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.
I needed gas the other day. It was one of those days when the heat rushes down your windpipe like an uninvited guest… leaving you surprised, uncomfortable, and wanting it to end. On top of that, I was tired and trying to rush home while I knew Drew was still napping, so I could close my eyes for a few minutes before going back on motherhood duty. But I had to stop for gas.
The station was crowded and I pulled in behind an abandoned car at the pump. It’s in a lower-income neighborhood and most of the customers leave their vehicle to go and prepay in cash before pumping their gas. I’m ashamed to admit, I’m often irritated by the lack of expedience of this process. My privileged attitude finds it inconvenient.
That day was no exception. I was hot, irritable, tired, and in a hurry… and the absent driver of the sedan blocking the pump quickly became my enemy. Why was life so cruel? Why did I have to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced? Isn’t life, after all, all about me?
Most people would, on the surface, answer “no”. Life is not all about “me.” But, take a good, hard look at the way we’re living and you’ll find a more truthful assessment. We’re a selfish people… and our society is encouraging us to be more so. The campaign for healthy self-esteem has created an egocentric generation. Any sense of community we once had has been replaced by a self-centered mentality. There is no greater purpose than self-fulfillment and meeting our personal needs.
We live in an ugly world. An ugly world that appeals to every sinful desire we can imagine. And if we’re not careful, it will chew us up, spit us out, and destroy everything good in us.
I’ll admit – this world has won its fair share of battles with my soul.
The enemy is relentless. He doesn’t take breaks or vacations. He doesn’t ease up because we’re tired. He fights to destroy us under the guise of personal comfort and fulfillment. Thinking so highly of ourselves leaves us very little to think of others. Before we know it, basic considerations, kindnesses, respect, and care for our fellow-man are tossed to the wayside. We are left isolated, hardened, and ironically, unfulfilled.
As I sat in the car mumbling in my impatience and discomfort, the driver of the sedan at the pump returned. She was a fragile, elderly woman who appeared far more exhausted by the heat than I imagined my own self to be. She started to fumble with the pump, seemingly confused by its lack of cooperation. She was surrounded by people. People who, like I, were only thinking of their own schedules or discomfort.
I’m thankful in that moment, God stood up and slapped the enemy on my behalf. Clearly, I was wallowing in my own self-centeredness… I can take no credit. As quickly as the heat had choked away my comfort, grace gave my selfishness a good, swift kick in the butt. Suddenly, I was less important. I got out of the car and offered to pump her gas – a gesture she both accepted and appreciated. We made a little small talk and she drove away.
God reminded me in this circumstance that the best weapon against selfishness is service to others. Thinking about myself only amplified how uncomfortable I was… causing me to continue to wallow in my self-focus, resulting in bitterness toward anyone whom I deemed an inconvenience. It’s a habit too easily developed.
As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision. Helen Keller
May we all live with a vision beyond ourselves.