Stronghold Struggles: Selfishness

But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Hebrews 12:10-11

Last Sunday I made a commitment to concentrate on selfishness, and rather than come out a glowing success, I close this week in tears. Not despairing tears, of course, quite the opposite. It pleased God this week to allow me to discover hidden gems of insight into my problem with sin, specifically selfishness.

The root of selfishness, I have learned, is that of excessive self-love. How can I turn that excessive love to its rightful place? The saints and and all of our brothers and sisters who loved God on Earth are glowing examples:

 “[The saints’] main interest was to follow my will in everything and to mortify every contrary feeling and desire within them. When they noticed a fault, they started fighting it at once by doing the opposite of that inclination. They overcame their faults by positive action. If they were guilty of pride, they looked for a chance to practice humility, and they thanked me for sending these opportunities to them.

You must become that interested in your perfection. At present you hardly conquer a single fault in many years. You fear the discomfort and inconvenience of the fight against self. The slightest unpleasant experience puts you on the defensive for your rights and for the things you like.” (My Daily Bread by Anthony J Paone, SJ)

So I’ve been loving myself more than someone else. I twist and turn to I get what I want in the moment, but it doesn’t help me become like Christ, and it doesn’t show that I love my neighbor. My conscience becomes dark and clouded, and through that, misery and afflictions takes its hold. Unrepentant sin hangs heavily on the heart and soul, especially when we deliberately hide it from God.

  1. Confession.

 “If there is any true joy in this world, only the person with a clean conscience possesses it. And wherever there is misery and affliction the evil conscience experiences it best…

The moment you begin to grow lukewarm, everything is a big effort and you willingly receive distractions. But as soon as you begin to conquer yourself and walk uprightly in the way of God, the effort expended seems little which before you thought was insurmountable.” (Imitation of Christ: Book 2, Ch 4)

2. Positive Action.

After confessing to God and to myself (which can actually be more difficult) I did something that devastated my pride. I went to the person I had offended, and confessed to him my fault. Then, I did the thing I did not want to do in the first place.

3. Thanks and praise.

Dear God, Yes, I am still in favor of my blind, unreasoning desires. When will I imitate the saints by an honest daily effort to get rid of my faults? How shall I wish at the Last Judgement that I had done so! Jesus, you showed your divine power to the apostles by commanding the winds and the waves. Command the tempests of selfishness within me, and let me become, at last, empty of this false, hurtful self-love. My true good lies in your holy will because you know what is best for me. Free me from my passions and my unreasonable desires. Purify my soul and make me brave enough to suffer anything rather than sin again. Amen. (Imitation)

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