Our selves are addicting.
Thinking about the self makes for a great hobby. It’s accessible anytime, anywhere (waiting in line, brushing teeth, lying in bed) and our self-centered human natures so easily drift towards it again and again. Furthermore, worrying about me – my challenges, my future, my appearance, my relationships, my responsibilities, my reputation, my security – can seem deceptively productive, as if it were problem-solving. But in reality “me” is a viscious cycle that lands me right back where I started — me.
I’ve often heard it said that ego is a fitting acronym for Ease God Out. That’s been my experience, too. When my head and heart are filled with so much me, there’s simply no room for Another.
So I’ve been reflecting on the often over-extended self-centeredness that infects us human beings, and I’ve been challenged by various individuals’ descriptions of both the pervasive problem and its proven solution: personally refusing to believe the world’s me-first message and then actively turning toward God and others, ready to embrace opportunities for sacrificial service. Here are a few thoughts from others:
More than my questions about the efficacy of social action were my questions about my own motives. Do I want social justice for the oppressed, or do I just want to be known as a socially active person? I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about myself anyway. I don’t have to watch the evening news to see that the world is bad, I only have to look at myself. I am not browbeating myself here; I am only saying that true change, true life-giving, God-honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting. I wanted to make a sign that read “I AM THE PROBLEM!” …I went [to Mount Tabor] to try to get my head around this idea, this idea that the problem in the universe lives within me. I can’t think of anything more progressive than the embrace of this fundamental idea.”
-Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kill us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.
-How it Works, Alcoholics Anonymous
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
How addicted to you are you?