It seems like someone is conspiring to make me realize how selfish I am. A blog I subscribe to, Becoming Minimalist, recently had a post I wanted to reblog, called The Antidote to Selfishness is You. I’m including it below, with my comments.
“Selfishness is that detestable vice which no one will forgive in others, and no one is without himself.” – Henry Ward Beecher
We live in a world of unquenchable greed and selfishness. We see it all around us. And often lament its existence:
- We lash out against the greed of politicians.
- We despise the self-serving culture of corporate greed.
- We argue against those who spend massive resources pushing their agenda.
- We protest the selfish motives of many wars and ruling parties.
- We cry out against the injustice of unnecessary poverty and hunger.
With little or no effort, we recognize the ugly effects of greed and selfishness on our society, culture, and nations. The greed of others makes this world a less pleasurable place to live for all of us. We wish they would change for the sake of everyone. In some cases, we even unify and protest to pressure them to change.
All the while, our personal greed rarely goes challenged. Recognizing the negative effects of corporate selfishness is easy. But identifying our own selfish motivation is more difficult to accomplish. It is, after all, far more painful to discover and admit.
As a result, we rarely recognize how selfishness within us is…
- contributing to the feelings of jealousy we experience.
- causing strife in our relationships with others.
- negatively impacting our relationship with our spouse.
- motivating so many of the unhealthy decisions we make with our money.
- preventing us from meeting the apparent needs of others.
- keeping us from experiencing love, joy, hope, gratitude, generosity.
- hindering us from finding true contentment.
It is healthy and wise to recognize the greed of our society in which we live. We need voices speaking out against it… loudly. And history will continue to recognize and praise the heroes who took a stand against it. May each of us be bold as we champion society’s selfless pursuits.
But as we do, may we begin in our own hearts. May we never neglect the pursuit of removing selfishness from our own affections. May we strive to consider not only our own interests, but also the interests of others. May we routinely place ourselves in the plight of others. And may we seek to meet their needs with the same effort we seek to meet our own.
The antidote for selfishness is you. And the battle has to begin there.
It’s very easy to condemn selfishness in others, and very hard to battle it in oneself. As if that post weren’t enough (it probably wasn’t, obviously), last night my chapter in the book I’m reading, Daughters of God, was about self-centeredness. Here are some of the quotes I found especially striking:
You must have things your own way, and unless you do, you are perfectly miserable…you have…but little self-control and do not exercise the strong will you possess to hold in control your own thoughts and your own feelings…you cannot enjoy wholeness of character, which is true sanctification, unless you steadily and earnestly discipline yourself…Get your mind off yourself; be uncomplaining; be cheerful…I entreat of you to hide in Jesus, to be His own true child, walking in love and and obedience to all His requirements, exemplifying in your life the character of Jesus — tender and thoughtful of others, considering them just as good and just as deserving as yourself of conveniences and comforts and happiness…You will never perfect Christian character until you think less of self and have a better opinion of others…Religion ever imparts power to its possessor to restrain, control, and balance the character and intellect and emotions…Every act of ours has its influence on others, therefore every thought and every motive is to be under the control of the Spirit of God…Self is to be crucified, not now and then, but daily, and the physical, mental, and spiritual must be subordinate to the will of God…All the peculiarities given us as an inheritance or acquired by indulgence or through erroneous education must be thoroughly overcome, decidedly resisted…The religion of Christ will bind and restrain every unholy pasison, will stimulate to energy, to self-discipline and industry even in the matters of homely, everyday life…Jesus wants you to be happy, but you cannot be happy in having your own way and following the impulse of your own heart.
–Ellen G. White, Daughters of God, pp.165-170
And to bring it home, I had just read the above selection for my daily devotions and then got angry at something and took it out on Kent. It in no way was his fault, and I was petty and mean, and he called me on it. I spent the day feeling really bad about myself and asking him to forgive me every time I thought of it (which was often). You would think I would have been able to think of the reading and do better — the worst part was that I did think of it, and thought that I shouldn’t take it out on Kent, and then I did anyway. I feel like a really horrible person. I suppose deep down, we all are — the “rats in the cellar” thing from C.S. Lewis — but I guess I usually feel pretty good about myself. I will have to spend a lot of time praying for help to control my temper and my habit of lashing out verbally.