where identity is no longer based in a sense of self but rather in the imagery we choose at any particular moment.

Try this experiment. In three to four sentences, describe what makes someone (a) cool, (b) sexy, (c) glamorous.

How did you do? It's a lot harder than you think, yet many people around the globe use these words to create identities for themselves. How many people use these media-created masks to give off the sense that they have captured these esoteric qualities? Think how many millions, if not trillions of dollars are spent each year on products, clothes, experiences, even property so that people can convince themselves and others that these adjectives describe them and that they are, therefore, valuable members of our society. Cool, sexy, glamorous: these are the new social virtues.

Social virtues existed in the past. Society in the Middle Ages valued chivalry and saintliness. The culture of the early modern period upheld the concept of gentlemanliness. Jewish culture celebrated the mensch-a fair and good person. Social virtues have existed in almost every culture on earth, but now our social virtues have become these disposable masks: cool, sexy, bohemian, cosmopolitan, tough ... the list goes on. We have gotten to this point because we have lost a sense of self. All we can do now is act; we deal in superficial imagery rather than in our God-given image. We have lost our identities and don't know how to get them back.

HOW DID WE BEGIN TO LOSE OUR IDENTITIES?

Peter went backpacking in Thailand to find himself. Patricia's new relationship has made her feel centered. Since Dave got that new job, he seems grounded. What do these statements really mean? Had Peter lost himself the way one loses his keys? What was Patricia when she was single-de-centered? What on earth was going on with Dave? Was he stuck in lunar orbit before he became grounded? The ways we describe ourselves today are indications that we have become unstuck; we have lost our sense of ourselves. We are at a unique time in history. Our world has gone through intense political, economic, social, and technological change. But we often forget that at a personal level we have gone through intense changes in the way we process identity. Our understanding of self and the way we construct a sense of identity are unprecedented in human history.

In the year 1863, my great-great-grandfather Hermann Carl Franz Huth emigrated to Australia from the province of Prussia in what is today eastern Germany. My mother recently found some photos of him and my great-grandmother looking ancient with many of my other German forebears. In the photo they are having a picnic in the Aussie bush. Now, the area in which this picnic is taking place is quite hot even in winter, yet there they are in their immaculate outfits-suits, waistcoats, and so on. Today if we were going to have a picnic in such a place, the choice of attire would be shorts, tank tops, T-shirts, flip-flops, and plenty of sunscreen. Even in shorts we would probably be dripping with sweat, yet here are these people from a different time with their different values and clothing and mannerisms. Even the way they sit and lounge seems more formal, and the children seem more adult. Theirs was a completely different way of looking at life and the world; it was a different way of relating to and interacting with the culture around them. Such formality is almost unknown to us today; back then formality and convention were keys to developing an identity. We've changed a lot since then.

If you lived one hundred years ago, you would have had a very different set of social expectations placed upon you. Your social success would be determined by a number of factors, such as how ethically you conducted yourself in business and in family matters and how you related to your friends, neighbors, and relatives. These things were determinative of how well you would get on in life. Treating someone badly, committing adultery, or cheating on your taxes was such a serious breach of community life that you would most likely be shunned into shame by your loved ones. In other words, your social success was directly connected to your character and community involvement.

Such a way of understanding ourselves is almost unimaginable to us today. Back then everyone knew the rules, and their self-understanding came from fitting into a cultural order. Yet these social rules didn't help everyone. If you were of the wrong race, gender, or class, your community might have given you a sense of identity that you didn't exactly want. For the last one hundred years, we have been slowly rejecting the social institutions of our forebears. The dream was for the individual to be truly free from constraining cultural expectations. And for better or worse, we got what we hoped for: today individualism reigns. We no longer look to social institutions and community to find our sense of self; rather, we seek to "be free," to "express ourselves," and to "be happy with ourselves." But how do we achieve these things? We have unprecedented personal freedom, but our freedom is accompanied by a haunting sense of being lost. This sense comes in part from the way we understand our lives today.

To find a real sense of self, to discover who we really are, we first must work out how we got in the position we are in. We must discover the ways in which our sense of self has become infected and unstuck. We must seek to understand how we have moved away from basing our identities in our God-given image and toward simply adopting identities from the culture around us.

Chapter Two

From Image of God to Public Image

In the past, people didn't seem to struggle with the question of identity in the way we do today. Other questions were at the forefront of their minds, and they derived a sense of self from a commonly held standard. We have only to look at church history to see how this is true.

