Me. Myself. And I.

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When I think of selfishness, I think the most common form is an unbalanced attitude that has been promoted by the idea of self-care. Taking care of ones needs and simply paying attention to how we function best isn’t a bad thing. If you know you need times of solitude, or are one who knows you need a lot of socialization, sleep, exercise, independence, or partnership, etc.; those are personality traits that make each person unique, enabling them to live to be the best they can be, when practiced in balance. That isn’t selfishness, that’s just smart, self awareness.

Although, it never ceases to amaze me the level of selfishness people have achieved. Just do a quick internet search of the word selfish. Especially if you look it up in images, you will see every quote and philosophy of why selfishness is such a wonderful thing. I’m sure there are many of life’s experiences and circumstances that cause people to become selfish. Maybe it is past hurts that have caused them to build walls so they won’t be victimized again. Or it could be a false belief that having it all and being number one is what success looks like. The biggest lie is that we have to care for ourself first, above everything else. For whatever reason made them that way, I know two things: It is hurtful to those who love them; and nothing about selfishness is even close to being Christ-like.

Those who love selfish people are never put first in their lives. At some point, everyone who is in relationship puts the other first – except selfish people. Every interaction, whether it is as small as a text message or as large as marriage, will always be at the convenience and only in the best interest of the selfish person. One of my extended family once had their outgoing voicemail message say, “I’m probably here but I don’t feel like picking of the phone. Leave a message and I’ll call you back if I feel like it.” That’s a pretty funny message to be sending to a telemarketer, but this family member really meant it for everyone and it’s actually how they felt. Now that is selfish. (Or they’re just a jerk.) It was hurtful to people who called and really wanted to talk with them. Selfish people do things that could be detrimental to their own well-being, just because they want to. Never mind that it causes worry and concern for those that love them. At the very worst, they risk their own lives through selfish behavior of NOT taking care of themselves, or other life-controlling behaviors or actions, without considering the effects it will have on those who love them.

Selfishness is contrary to everything Jesus stood for. There isn’t any place I know of in the New Testament where Christ followers are told to be selfish and put themselves above all else. As it applies to relationships with others, and people who love, the most obvious scripture is in I Corinthians 13:3-4; the love chapter.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

I can’t find anywhere that the Bible tells us to do what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, and everyone else can go kick rocks! The very basis of Christianity is selflessness. It doesn’t get much more selfless than to die for the sins of every person. John 3:16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die, so that anyone who believes in him would have life forever!” God is the only one who is worthy to consider only He, Himself, and His. Even though he could, he didn’t.

Allow Room for Change

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When I was a child, I used to believe in everlasting consequences. I had an unbalanced concept of cause and effect, believing that the results of every action lasted forever. I am so happy to say that I was so very wrong! The thing is, it often occurs to me that many of us still believe that behaviors of the past will be part of us forever. If we don’t believe it of ourselves, we too often believe it for other people – at least we behave as if it’s true for them but not us.

How many times have we begun a statement about another person with “they always…” or “they’ll never change”? What we knew about a person’s behavior, attitudes, or actions in the past, should not keep them chained to the present without evidence that there’s been no change. After all, isn’t that the basis of our faith as Christians, to believe that Jesus came to save us from our sins and renew our hearts, giving us a new life in Him? There is so much in the Bible about the change that has taken place in people by the power and miracles of Jesus, so why would we doubt that it’s still happening today?

We must be careful about holding people to habits and attitudes that were once part of their life because it doesn’t allow for the growth and change that we claim to believe in! Many times the person we once knew (even if it is ourselves) has worked very hard to make changes. Maybe the change is a natural progression as they have grown in faith, maturity, or a personal awareness that improvements needed to happen. Regardless of how and when positive change happens, we absolutely need to allow room for change. When we don’t, we teeter dangerously close to judging people based on old information. It’s a very fine line that could cross into an attitude of unforgiveness, bitterness, gossip and even slander.

I know I have changed over the years, and I hate it when people treat me as if they know what my actions and attitudes will be, based on what they knew about me many years ago. I wish they’d allow room for the changes in me, and if I’m wishing that for myself then I know I need to allow it for others.

