By Arie Reath
Wow, brutally honest title, right? Outwardly, I wouldn’t consider myself a selfish person, and I’m betting you wouldn’t consider yourself selfish either. Am I right or am I right? Being a child of the 21st century, the media engrained in me from a young age that I can have whatever I want, do whatever I want, and that I deserve it. Does that sound enticing? Yes. Does it sound like Jesus? Not even in the slightest. As daughters of the Everlasting King, we are called to live by the example His Son set for us. What kind of person do you know and imagine Jesus to be? He is the exact opposite of “selfish”: he was selfless.
So how can we be selfless instead of selfish? Sometimes (majority of the time, just bein’ honest) it feels like we are fighting a battle we can’t win. But to be filled with the Spirit, we must be emptied of Self [Matthew 5:6].
A strategy that I like to use to help me change a bad habit is first and foremost, to ask for God’s help through prayer. Additionally, instead of focusing on removing the bad habit or using avoidance, I try to replace the bad habit with something good. For instance: you want to eat healthy, focus not on restricting unhealthy foods, focus on adding more healthy foods, such as vegetables to your diet. Seem simple? That’s because it is.
So our bad habit of selfish tendencies can be replaced with a good habit of practicing selfless acts, specifically by growing in the virtue of humility. Humility is defined as, “A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.” Does that sound like Jesus? Yep and yep. Sign me up!
On the flip side, C.S. Lewis reminds us what humility is NOT: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” How refreshing it is to know that we low self-esteem is not a requirement for humility!
We practice humility when we help others, when we deny ourselves to put the needs of others before our own, and when we learn to accept both praise and criticism gracefully, letting neither elate nor disturb us.
When we encounter difficulties, we often think, “Why is this happening to me?” or “How could he/she say that about me!?” These questions are a natural and very human response, but they place us at the center of every event, as if we are the center of the universe. The truth is, how events unfold or what somebody says has little to do with you. Everyone is the center of his or her own narrative, after all.
Practical and logistical solutions have been so helpful to me on my faith journey. So what are some practical ways I can let go of my own self-centeredness and extend the love of Christ out towards others this week?
- Pray the Litany of Humility, asking God to show us ways to shift our focus outward. I find praying this first thing in the morning helps set my intention for the day.
- Shift your mindset. Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why did he/she say that?” ask: “How is God calling me to respond to this situation?” If we strive to lead our lives by example, as aspiring future saints should, then this simple shift in mindset can be powerfully transformative.
- Do one act of service for a stranger. Smile at someone at the grocery store. Help someone carry something. Hold the door open for someone. Be present with someone even if you have somewhere else to be.
- Do something you don’t want to do for someone else, without seeking praise, sharing on social media, or complaining. This is hard stuff y’all!
- Practice listening instead of speaking. Instead of interrupting others, practice patience by waiting for them to truly be done speaking before you respond. Practice listening without thinking about what your response will be ahead of time.
- Be in awe. Take notice and express gratitude for the wonder of God’s creation. Go on a nature walk and allow yourself to stop and admire the beauty of your surroundings. Bring a friend or your prayer journal!
The best way to #stayhumble is through prayer and service to one another, so let us challenge ourselves this week to focus on our true mission: to be the love the world so needs, to be selfless instead of selfish.
Who inspires you with their humility and selfless living? What kinds of things do you notice about this person? What do you admire? Comment below!