THE IMAGE OF GOD

John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress while imprisoned for his Puritan beliefs in 1678. The book is his spiritual biography told through allegory, and it is considered not only a Christian classic but a classic of English literature. It has been read for centuries by people who are interested in understanding the concept of spiritual growth.

At the beginning of Bunyan's tale, we find the hero of the book, named Christian, in a spiritual depression. Bunyan writes that Christian is "greatly distressed"; he cries out, "What must I do to be saved?" Bunyan's story has had such resonance with readers since its writing because the character Christian's struggle to find a sense of connection with God, to deal with his guilt and his burden of sin, has been the same struggle of Bunyan's readers. Such concerns about forming a relationship with God and dealing with the personal burden of sin were also foremost on the mind of the young Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, as he decided to break away from the Roman Catholic Church and begin a new stream of Christianity. You don't have to read much history to see that, for millions of people who have lived in Christian cultures since the birth of the early church, the question of connecting with God and dealing with the burden of sin took precedence over questions of personal identity. This is because people living in Christian cultures in the past believed the book of Genesis when it told them they were created in God's image.

Now, I don't for one second want to paint a sanitized version of the past. Christian cultures have often failed to see the image of God in other cultures and, sadly, sometimes committed abominable actions in the name of Christ; but on the whole, the idea of God-given identity was foundational to a person's sense of self. The belief that humans were created in the image of God was the center point of an understanding of self. It was the cornerstone upon which identity was built.

GREEKS BEARING GOODNESS

Christianity was not the only influence, however, on Western culture. The philosophy of the ancient Greeks also molded the way individuals felt about their lives. The Greeks were obsessed with the ideas of virtue and goodness. The giant of Greek philosophy, Socrates, believed that if humans came to understand what was good, they would act in a way that was good, and therefore their lives would be happy. The Greeks looked to a greater good, an essence or standard of good, to define their lives. Thus, a desire to act in ways that are moral or good is embedded in Western culture, and our identity has been linked closely to our ability to live in a virtuous manner.

THE VERTICAL SELF

This framework of identity, with its Judeo-Christian belief in God-given identity and a Greek belief in virtuous living, can be described as "the vertical self." The vertical self explains the way that identity is developed by being part of a greater order.

At the top of this vertical order is God. Above us, therefore, albeit symbolically, is also a belief in an eternal reward and a greater spiritual reality. Humans develop a sense of self by looking upward, looking to the belief that they are created in God's image to be his ambassadors:

Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock, and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Gen. 1:26-28)

Humans also look upward to measure their behavior against a greater moral good.

In the middle of this order is earth, creation. Looking downward, humans view creation to see how they are different from it. We see that we have a divine imprint that does not exist in the animal kingdom. However, humans are also challenged to be stewards of creation, to cultivate and tend nature and the environment.

In a realm below nature we find the concepts of eternal punishment for sin, spiritual consequence, and evil. This level reminds us that there are eternal ramifications to our actions in this life, that we have the freedom to accept our God-given identity but we also have the freedom to reject this gift-and to choose a future separate from God with all of the horror that choice brings.

The vertical self is defined by being part of a greater reality. This worldview leads to a belief in the eternal, the desire to cultivate one's spirituality so that one moves upward on the path toward becoming more like God. The vertical self has been the dominant influence on Western culture's understanding of self since the birth of the church. But things have changed.

BLOWING UP THE PAST

A mere nine years after John Bunyan had published Pilgrim's Progress, the citizens of Athens found themselves under attack by the navy of Venice. To protect themselves from harm, they hid in their temple, the Parthenon. The temple represented the heights of Greek culture and thought. When Greece converted to Christianity, the temple had been turned into Athens's cathedral. The citizens of Athens thought the Parthenon was a good hiding place because they believed the Venetian invaders would never fire upon this symbol of both Christian piety and the heights of Greek thought. They were wrong. A mortar shell was fired at the temple, and the building became the ruins that we see on tourist postcards today.

Although no one realized it at the time, it was a deeply symbolic moment. For centuries Western culture had looked backward, but now a new period in history had begun. Humans began to look forward; we had entered the modern age. The modern age would create a whirlwind of change that would touch many elements of human existence-especially the way in which we view our lives.

