“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
― Francis of Assisi
Can I admit something? I am a selfish human being. Wow. Ok. That is a very hard to admit about one self. Usually, as human beings we don’t like to admit our faults. We instead like to blame others for the reason why we are the way we are. I feel like I’ve slowly, and mostly subconsciously, have led myself to believe this lie that because I have been through so much hurt and pain, that I don’t really owe anybody anything anymore and that it’s perfectly OK to only take care of myself.
I guess I tend to go to extremes with things. Before my whole self love movement I was the biggest people pleaser around. If you needed something, I was there and not necessarily because I really wanted to be there, but because I wanted to earn something from you – like love, respect, or acceptance. So I worked my way into your heart. I would do whatever you needed. Over time, I grew very weary, to the point where I was striving so much that it was costing me a lot more than just a little self-sacrifice. It was costing me money, my health, my well-being, my time, my energy, and more. After collapsing from pure exhaustion, extreme stress, and anxiety, I decided that I wanted to take back control. I no longer was going to strive to earn anyone’s love, but rather I was going to take care of myself. This is originally why I began the Self Love Challenge blog. I also decided to tack on to the idea that I wanted to help others find themselves too and take care of themselves also.
It sounds pretty innocent, right? I mean it’s not very selfish to want to do that. After all, it is helping people in some form by sharing my experiences and wisdom. What I really didn’t realize though was the underlying bitterness that I’ve been carrying. Bitterness is such a sneaky little (rather big) thing. It really is like a silent killer making its way into your heart, taking it over little by little so that you don’t really notice it’s there. It disguises itself so well too. It makes you believe that you’re really just protecting yourself from further pain or hurt or being taken advantage of, or at least that’s what it’s had me to believe.
This root of bitterness has been growing in my heart for some time now and it’s gotten to the point where I didn’t even realize how much of an influence it’s had on me. I used to want to earn people’s love, and I still do, but what’s changed is now that I feel like I’m entitled to it. I feel like I’m entitled to a lot of things – for example, I want people to take care of me now, to do favors for me, to shower me with attention, to encourage me, to help me, to do good things for me, to give me what I need. I feel like I deserve it now, because I worked so hard to earn it before that now I shouldn’t have to do anything in return anymore. I did my time. I paid my dues. And it’s funny because this attitude of entitlement isn’t really towards any specific people that I’ve helped in the past (although it is towards them too) but it is towards every human being I’ve come across, as if every single person in this world owes me something.
Writing these words makes me look and feel so selfish that I am so incredibly ashamed, but I am also incredible grateful that God is convicting my heart over this issue. Selfishness is something we can never excuse, no matter how much hurt we’ve endured, we are never entitled to feeling like we are too good to help others. That is the whole purpose of humanity isn’t it? To help one another. Isn’t it what we are commanded to do by Jesus himself, “that you love one another as I have loved you…” (John 15:12).
I haven’t been very loving. I’ve been deceived into thinking that I have been loving, and maybe I even have on several occasions, but mostly my heart is turned inward and focused only on satisfying my own needs. Because I have been in so much pain because of all I have been through these past years, I have turned myself inward, trying to protect myself from being hurt again, believing that if I took care of my own needs first then maybe I would be well enough to help others after I was satisfied. But I don’t think I have truly been satisfied since I’ve stopped serving others. I have been nothing but unhappy. Nothing has ever been enough because I am constantly seeking a little bit more – a little bit more love, a little bit more affection, a little bit more attention, a little bit more praise.
Don’t we all have our own hang ups though? Don’t we all fall short in some way? So I can’t immediately beat myself up for this, but I can change. I can work towards turning outward now and looking outside of my own needs.
How do we recognize that we are being selfish? The way I noticed it was more recently by observing how other people less selfish than I have been acting. I noticed that even if it inconvenienced them a little, they were still willing to help. I noticed that instead of thinking that someone else would take care of it, they took care of it themselves. I noticed that they saw the problem, and I simply wanted to pretend it wasn’t there. I noticed that they automatically though about the other person’s well-being, while I was only thinking of my own.
It started to really convict my heart when I would pray to God asking “why I wasn’t getting the kind of love I really wanted. Why wasn’t anyone friendly to me? Why didn’t I have more friends? Why didn’t people want to talk to me? Why, after all I had done, was not getting anything in return?”
He then told me, “look at what you are asking. Everything is about you. Not about them. And my dear, it was never about you…”
I responded, “WHAT? What do you mean it isn’t about me? Look at all I have done for others, how much I’ve sacrificed and where it got me! Don’t I deserve anything in return now for all my efforts?”
And once again, God gently whispered to my heart, “look at all I have ever done for you, and have I ever asked for anything in return? No. Because I did it out of love and love is selfless. So you should not be so concerned either with getting things in return. Do it out of love. Do it out of selflessness. Not for a reward.”
I shut up then. I realized that all my efforts have always been for some kind of reward, and regardless if that reward was just earning someone’s love, it was still something I was seeking in return. And because I haven’t been getting what I thought I deserved in return, I’ve allowed this root of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness to take hold in me.
God reminded me again, “do not fall short of grace, and do not let that bitter root grow up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15) I was falling way short of grace. I haven’t helped anyone just to help in so long. Or maybe I have, but I know deep down that it was always for some selfish reward that I was seeking.
I want to stop being this person. Now. I don’t want people to recognize me as someone who is unfriendly or unkind or unwilling to help. I don’t want to keep feeding that root of bitterness and feeding that resentment inside me to the point where I start to look at the worst in people rather than the best of them. Love assumes the best, not the worst. I want to help people in need, just for their sake, not mine, just so I can help them further their own lives, rather than gain something for myself.
I can’t be this way anymore. This isn’t self love. This is just selfishness. And I feel like I’ve let people down because of it, but in truth, I had no idea. But that is the beauty of growth and wisdom. We learn and we come to know more than we did yesterday, so that we can change today for a better tomorrow. I want to change today, so I can start making a real impact for tomorrow. Not for my benefit. Not because I want to gain love or respect or earn attention. But with pure intentions in my heart. To help others even if it does nothing for me but make me feel happy that I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life. That is real happiness too. Because no matter how much we try to earn it through hidden motives, we will always find ourselves empty. We must always have pure intentions. We must always do everything in love.
The Self Love Daily Challenge:
Stop thinking about you. Do something for someone else purely out of love and don’t expect any reward in return.
This was a very difficult post for me to write. I hope none of you will judge me for it. But rather grow in understanding about my own personal journey. Please feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments on what is going on in your own life or what you are struggling with. I’d love to learn from you.
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Thank you! xxxxx