Thoughts on how kiasu-ism and kiasi-ism seeped into my Christian walk
Kiasu and Kiasi are no strangers to Singaporeans. We grow up with them, we embody them, and we even allow them to become a way of living.
Kiasu carries heavy insecurities of losing out to others and constantly strives to get ahead and cross the finish line first. Kiasi, on the other hand, is perpetually afraid of getting into trouble or, more morbidly, dying. Both Kiasu and Kiasi are intimate friends of mine, despite our love-hate relationship.
Growing up, Kiasu and Kiasi seemed to be well-acquainted with everyone around me. This was especially evident whenever a conflict arose in my family or among friends, Kiasu and Kiasi will be sure to make their presence known in the room. And this was how I was introduced to them. Thereafter, they subconsciously became a part of my walk with God too.
There are two significant ways they were interwoven into my life:
1. Kiasu polluted the way I viewed God’s blessings upon my life.
Despite receiving full provisions from my parents from birth, a dissatisfaction constantly nagged at me. Envy, greed and a covetous spirit drilled a gaping hole in my heart and I soon found myself seeking for the blessings that others possessed.
Having hailed from a girls’ school, I often wondered why God bestowed my classmates with sharper facial features and with wealthy families who could afford fancy clothes and school bags. As materialistic as this sounds, my fear of losing out swelled like vines sprouting around my eyes, blinding me from the immense blessings — favour, love, grace, goodness and mercy — that followed me throughout secondary school.
Kiasu pulled me deeper and deeper into the rancid pit even in my undergraduate years. As much as I tried living out the call that God placed in my life, I remember repeatedly looking to my left and right, as I compared the different “callings” my church friends were pursuing. Kiasu’s voice buzzed like a fly, provoking me to turn my eyes away from His personal call. It all seemed like a long drawn-out battle until I had enough and confronted Kiasu with the word of God.
Isaiah 61 touches on God’s favour upon the land of Zion and how prophet Isaiah responds in obedience to the Holy Spirit. In verse 3, Isaiah was called to “to bestow on [those who grieve in Zion] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” When I read this passage, I claimed God’s intent for me: not to cling on to Kiasu but to live in His grace-filled blessings, which bring beauty, gladness and praise.
Maybe you’re struggling with the fear of losing out on God’s blessings or questioning if He is willing to bless you today. I have struggled with this in the past, but breakthrough came when I grasped the rich knowledge that the greatest blessing in my life is knowing God and having a personal relationship with Him. Only in Christ are my eyes open to the many blessings He has given me. In moments when I don’t feel blessed, I remind myself that sometimes God’s blessings come through the most unlikely of circumstances — tears, trials and tribulations.
Will you still trust that God is pouring out blessings in situations where you can only see curses? Will you take a step back to survey the bigger picture and recognise that because you have Christ, you are blessed? This much I know: Kiasu is silenced in the presence of God.
2. Kiasi robbed me of my attempts to live by faith.
The fear of landing in trouble, coalesced with a longing for man’s approval, led me to become a wary, cautious and indecisive person. An adventure-seeking, boundary-breaking life was never something I associated myself with. Merely hearing the phrase “take a leap of faith” irked me. There was a deep craving for safety, comfort and certainty; Kiasi gladly kept me in the shadows of the abyss.
The struggle to trust in God and His goodness intensified during my transition between schools: from primary school, to secondary school, to university. Stepping into a new school meant new routines, new friends, new challenges; in short, transitions meant intense discomfort. I remember crying out to God for intervention whenever Kiasi gnawed at my spirit and when I was crippled with fear.
However, God began to deal with Kiasi by stretching me through serving in ministry and activating the need to practice and act in faith! The more my faith resonated with Hebrews 11:6 — “Without faith, it is impossible to please God…” — the more Kiasi diminished in me. Fear started to dissipate; it began to shudder each time I responded in obedience and faith. Today, my spirit recognises its authority over Kiasi, longs for spiritual faith adventures and has become sensitive to holding any fear and doubt captive when they creep up on me.
Even though Kiasu and Kiasi have induced much pain and struggle, they have taught me gratefulness. Whenever I look back on my journey and the arduous (mental) wars I’ve fought through and won, my heart never fails to swell up. I am thankful that God has revealed Himself to me and has always held me in love regardless of circumstance. My life is a victorious one because in God, there is nothing to lose and there is nothing to fear.
Are Kiasu and Kiasi dear companions of yours too? If so, may you plug out from their malicious voices and ease into spending private moments with God. Allow Him space to speak into your inner struggles and battles. After which, dig deep into the living Word and boldly declare His promises of providence, truth and love in your life. May you remember that the Father ultimately desires to bless and strengthen you on this long and winding path. Take heart, my fellow Singaporean.