How often have you opened your mouth without thinking things through, and found yourself saying something you really didn’t mean, or perhaps it came out way harsher than you wanted?
It happens to all of us. What is said remains said, feelings get hurt, arguing ensues, and before you know it, you are in the middle of a total disaster.
So often, we hope others will give us the benefit of the doubt; that they will see our actions or hear us in the best possible light. Deep down, despite our faults and sins, we want others to be merciful toward us, we want others to give us a break.
Yet, how often do we give others a break? What we desperately want, we struggle to give to others.
Saint Paul writes the to Philippians in the passage we heard today, “be of the same mind, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”
How different would every single relationship be if these words from Saint Paul were put into practice? Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves. What if couples would humbly regard the other spouse as more important? If at work, bosses would regard others as more important? In government, if politicians would regard others as more important? etc.
Saint Paul is calling us to a self-emptying of our ego, of our own self-centeredness, so that we can recognize the needs of others. By nature, we focus on ourselves, so we have to work hard to consider how “the other” experiences reality.
Think of a baby, or a toddler. As lovely as they are, they are pretty self-centered creatures, aren’t they? That baby doesn’t care if you have to go to work tomorrow, that toddler doesn’t care if another kid got the toy first.
As human beings, we have to grow out from this world view where we are the center of the universe. We call it maturing. We have to realize that others also have needs, and that we can’t do just whatever we want without concern for others.
Some years ago, I had a baptism at the cathedral and I needed to clean up quickly to get to my next appointment. As I walked to the sacristy, I saw a young lady balling at the steps to the altar. “I don’t have time for this, Lord,” I thought. I put the things away, and came back to speak with her. In the end, it was a beautiful 10 minute talk, and I am so thankful I was able to respond to this lady’s need and put aside my own need to hurry to the next thing.
Saint Paul teaches us that just as Jesus emptied himself, and became obedient to the will of the Father, even to the point of death on a cross, we too, are called to empty ourselves not only to do the Father’s will, but to empty ourselves in order to be attentive to others.
The quicker we realize that we are not the center of the universe, the happier we will be. The most bitter and unhappy people I have met in my life, are those who believe they are the center of the universe.
How do you give of yourself for the sake of others? At home? At work? Do we do it willingly and joyfully even though it requires great sacrifice?
What organizations or causes do you champion by giving your time and money? How do you participate in the well-being of others through your service and financial support? Jesus calls us to give our ourselves for the sake of others, just as He did.
Picture taken from the public domain.