Overcoming a preoccupation with self
IT is perhaps characteristic of our times that a number of magazines have appeared that focus on self. A popular refrain these days is ``What is good for me, for my health, my success, my contentment?'' Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, once wrote, ``Forget self in laboring for mankind....''1 How can we do this?
We all have to struggle with a human self that clamors for attention, that insists on its needs and desires. Yet one message of Christ Jesus' teaching is surely self-forgetfulness in blessing humanity. And this forgetfulness can't help bringing rich rewards, for he said, ``The kingdom of God is within you.''2 Forgetfulness of self does not then mean personal neglect, nor does it mean asceticism -- wearing a hair shirt, so to speak. Instead, it means that a constant, warm caring for the needs of others replaces an over-preoccupation with one's own desires. The result is a deep satisfaction never experienced when we're selfabsorbed. We begin to experience that kingdom of heaven within us.
It has been noted that the Lord's Prayer3 does not contain the pronouns I or me. It is all our, us, and we. Jesus instructed his followers to heal the sick and restore the sinner. The Master devoted his life to helping mankind. He said, ``If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.''4
Though absorption in self may seem natural and pleasant for a time, eventually self-centeredness becomes a burden we would like to be rid of, if only we knew how. And there is a way. It is to understand our true selfhood, which is derived from God and therefore includes no material, selfish element to drag us down. Turning away from the carnal self through the purification of our thoughts and motives, we begin to glimpse spiritual man -- our genuine nature, which is pure, loving, joyful. This man of God's creating, this eternal selfhood of each one of us, appears in proportion as we ``put off the old man with his deeds'' and ``put on the new man.''5
This putting off of the old, heavy sense of identity may look like an arduous task, but it is so only in proportion to our resistance. If we accept willingly today Jesus' command to take up our cross and follow him, the way will be natural. We will still encounter challenges -- the kind that resistance to growing spirituality inevitably brings -- but we will surmount them through that very spirituality, through self-forgetfulness and love for God and our fellow beings.
As I have focused less on my own desires and directed my life more toward the benefit of others, I have found a proportionate release. Reflecting divine Love truly does free us from the burden of self-centeredness.
When I was growing up, I wondered why we should think of others before ourselves; it seemed illogical. Wouldn't the same result come, I reasoned, if we all just strove for our own happiness in the first place? But as I grew in understanding and experience, I saw that unselfish love for others reveals our brotherhood in Christ. We lose nothing by becoming more selfless; we gain an enlarged concept of individuality, which embraces all humanity. Thus our lives become wider instead of narrower. We learn something of God's infinite spiritual creation. We learn more of heaven, of that kingdom within which Jesus spoke of, that home each one of us is seeking and must finally come to recognize.
Trapped in a purely material sense of self, we shut out the possibility of reflecting God's light and love. As Mrs. Eddy puts it, ``Absorbed in material selfhood we discern and reflect but faintly the substance of Life or Mind.''6 Life and Mind are two of the terms for God implied in the Bible and employed in Christian Science to express the nature of Deity.
Refusing to be absorbed in that which will bring us only sorrow and disillusionment, we render ourselves able to reflect our true source, our Father-Mother God, whose infinite love for us all is a present reality. Reflecting this divine Love will bless our fellow beings immeasurably, and of course us as well. 1Miscellaneous Writings, p. 155. 2Luke 17:21. 3See Matthew 6:9-13. 4Matthew 16:24. 5Colossians 3:9, 10. 6Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 91. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Let brotherly love continue. Hebrews 13:1