I admit it. I’m not proud of it but I know it to be true. Let’s face it, we all are. 

As far as I can tell, selfishness is the source of absolutely every single problem on Earth. Think about it – war, divorce, fights, theft, resentments, jail, pollution, abandonment – all can be traced back to our self-centered nature. 

We want things our way. Our primary objective is our own self-satisfaction. We see everything through the lens of “I”. 

Our culture certainly encourages us to be this way. “You deserve a break today.” “Just do it.” “Because I’m worth it.” “YOLO (you only live once)!” “Life’s too short to (fill in the blank)”. 

Why is it so difficult to think of others more than ourselves? Why did God create us like this? Is it another product of original sin? Is it related to the wonderful gift of personal choice that He gave us? 

I’m sure the answer lies in there somewhere. 

I don’t want to be a self-centered person. I want to be better than that. I would love to be selfless enough to always be thinking of others before myself. 

So, I try. I really do. I try to remain calm when my teenage/young adult kids are being tupi. We don’t say stupid, so this is my new substitute word. 

I know that if I remain calm when I counsel my children, the focus is on them and training them to be better men and women. But when I lose my temper, I shift the focus to the fact that they haven’t pleased ME or met MY needs. I don’t want it to be about me. But, boy, if I’m not thinking about this before I open my mouth – WHAM! Now, I’m the one being tupi! 

And, as I live life with my husband – well, same as above – enough said ;) 

I find myself examining my disappointment in the words or actions of others. Confession time…it’s not just a temporary disappointment. I can stew over certain things for longer than I care to admit. The offending person probably hasn’t given it a second thought and here I am, grinding on it for minutes, hours, or even days. Who’s the real loser here? Don’t answer that. 

The Bible tells us “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) 

So, I keep trying. But it is a daily battle. I remind myself each morning and throughout the day to find peace in the day despite its highs or lows. I remind myself that I am a new creation because of God’s Spirit who lives inside me. I remind myself that I want to change the world and that others are watching – my husband and kids, my friends and family, co-workers and acquaintances, and even strangers. But, most of all, my Creator is watching and I desperately want to please Him. 

I cannot say it better than Jesus did. 

The Bible tells us in Mark 12:28-31 that some religious leaders were questioning Jesus. They asked Him, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

It’s so simple. Why do we make life (and spirituality) so much more complicated than that? 

So I will keep on trying. Let’s all keep trying each day to live outside of ourselves.

As Mother Teresa said, “People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.... Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.... What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.... Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth….Give the world the best you've got anyway.”

Sylvia Gaston is the director of Children's Ministry at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to: sylvia@kchanford.com.

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