Be Self Centered –It’s Good for You

There. That headline got your attention didn’t it?

As usual, I’m trying to stand things on their head. This is what I mean: Be self centered. Look after the good of your own soul first and foremost. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

There are several advantages to this. First, it will stop you being a busybody. Mind your own business. As Thomas a Kempis writes, “Why do you want to change the world when you cannot change your own soul?” When I look in the mirror there’s still a lot of work to be done. In fact, I sometimes think there’s more spiritual work to be done than ever. I feel like I’m going backwards most of the time. Second: being concerned first about your own soul reminds you that you can’t do much about other people anyway. They’ll make their own choices. Worrying yourself about their eternal condition won’t do you much good and it won’t do them that much good either. So be concerned with your own salvation.

Of course, here’s the paradoxical bit: if you are concerned with your own salvation you will naturally be concerned about other people too–but you’ll be concerned about them in the right way and for the right reasons. If you’re self centered–that is, caring about your own soul’s salvation, then you will also reach out to others in loving compassion and concern–but you will do so out of a natural care and love–neither being a busybody or doing good to others in order to make yourself feel good or because you really think you ought to.

Being concerned first with your own salvation is another way of saying, “Love God then Love your neighbor”. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then the next phrase is, “and love your neighbor as yourself.” So it’s simple, but that which is simple is rarely easy.

There’s more. If you look after the good of your soul as your first priority everything else will soon fall in line. “Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you.” You will start to become happier and more well adjusted. Because you’ve prioritized your life you won’t sweat the small stuff so much. You’ll be more laid back and easy going and more able to forgive yourself and others for their faults. As you become happier and more confident you will have better relationships, your career will improve, your marriage will improve. You’ll probably even start to get more money! What I mean by this, is that if you become the sort of person who is so positive that your business or your career will also be given a boost, you will also have the right priorities and not spend so much money on dumb stuff and so you will hey presto! find that you have enough loot.

That’s the way it works in the spiritual economy. You can’t out give God. Get the first relationship with God right and everything else will improve also.

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  • Ted Seeber

    This may work for Neurotypicals- but as an autistic suffering from PTSD from bullying growing up, it doesn’t work for me any better than the golden rule does. I need to treat people *better* than I treat myself- I need to follow the teaching of St. Francis instead “Be concerned with the salvation of others. Preach the Gospel Always. If necessary, use words.”

  • TayGro

    I very much appreciate this article and the way you have “stood things on their head.” However, I take issue with one small piece: that as you grow in holiness, “you will probably even start to get more money.” That sounds like the prosperity gospel that teaches that God does not want us to suffer. Are we not to embrace the cross? And aren’t those pieces of the cross often our greatest opportunities to grow in holiness?

  • D.A. Howard

    It is about time someone said it. Paul said “bad company corrupts good morals” and “shun brothers who do not act in accord with the Tradition that we have handed on to you.” This means put yourself first.

    As Pius XII said in his address to the International Psychoanalytic conference. “Love of others presumes love of self.”

  • Julie C.

    I am sorry, Father. You have helped me so much and I have learned so much from you, but I agree with TayGro. The money comment made me take pause. I have 5 children and making ends meet has been difficult at times, but I have never prayed for more money or expected money to be some kind of benefit that I should receive for being a good Catholic.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I simply meant that if you were in business and you were the sort of decent person that my post was talking about that your business would probably succeed too. I’ve gone back to the post and edited to make it clear.

  • Ken Jones

    Well done, Father. It’s an exhortation we hear time and time again…because we need to hear it often. Stick to your own knitting, mind your own business, care for the plank in your own eye–we hear it over and over. But it’s always easier to point out another’s faults than it is to recognize our own–and work to repair the damage–isn’t it?
    I recall a sermon from a good parish priest a few years ago that caught my ear about just this topic. When Ford Motor Co was using the same phrase, Father told us that getting to Heaven was Job One. Simple phrases like that help keep me headed in the right direction (I hope).
    Thanks for the article.

  • Jim J. McCrea

    I would say that it is being other oriented that we grow spiritually and get to heaven.

    However, the article is well taken in that being “other oriented” can be a mine-field.

    We have to look at our motives – that we are not doing good to others to get a good feeling ourselves, or for the subtle egotism of seeing ourselves good and charitable, or for any other ulterior motive, but simply from the motive of supernatural charity.

    This motive needs much purification, which is the work of a life-time, as our true motives can be concealed from our awareness and selfishness can be very subtle – so in our good works, God often sends us reverses, upsets, and humiliations to purify ourselves and lay our hearts open to ourselves as to what they really contain – also we need to cooperate with God in doing daily sacrificial prayer, frequenting the sacraments, and being patient with anything God sends us in His providence.

  • Ismael

    Well.. we are all different… and there are many spiritual ways.

    This is the beautty of the Catholic Church, there are many examples and many ways to follow Christ.
    Some might like to focus on intellectual endeavors united with prayer like St. Thomas Aquinas, others might like the humble, yet refreshing and deep spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.

  • Andy Stecher

    Father, I have been a Catholic since birth but in recent years have moved away from the Church. The church’s political radicalization in recent years has nothing to do with spirituality, nothing to do with saving our souls, nothing to do with getting to heaven. Now there are Catholics who are runnng web sites called “”. I don’t recall Jesus preaching war and militancy. Also nuns who sacrifice their lives for the common welfare are shunned and trampled on. Not my church any longer. I have started to search for spirituality in other places.
    However your blog post is the best I have seen in years posted or stated by any Catholic priest I know. I am not familiar with what else you have may written before, but these particular lines hit a core. I wish, based on other posted comments, people would not immediately try to equate to your comments to “Catholicism”. Rather your thoughts stand well on their own feet and people should heed these words and not worry where in the Cathecism it fits best or at all. If your words were heeded verbatim, this world would be a different place.
    Your artcile is my personal file, I do not go to these websites much or at all so it is unlikely that I will come here again and “monitor” comments.
    Thank you and God Bless, Andy