A Collector of People

I’m not much of a collector of things. I have a small figurine collection that was built entirely because they were given to me. The same thing happened with a collection of unique salt & pepper shakers: I mentioned I’d like to start a collection & suddenly it was what everyone bought for me. But I decided that I am a collector of people. When I came to this realization I looked it up to see if it was a real thing? There are a few people with different takes on the concept but this is mine.

The general concept of collecting is to gather & cherish things of value. I have gathered so many valuable people throughout my life that I think I could consider them a collection of people. It started from the beginning of childhood. I remember family friends from when I was very young and I still try to keep in my sight, today. Childhood friends, family of any sort no matter how distant or far-removed, adult friendships from different places I’ve lived, high-school, college, former co-workers, – they all build this unique array of people who I cherish and value.

When people are new in my life they are front and center where I’m constantly aware of them, learning and seeing new details as time passes. Gradually, I get to know all their colors and am very aware of how their presence impacts me. But the very most important ones are those that came at great cost and sacrifice, either by myself or by someone who gifted them to me. Other special treasures are those that, old or new, have been present during significant seasons of life. They were just there, ready and willing to do their part.

For whatever reason, I lose some of my collection from time to time. Maybe there’s just been too many moving days – too much packing & unpacking and they have gotten lost in the shuffle. The risk of carrying extra baggage, I suppose. I remember what they look like and how I felt when I was with them, but it’s a bitter sweet memory, realizing the loss of something so valuable with such fondness. As much as I miss those people, it seems appropriate to add to the collection with new ones!

As a collector of people, I don’t posses them or own them. I’ve been rewarded with all their best qualities and learned a lot about grace. Any part of a collection has flaws that we have to overlook in order to see their real value to us, the collector. I don’t display them or show them off to one another and oftentimes they aren’t even in the same place at the same time, except in my heart.

Some People’s Parents

Because my own peers are mostly in the same boat as me, I come in contact with a lot of empty nesters. Lately I’ve been more aware of couples who have reclaimed their lives with selfish abandon as soon as their kids are grown. Granted, there are many perks to having an empty nest but to always prefer it over the opportunity to spend time with my kids is such a foreign and unfathomable concept to me.  We will rearrange our plans and make ourselves available when they want our company.  Why wouldn’t we?  They’re independent, happy, well adjusted young adults who are fun and interesting to be around and let’s face it, at their age their lives are much busier than ours.  There isn’t anyone that I’d rather spend time with than my own kids!  I really, really like them.

The flipside to that coin is that we are still kids, too.  At least to our parents we are, if we’re lucky enough to still have them with us.  Being the parent of grown kids has made us more conscientious toward making an effort to spend time with our aging parents. Now we understand how treasured it is to have your kids around – no matter how young or old they are. 

What makes a parent separate themselves from their grown kids?  They may be grown, but they are still setting goals and working toward them, establishing life relationships, and making career decisions. Just because some magical number says they’re adults now, doesn’t mean they should have to do all of it without us.  When they come around, it’s because they love us and they really do want us to be part of their lives, and they show us honor by showing up.  We’ve modeled what we think is a decent example and then sent them to find their course but our part isn’t over and neither is the joy of doing it.

Parenthood continues – be present for it.  Being a child of an aging parent continues – be present there, too.  Enjoy being honored and always be honoring.

It’s a Pretty Big Deal

It always takes me aback when I see an invitation or announcement that lists Family Only. As important as family is – more important than anything actually – I cringe at the exclusivity when friends are not included. In my book, friends are a pretty big deal.

Think of the people in our lives and the role they play or position they hold in our hearts. Family comes first, without a doubt and without question. We don’t choose them but we love them entirely and completely. They rank most important. But absolutely everyone else in our lives (except friends) fall into all kinds of lesser ranking relationships such as co-workers, neighbors, classmates, teammates, or acquaintances. 

Friends. We actually choose our friends. We decide we like someone and we get to know them very well. We build trust between us and them, and share some very special times of our lives together. They come only second to family. So if you’ve been chosen to be someone’s friend, understand that you are special and you hold a high place of honor in their life. There’s no such thing as being just friends. Being my friend is a pretty big deal.