THE LIFE SMOOTHIE

The way you see yourself and understand your identity is not unique. You feel the way you do because you are a product of a culture that has shaped you to process the world in a particular way. If you are to have a life that is rich and rewarding, it is essential that you understand this formation process. No longer do we understand ourselves and our identities through the lens of the vertical self; things have radically shifted. Now the way we see ourselves is the result of a mishmash of influences. It's kind of like a smoothie-all kinds of ingredients and influences have been put into a food processor, the button has been pushed, and everything has been mashed up and served to you as your identity. Without turning this into Sociology 101, let's take a quick tour of the influences that make you see yourself the way you do.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE VERTICAL SELF by MARK SAYERS Copyright © 2010 by Mark Sayers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Foreword: The Divining Rod Leonard Sweet xiii

Preface: We Need to Change the Conversation xvii

Introduction xxi

1 Modern Identity 1

2 From Image of God to Public Image 7

3 Finding Yourself 21

4 Life, the Movie 36

5 Pop-Culture Memories of Wholeness 54

6 The Social Self of Sexy 57

7 The Social Self of Cool 65

8 The Social Self of Glamorous 74

9 Say Hello to Your Future Self 78

10 Meeting Your Future Self 102

11 Playing Inside the Piano 151

Conclusion: I Want to Recruit You! 169

Study Guide 173

Notes 185

Interview with the Author 191

About the Author 197

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Horizontal versus Vertical

    In his non-fiction title, The Vertical Self, Sayers explains how culture has moved us away from who God wants us to be and turned us towards a self-absorbed lifestyle. He calls this way of life "horizontal" and claims we need to be "vertical." A horizontal self looks to those on the same level as him/her for self-image. A vertical self looks to a higher being, God, for identity. Sayers states his case for how far society has moved away from looking to God for our purpose and identity.

    This book is not light reading and some sections are difficult to wade through. I felt like Sayers had numerous examples, stories and situations to defend his theory of society being horizontal to the point that it was doom and gloom. There was not enough teaching, encouraging and support for the vertical self theory to balance the book. Chapter after chapter explained what we are doing wrong and why it's wrong but, there were few pages leading me to the better alternative or convincing me I need the better way. The majority of the book told me I need fixing rather than telling me how to fix myself.

    The Vertical Self has a somewhat narrow target audience. First, the audience must be Christian otherwise it could be quite offensive. Second, the reader must open him/herself to the negative description of Christians today who live a horizontally. That said, The Vertical Self would be a good resource for youth and young adult leaders. It would, also, make a useful tool for new and young Christians as they discern how being a Christian looks and feels in everyday life.

    Sayers is convicted and passionate about people needing to alter their thinking in order to live vertically. I commend Sayers for his enthusiasm and zeal regarding the subject and I believe his theories are worth consideration.


    I received a complimentary copy of The Vertical Self from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a participant in their BookSneeze.com book review blogger program.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

    Have you ever wondered whether or not you are sexy, cool or glamorous? C'mon now. If you're human, you've probably measured yourself according to these standards more than you care to admit. In the first half of this book, author Mark Sayers exposes the hollowness of theses popular Western philosophies as they trumpet their destructive calls to today's Christians. Sayers calls these philosophies our "horizontal self" - using the mirror of peers to reflect good or bad, right or wrong in ourselves. While his descriptions of the "horizontal self" are well-stated, they are not well-supported with accompanying research and references as I would have liked.


    Instead, says Sayers, Christians should possess a vertical view of self, a judgment based on God's perspective rather than man's. Sayers explains this "vertical self" in the second half of his presentation. He corrects his lack in the first half of the book by now providing effective supporting material for his presentation.

    This book is for the new believer or for those nearing belief. It is not a challenging read. Neither is it a theological study. It does encourage self-examination regarding terms used by the author. The book concludes with a study guide that can be used as a basis for the reader's self-analysis or as a guide to small group discussions.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    Vertical

    The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

    The Vertical self is a strong yet easy read that promises alot of challenges. The subject of this book focuses on two ways we can live out life. The horizontal self is represented by the way we live in accordance to the cultures we are surrounded by. We live in a media driven world that lets us feel that we are measured by what society considers the norm. the Vertical self is how we should live when it comes to God. Sayers focuses on how we as God's creation should live and see ourself in accord to God's will in our life. God is our measuring stick.

    Through suggestion and illustration Mark gives us views on how we can overcome the lure of this world and keep our eyes on God. This book is a great book for youth and would make a great discussion in youth groups. This is not a self help book but more of a road map to get your focus off of the world that will always let you down, and focus on almighty God.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Worthwhile read

    In a time when branding and social media are so popular, this book reminds us that most of us are striving to create images of ourselves that will only leave us feeling empty.

