I’m no psychologist. But I did take enough psych classes in college to remember Freud’s concept of id, ego and super-ego. Not that I find Freud the “go-to” guy in matters of the “heart”, but there is something to be said about our innate desire to elevate our own desires above others. His “ego” helps explain human self-centeredness and selfishness.
Of course, it wasn’t a 19th century Austrian neurologist who came up with the notion that we are basically driven by our own desire to be king (or queen) of the mountain. It harkens all the way back to the very first of our species to inhabit earth. When Satan, in the form of a snake tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, his enticement that broke down her resistance was the lie that she would be like God once she ate.
So, seeking our own way is really part of our heritage. It’s in our DNA, so to speak. We can’t help it! It’s who we are. It’s what we do…naturally. The craze in our culture for “reality” TV has brought selfishness to the forefront, hasn’t it? Have you seen those bridezilla shows? Wow! But then, don’t we feed that kind of thing? “It’s your wedding day, sweetheart. It’s all about you.”
Now maybe you’re one of those people who learned early in life that you weren’t the center of the universe. Whether that was because of incredibly effective parenting or you chalk it up to your “personality”, you are amazing and rare. My hunch is that most of us truly battle with wanting the world to revolve around “me”. My observation is that most of us see self-centeredness for what it is, but that some go through life blinded by their own need to be affirmed and catered to by everyone else.
Something in me nauseates my soul when I realize I want it all my way.
It must be that when you take a look at our Savior you find the direct opposite of someone who lived for self. His mission was not to be served, He said, but to serve. When He was challenged about His agenda He said He had come not to do His own will but the will of His father. When His closest friends totally missed the lessons He was trying to get through to them He didn’t give up on them.
Once, when an opportunity was given Him to exercise legal authority that was His and condemn a guilty lawbreaker to death, He instead chose to gently and compassionately extend grace. Faced with impending arrest, torture and death, His request in prayer was for His own will to be submissive to His Father’s. Later that night, as those closest to Him betrayed, then abandoned and denied Him, He completed His mission on their behalves.
There was not a self-centered cell in His body. Not a bad example to follow.
Someone noted for following Christ was a former egomaniac with a self-appointed calling to destroy the movement Jesus began. But once He came to know the very one he had hated, his life was changed in a radical way. To the Galatian churches he penned these words that so well describe a better way to live than for self.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When I see myself as dead to self because of the new life given to me by Christ then and only then can I abandon self-centeredness. It may be the toughest lesson in life to learn: “It’s not about me”. But once it is embraced life becomes a smile instead of a pout.