Monday, August 10, 2020

Importance of ‘Me’ Is Greatly Exaggerated

We spent a couple of days recently babysitting for two of our grandsons while their parents took a much-needed getaway. It was fun, but also tiring as we monitored their non-stop antics. It also served as a good reminder that humans, no matter how small, don’t need to be taught the importance of “Me.”


Whether it’s actually buried somewhere deep in our DNA, I don’t know, but it’s obvious we’re all born with a “sin gene,” the propensity to exalt self from our early conscious moments. We don’t have to teach our kids how to be selfish and self-centered. It comes naturally. Some “experts” would attribute this to an innate self-preservation instinct, but that doesn’t explain why a child perfectly happy with one toy suddenly becomes upset when a sibling picks up another one.


Unfortunately, the focus on “Me” doesn’t seem to diminish as we get older. In some respects, it might even intensify. Years ago we heard a lot about the “Me Generation,” and that segment of society seems as self-absorbed as ever. The coddled individuals who all received participation trophies, regardless of how they performed in their youth sports, now expect the good things of life delivered to them on silver platters with little or no effort on their part.


But let’s not just pick on one generation of people. Consider: What happens when we hear about someone’s misfortune, or a storm devastating another part of the country, while our life is going well and there’s nary a cloud in the sky where we live? We’re inclined to feel badly for the other folks but for us, “Life is good.” There’s even a line of clothing that goes by that title.

However, things may be going extremely well for other people, but if our immediate sphere of existence has been upset – by illness, personal problems, or bad weather – life is bad, right? What happens if, to borrow a term from “Star Wars,” there’s a “disruption in the force”? Our personal world has been turned upside-down? Life is bad – because it’s all about “Me.”


One of the secrets to a rewarding life – one that I’m still trying to learn and master – is it’s not all about me. I haven’t been placed on this earth, and allowed to live this long, for a non-stop exercise in self-realization. Life’s at its best when we take advantage of the privilege to enhance the lives of others.


That’s why one particular scripture passage, one I like to call the “do nothing” verse, has become so significant for me. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”


Do you see it? In just a handful of words, God is declaring that the importance of “me” is greatly exaggerated. In fact, even about Jesus Himself we’re told, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45). 


Jesus demonstrated this truth on numerous occasions. In His time, the primary form of transportation was walking. Roads weren’t paved, so sandaled feet got very dirty over the course of a day. As the Passover Feast was approaching – as well as His sacrificial, atoning death on the cross – Jesus paused before an evening meal to perform an act of service for His disciples: Washing their feet.


After pouring water into a basin and using a towel to wash each of the disciples’ feet, He declared, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13-15). 


Can you imagine, God incarnate, literally stooping to wash the filthy feet of His followers?


Where do we see illustrations of this in our society today? We don’t see it in individuals who turn peaceful demonstrations into opportunities to riot and destroy property, even harming others. We don’t see it in people demanding their “rights” as we all strive to cope with the ongoing pandemic. We don’t see it with politicians doing and saying anything to ensure they gain or retain public office in an election year.


If anything, we’ve degenerated with the Me generation. Maybe it’s time for some healthy self-searching and admitting that, it’s not all about Me.

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