By Grant Norsworthy
I believe the problem with the world today is that I AM SELFISH.
Yes, I am selfish. I mean it. I don’t want to be. I’m not proud of it. But I am and my selfishness is what’s wrong with the world. To me, this is not a statement of self-loathing and condemnation with delusions of grandeur, but of reality, vital self-realization and freedom.
Have you heard the news lately? Considering the catalog of troubles within our home country and around the globe, it’s easy to find ourselves observing all the problems and to come out the other side with a sense of fatalistic resignation. Bad things happen. We’re not surprised when they do. Just by how bad they are. The recent terror attacks in Paris and in California, ISIS, accusations of police racism and corruption, the Syrian war and more. Then there are the world problems that don’t make the news so often – perhaps because they are so constant and seemingly unending. Poor children dying of preventable diseases, injustice being done, hunger, the suffering of the innocent, the powerful lording over the poor and defenseless. There is strife and conflict in families and between people groups everywhere – to some level, for every one of us.
We all have a sense, I believe, that there is something inherently and seriously wrong with the world. Something’s terribly broken and we don’t seem to be able to cure ourselves, even with all our so-called progress and advancement. We look left and right for answers and point fingers. We’d all like things to be better, but noone seems able to fix our aching, wounded world. So we hide ourselves away in a tiny cocoon of self protection, weakly hoping for the best and look for someone or something to blame.
But the problem is not outside the cocoon. It’s within.
“We have real difficulty here because everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves?”
Richard Foster (Quaker theologian & author)
Can you imagine a world where I was no-longer selfish, but instead, I was selfless? Rather than primarily looking after me and those who are nearest and dearest to me first (which I am so naturally and strenuously prone to do) what if I extended myself in selfless acts of service towards my fellow human beings? If I am honest, my highest priorities are almost always to make sure that my family and I are safe, housed, well fed, comfortable, transportable, fashionable, popular, contactable, well entertained and more. But what if your well-being was my highest priority? Without expecting payment or requiring good deeds in return? Or even a “Thank you”? And (toughest yet) with no judgement or regard for your level of selfishness or selflessness?
Can you dream with me of a world where, not just me, but all seven billion of the “me’s” on the planet were no longer selfish, but selfless? If we all recognized that the problem with the world is that “I am selfish”, so we magically, wonderfully, started caring for each other more than our own interests? As unrealistic as that seems, it sure sounds wonderful to me. It sounds like heaven on earth.
By the way, this idea is not new nor is it original. Some of the greatest thinkers and communicators throughout history and from every culture and corner of the globe have said similar things. I am just borrowing from them:
“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.”
“The value of a life is always determined
by how much of it was given away.”
Andy Stanley (Pastor)
“All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.”
Shantideva (8th Century Indian philosopher & poet)
“The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.”
Sir Baben Powell (Founder of the Scout movement, 1857–1941)
Have few desires.”
Laozi (Ancient Chinese Philosopher)
“The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself.
But the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.”
Marcus Garvey (19th Century orator & national hero of Jamaica)
“All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. …
He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying.”
Swami Vivekananda (19th Century Hindu Apologist)
“The more altruism we develop in a day, the more peaceful we find ourselves. Similarly, the more self-centered we remain, the more frustrations and trouble we encounter.”
“Is there any real purpose in being alive if all we are going to do is get up every day and live only for ourselves?
Live your life to help others. Give and live selflessly.”
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism
or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Yes, it’s been said and said well by many. But no-one said it better than Jesus the Christ.
But Jesus didn’t just say it. He did it. No-one else throughout the history of humanity has demonstrated selflessness so emphatically, so perfectly, so totally, so radically than Jesus who, while He Himself was without sin, took on the sin of the whole world and allowed His own created beings to slander Him, abuse Him, brutalize Him, nail Him to a cross and kill Him. His was and is the greatest selfless act – given so that we all might live life to the full.
Jesus gives the example of how to solve the problem with the world, by giving away His life for the sake of all of us. But He gives more than an example. Jesus provides the way. He did not stay in a tomb. He showed that He is God and rose from the dead.
I can’t live this selfless life by following Jesus as merely an example set by a admirable character from history. It’s impossible for me, no matter how hard I try. It’s against my human nature. But it is possible for Jesus as I abide with Him. If I surrender myself to Him – allow myself to resonate with Jesus as the Christ, as God and my risen Savior – I find that He is the way. He is the solution to the problem of the world today. He is the solution to the problem of me.
I am finding that these words from a relatively unknown High School English teacher in Massachusetts are true:
“The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
David McCullough, Jr.
Watch my short vlog that’s along the same theme as this blogpost HERE.