    Sayers says many Christians have replaced the command to be holy with the quest for status. We've given up finding our true selves because we have lost touch with the real goal to nurture our souls. Instead, even as Christians, we pour our time and energy into constructing an image that we think will make us cool, sexy, and glamorous.

    In the past, people looked to church institutions in order to discover their identity. Sayers explains that this was the vertical self. It focused on God to get one's sense of identity.

    Eventually, a shift happened when people began to look forward, rather than backward, and people no longer looked to the vertical self to form their identity.

    In addition, the advance of science caused people to consider themselves to be just another animal, rather than the crowning glory of God's creation. As people shifted to the horizontal point of view, they began looking to others to gain their sense of self. Unfortunately, when others don't see how cool and sexy we are, we lose our anchor.

    Sayers shares a true story:

    In Great Britain there is a reality TV show called The Monastery. A group of secular, non-believers go to live in a monk for several weeks. They get to incorporate deeply religious experiences into their lives. The monks have no idea who is joining them, but one of those men works in the porn industry. His experience is so profound that he left his job and joined the church. This is exactly what the point of Sayer's book is - what the world offers is empty. What God offers is the true thing.

    This reminds me of an often quoted phrase from C. S. Lewis:

    Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. -The Weight of Glory

    I recommend this book. It's filled with great anecdotes and interesting historical stories. Sayers has poured a lot of time into researching his topic. And best of all, I'm reminded to put my hope in Christ, not the number of comments on my Facebook page.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Vertical Self - Book Review

    The Vertical Self How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in An Age of Self Obsession
    By Mark Sayers

    I recently had the privileged of receiving this book in the mail Cutesy of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

    I was really excited to get this book because it looked very interesting. It talks about returning to a life of Holiness. It is a book about being less self absorbed or "horizontal" and having our eyes fixed on Christ "vertical".

    I personally love books that deal with our identity because I believe it is one of the biggest struggles we as Christians have. Who do we get our identity from? Are our eyes pointed upward or do we continue to look to our environment and peers as our barometer for how we should act and ultimately be.

    While the insights are butt kicking and inspiring I felt the actual writing of this book made it a bit monotonous to read. Make no mistake, the content of this book is much needed in the church today and it has some fantastic points. It is a must read, but I just was not a fan of the writing style. It did not keep my interest and therefore it became a bit of work to get through it.

    Bravo to Mark for tackling a subject that we as the church seem to forget about and that is Jesus calls us to be like Him and He always looked to the father. Hopefully this book will inspire more to start looking vertically.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Who are you?

    Mark Sayers has put together a great work in "The Vertical Self". I wasn't real sure what to expect since I haven't read anything by Sayers before, but I was quickly drawn in to this book. What our image and identity is is very important and on the forefront of people's minds. Sayers shows how many times we look to unqualified sources to give us our identity. Sayers proposes going back to our Creator and let Him show us who we are. This is not another "self-help" book, but rather a call to "radical holiness." I would encourage anyone looking to get a clue as to what their identity is to get a copy of "The Vertical Self" and give it a read.

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  • Posted April 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Vertical Self Book Review

    Incredibly impressed with the book I read The Vertical Self written by Mark Sayers. It's a book about discovering who God is and what is true biblical faith in the midst of a culture that says it is all about you.

    If I could use one word to describe Mark it is relevant. That term gets thrown around so loosely and almost has a negative connotation that comes with it however Mark is able to tie culture into faith and sets a biblical model of what it should look like. The moment we realize that our faith is not about us but about a destination of connecting with Jesus is the moment that we grow closer to Him instead of closer to our own selves. I enjoyed how Mark showed us practical ways to find our true selves. This book appears to be written to a younger generation but I also think that by addressing this to the younger generation it may shrink the gap with young people not to be self consumed but to be consumed by God.

    "By stepping into this journey of discovering what God truly desires for our lives, we won't just discover a new way of living out our faith -- we will discover liberating, revolutionary, life-embracing was of being truly human."

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  • Posted April 3, 2010

    The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

    If you don't know who you are or why you are how you are, Mark Sayer will get you pointed in the right direction to answer all those questions. With a depth and insight, unparalleled in my reading thus far, he clearly details the struggle of our "self" horizontally to match up in the ever changing day to day pressures of conformity, while offering a detailed, biblical solution of how to align ourselves back with the originator and Creator.

