Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Disease of Self


"... once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was" (James 1:24).

I was sitting in a mall coffee shop. Suddenly, a man I’d met only a few times before approached my table. Across him, I watched his face contort as we conversed. Listening to his sighs and moans, he complained about lots of people who irritated him because they won’t meet his demands or needs and expectations. The man and how he understood himself in his situation disturbed me. Feeling helpless, whatever I attempted to say to him to help sounded weak. I can only watch how he handled himself.

Perhaps you have never thought of yourself as like that man. You may have family, friends, and a life full of provision and activities. Enough things occupy your time and thought. But the truth is, there could be many things that you can discover about your self through this man. For example, like him, aren’t you also looking out for “number one?” Isn’t getting ahead, centered on your self-interest and needs, also your goal?

We all live in a “me generation” world. Selfishness is a widespread way of life. This started shortly after Creation when our first parents – Adam and Eve - elevated “self” above God (Genesis 1-3). Since then, “self” has dominated human affairs. Living for self, Lot selected the better land. Jonah fled out of preoccupation with self. Samson denied his heritage for the sake of self. James and John competed for self-promotion. Peter denied Jesus to save his self. Judas was eaten up by self.

In our modern times or recent history, the problem of self is more evident than ever. It is still the same pattern, the same “sickness,” that overcame the first couple thousands of years ago. If you want to witness examples of this problem of self today, ask any person you know or watch TV or read your newspapers. People stealing, kidnapping, or murdering. Corruption in government, business, or in any institutions. Adulterous relationships, unfaithfulness, immorality, broken families. All of these are caused by the sickness of selfishness.

While serving among “overseas foreign workers” or OFWs, I discovered one of today’s versions of this problem of self. Blinded by the deception that money can buy a better life, I saw mothers sending their newly-born babies back home in order to continue working in a foreign country. Something was basically wrong. Then, the children (who eventually become teenagers) of these OFWs suffer little opportunity to be close to their mothers due to absence. As a result, these children and teenagers frustratingly strike out on their own search and understanding of self. So, the painful cycle continues across generations.