Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Human Epidemic

Me. Me. Me. Mine! I want things my way... 

Selfishness. I call it the “great human epidemic”.

Those who have had or have ever worked with young children know it’s true…we were born selfish. Watch two toddlers play together. It's all about them. What do they say? “Mine!” It’s one of their first words. Their little worlds are centered around themselves, their wants and needs. Learning to share is tough. Unfortunately, it’s not something we outgrow.

My 4 year old posing "selfishness" for me. :)

My own selfish tendencies irk me sometimes. Just think:

I have accused my husband of being selfish - for not being sensitive to my needs. Seriously now, who’s selfish? Now, that’s the teapot calling the kettle black if I’ve ever heard of it.

I have called a loved one to check up on them - then, been irritated when they talked about themselves and didn’t ask how I was doing.

I have felt irritated (and sometimes slighted) because my perceived “needs” weren’t being met. Because I was not acknowledged, served, noticed or appreciated.

I have had a virus and have spent so much time at my “pity party” that I temporarily forgot to pray for my friends who have cancer (or are facing other major life issues).

I have felt depressed and lonely because I was so focused on myself, on my own issues and my lack of ability to deal with them. So focused on self that I forgot the Truth of God’s Word and His unlimited power to help me.

Have you ever been there?!
I sometimes feel insecure because I’m thinking of myself. Have you ever recognized insecurity as a form of selfishness? This truth was revealed to me through Susie Larson’s words in her book “The Uncommon Woman”. (I highly recommend that book!!) Why are we self-conscious and overly concerned with what others think of us? Why do we want to be perceived well? Why do we make choices in an effort to prove our self-worth? Because we’re thinking of ourselves. That’s called pride! Ugh! What a hard truth to swallow. Don’t think it’s true? Think about it some more. What is at the root of insecurity?

“If anyone would like to acquire humility…The first step is to realize that one is proud…If you think you’re not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” C.S. Lewis
 In my younger years I was shy and overly self-aware. I was so self-conscious that I didn’t want to say or do anything in fear of saying or doing the “wrong thing”. Really I was selfish. I wasn’t concerned about how this made others feel or about making them feel comfortable. I was concerned about myself and my own feelings of discomfort.

I still have feelings of insecurity creep up inside, but when I do I try to shift my thinking onto others rather than self. I ask myself what others around me might be feeling? How can I be a blessing to someone else? What words may those in my life (and sphere of influence) need to hear me speak today? Who needs to know I have a listening ear?

I use to experience internal anxiety when going to church or any group setting. I didn’t like this feeing…and it just didn’t seem right to me. I realized it was a form of selfishness (focus on self). I decided to start praying before (and even during) church (and other meetings) for the Lord to help me to be a blessing to someone else there that day. I prayed that He would show me someone I could encourage or “love on” in that place. He did. And it took my focus off of myself and onto God and others. I continue to pray these prayers often. These days when those feelings of insecurity and anxiety start to creep up, I’m a lot quicker to recognize it as selfishness and take it to the cross.

Self*ish: adj. concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
Self*ish*ness: n. exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others.

Selfishness is a form of pride. Selfishness and pride lead to many other sins and losses. Think about it: marriages end, families and friends are divided, there is church dissension and separation because of selfishness and pride.

I deserve better!” ~ “I deserve to be happy.” ~ Why should I have to say I’m sorry?” ~ “Why should I forgive them?” ~ “I’m right, they’re wrong.” ~ “They should try to see things my way.”
Jealousy. Arrogance. Criticism. All begin with selfishness and pride.

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

God’s Word tells us over and over that we must humble ourselves. I believe if we were truly humble we wouldn’t think so selfishly…and humility is the opposite of pride.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble. Thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

Wow! It goes on to say in verses 5-8, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to (or grasp or to use to His advantage). Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave…he humbled himself in obedience to God.” 

Oh, to be as humble and selfless as Jesus! Oh, how life would be different if we took the focus off or ourselves and onto His work - loving God and loving others. It sometimes feel like a lofty goal for this all-too-human human, but truly it’s within our reach. Later in Philippians 2 (vs. 13) it says that God is working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him.

We can’t do it on our own. But, by God’s grace we can combat selfishness and live the Christian life - looking to Him, rather than to self, to do what pleases Him.

I do believe that selfishness is the human epidemic. But, there is hope! This epidemic has a cure. It’s called following Jesus. The more closely we follow Him; the more focused we are on Him (and not on self) the less room there will be for selfishness. Oh, and we can teach our children (even toddlers!) by living it in front of them. 
If any of you want to be my follower, you must take up your cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

Freedom and Joy...
Looks a little different, doesn't it?!

How can you take the focus off of yourself today? It starts with looking at HIM, then others. Pray first, then act. Who needs you to reach out to them today? Who could use an encouraging word, a helpful hand, or a listening ear? How can you help to stop the “Great Human Epidemic”?  
How can I pray for you today?


  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Rachel! I needed it today!

  2. Yup. Me too. Great post, making me think of the "fear of saying the wrong thing" I sometimes struggle with.

    I am teaching "The Uncommon Woman" in Sunday School starting next week. Would appreciate prayers! :)

  3. Well now, your little guy sure is a good actor! :-)

    You're absolutely right, Rachel. I think the "Great Human Epidemic" really grieves the Holy Spirit, because we're all just running around thinking about ourselves...instead of considering each other. Can you imagine how ridiculous it must all look from God's vantage point??

    Lord, help us to keep our focus on YOU and on OTHERS!


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