    I didn't expect much from this book but found myself challenged with each scathing review of my own shortcomings as he took excuse after excuse away from me, all the while, pointing me to my Creator and His image in me. The entire book was one self examination of the ugly in my life, how it remains there and grows, what I do to facilitate that growth, and how it impacts my world around me and the world globally. All his information was biblical in content and context and, with proper application individually, life changing.

    His no-holds-barred approach made this book refreshing and insightful and I definitely have a much greater understanding of my fake and true self. Definitely a must read for any seeker with a desire to grow into the image they were made from.

    Thomas Nelson provided a complimentary copy of this book.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    An Interesting Read

    I picked up Mark Sayers' The Vertical Self with high hopes. It looked interesting and poignant; since there aren't many books out there that take the focus off of oneself, I was excited about giving it a read. Plus, I liked little the red guy on the book's cover.
    I expected Sayers to discuss not caring about what other people think (the reviewer's depiction of a "horizontal self"), and to focus on what God thinks (the "vertical self"). While he delivered this to an extent, Sayers had a lot to say about the media and how it corrupts our "vertical selves." In Sayers' mind, the "vertical self" is really the image of God-who God created us to be; the "horizontal self" is the public image. Okay, that makes sense. However, when Sayers implies that an urban environment dilutes character-once you move from the country to the city, then it doesn't matter whether you were of good character-I have to wonder what planet this guy is living on. Did he mean that we should all live in the boondocks in order to be who God really wants us to be?
    Most of this book discusses how big of an impact the media has on our identities. While this is somewhat true, it doesn't mean that everyone looks to Britney Spears to find his or her sense of self. Sayers takes an interesting viewpoint in his book. To me, it's a new genre comprised of New Age and New King James self help. It's open-minded in some aspects, and ultra-conservative in others. While I think it puts a bit too much focus on the media (which, in my opinion, can be a powerful tool in ministry), it is somewhat truthful and thought-provoking.
    To Sayers, life (in the "horizontal self") is a movie; to me, God's story is an epic and The Vertical Self is a bit off.


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  • Posted April 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Lots to think About

    I was very excited to get this book in the mail as part of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program. In the Vertical Self Mark Sayers looks at how in modern western culture instead of defining ourselves vertically in relationship to God we now attempt to gain a sense of identity horizontally by what the people around us think. The first section looks at various influences in our culture that combine to shape the way we see ourselves. The second part looks at how we might seek to find our true identity by cultivating our souls ... to rediscover holiness.

    This really is an excellent book. Mark looks with great insight into today's culture and how it influences us. I must admit even though a couple years back I made the conscious decision to not be defined by other people and put God's will first it is easy to lapse back into old patterns. This book has made me more aware of some of the more subtle influences in my life. Using stories from the bible and also more recent history Mark looks at how we can overcome the messages of our culture to embrace our true self "each day becoming more and more like the people God has designed us to be" ... a must if we hope, as a church, to make any kind of impact in our communities.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers

    I just finished reading "The Vertical Self" by Mark Sayers, founder of über, and Senior Leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia. I really enjoyed this book. Mark explores the phenomenon of how modern culture has changed the way our identity is defined.

    Today, rather than a vertical view of self, gaining our identity from God, people tend to have a to a horizontal view of self, gaining our identity from society.

    This book is very well written, and contains some incredibly insightful observations about culture (both current and historical), and how this view of self has even invaded the mindset of many churches and Christians. In addition, Mark offers some practical ways that we can redirect our view of self back to a vertical posture, looking to God to give us our true name.

    This book is a great read, and I highly recommend it!

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  • Posted March 9, 2010

    Stimulating and relevant for a searching soul

    In The Vertical Self, Mark Sayers wants readers to break out of their empty, self-centered 'horizontal' lives and step into more fulfilling, God-centered 'vertical' lives. By analyzing society and its trends, he shows the uncertainty and instability of 'finding' ourselves according to the world. He then points to the Bible to show how it can help us find ourselves and live a life that reflects and points to God.

    I expected the book to be about dying to self; however, it addresses man's search for identity in a self-absorbed world.

    The majority of the book explains how mankind slipped into a state of 'horizontal' self - a life defined by society and circumstances. He presents a lot of historical support, as well as some great examples to help the reader identify a horizontal lifestyle. A little less than half of the book shows how man can move into a vertical lifestyle.

    The book definitely whet my appetite, but I wanted to know more about how to live the 'radically holy' life. It's relatively easy to read, but still required some thought. It may require a second read through to glean the rest of the good stuff.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    The Vertical Self - Book Review

    We truly live in an age where our true identity is hard to decipher from all that we pretend it to be. I've actually been feeling God calling us to find out who we are in Him, to re-identify ourselves by His word.

    "The Vertical Self" by Mark Sayers does a good job of identifying the issues that arise when we try to find our identity.... he describes how we often create our own by piecing together cheap imitations of who we were originally designed to be - made in the image of God. "By stepping into this journey of discovering what God truly desires for our lives, we won't just discover a new way of living out our faith -- we will discover liberating, revolutionary, life-embracing was of being truly human."

    I enjoyed this book. Mark Sayers has a lot of relevant examples of how we misplace our identity and smoothly describes ways of how we can find our true selves. Although he does use the Bible to make some points, I would have like to see it used a little more - after all it is about finding our identity in Him. This book, however seems to be geared toward a younger audience (high school/college) and I can see it appealing to them a little more.

    All in all it was a decent book, that does discuss an important issue of identity in our lives.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    Review: The Vertical Self

    Mark Sayers premise is that: "You can be anyone you want to be. But is that really what you want?" (from back cover) Identities, according to Sayers, are like cell phones. We can pick and chose our own...or so we think. But, that is the problem. We are even capable of changing our image, giving our identity a make-over. (Chapter 3) This picking and choosing and changing has actually led to us "[losing] our identities." (4) We no longer know who we are. The problem with this is "we don't know how to get them back." (4)

    Let's face it, we all have a persona that we "wear" in public. Heck, even us bloggers have a persona. Yes, even I have a persona that I use when blogging. That leads me to ask: What have I given up cultivating my internet persona? And that seems to be the problem today. All that this does, in Sayer's opinion is promote a horizontal self. "As people with a horizontal view of self, we spend so much time cultivating our outward appearances and shaping our public performances that we neglect our interior lives." (83)

    So, what is the vertical self? The vertical self is living our lives as God intended us to live them. It does not rely on the secular definitions of identity: sexy, cool, or glamorous. To find out more, you'll have to read the book. I'm not giving anything away here.

    Overall, I thought Sayers did a fairly good job of looking at our identity and our outside sources, mainly the media have affected and to some extent, shaped our identity. We have forgotten, to borrow a phrase from my Pastoral Care professor, who and whose we are. We are suffering from an identity crisis: we create persona and false identities to fit in, to be one of the popular people. We need to reclaim our God given identities: that as a child of God.

    I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

    Disclaimer:
    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    "Are you ready to find out who you REALLY are?"

    We live in an age of self-obsession; selling ourselves on Facebook, idolizing celebrities, keeping up with the neighbors, trying to be "somebody" and judging ourselves based on the material things we acquire. We show up at church maybe once a week, once a month or once a year, and forget the message of the sermon long before we forget who won the last American Idol contest. This is a way of life. We are striving to be "individuals" but losing who we really are in the meantime.

    Mark Sayer writes about this and how we have lost the way of living for the "Vertical Self". This is living for God, and being our true selves, not living to create our "public image" or "horizontal self". There are so many instances in this book that everyone can relate to; Mark lets us know that we are not alone in this journey. There is no real peace in living a horizontal self. You are constantly searching, changing to meet society's demands and expectations, and losing yourself in the process. Only through living with God in mind, the vertical self, can we ever really live out our faith and find our true selves.

    This book is a good read, and a re-read. It is a book that we can continue to learn from.
    I received this book free through Thomas Nelson Publishers via Booksneeze.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Good for Teens and Young Adults

    Book Sneeze Review: The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers
    This book takes a real cold hard look at what Christians are becoming more like each day...the World!! In this book, author Mark Sayers brings up aspects of our lives, as the Christian Church, that stun our effectiveness in witness. This book is all about God's standards, not our own, and how we are not meeting them. If all Christians had the goal of God's standards, then our effectiveness in the world would be so much better!

    I must say that I really enjoy the realness in this book. The author does not try to gently move the reader, but instead gives the hard facts and ways we can fix them. I believe that this book would be especially good for a teen to a young adult since the writing style seems to be more direct than that of a purely adult book. One thing I did not care for was the lack of Biblical Scriptures. There were some here and there, but much of the information is based on a theme or aspect that the author wants to cover. I think that his message would be better presented if there were more scriptures to back up what he is saying, not just sprinkling throughout. Overall I would recommend this book to someone else, but I would not recommend this book to a theologian or serious adult Christian.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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    Posted October 7, 2010

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    Posted May 29, 2011

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