|Growing in Virtue||Wasting Your Life Through Selflessness|
|Objective||Learn how to combat selfishness in order to reach Heaven|
|Seedtime||40 minutes (8 minute read, 32 minute video; audio suffices)|
|Feedtime||1 hour 20 minutes|
|Directive||Use the instructions at the end of the post|
If you have ever seen The Greatest Showman, you’ll know that many of the themes are similar to Christian living and the struggle to pursue goodness and truth. If you haven’t seen it, you can find the synopsis here. It is really a remarkable film with many lessons that we can learn from. The last time I watched it, there was a particular scene that struck me and stays with me. Barnum, the main protagonist, finally found glory and acceptance among the upper class with his new found talent, Jenny Lind. He was consumed in greed. In pursuit of this fame, he lost himself and his family’s support as well. He was willing to trade his family’s love and security for fame and fortune. Then his wife, Caroline, turns to him and asks, “When will it ever be enough?”
He had wanted more wealth and more admiration – the more he got, the more he wanted. He let his own pride and lust consume him, and even when his wife asked that question, he still left to pursue something more.
In the same way, I asked myself that question. What is it that I am pursuing? What is it that I live for? When will my earthly life be enough for me? I’m constantly moving towards the next thing, the next idea, looking for fulfilment. Even though I know the real reason why I am here on this earth, my own humanity gets the better of me.
Just like Barnum was grasping at worldly desires and affections, don’t we do the same? He was hoarding these things for his own benefit and pride under the illusion that it was all for the sake of his family.
The struggle for us today is much the same. There is a deep seeded longing within us to have more, to be more and to do more. Without this desire we would just become complacent and never strive for anything. It’s a good desire which becomes distorted by our hubris. We have certain needs in order to survive, but it can quickly turn when we lose our sense of security and purpose. Isn’t self-preservation part of our human nature?
Selfishness, self-centredness and laziness are easy vices to fall into. I should know because I struggle with them every day. I honestly can’t think of one day during my life that I was completely selfless, and I’m sure there are few out there who couldn’t say the same.
The world really doesn’t help us with this in any way. Instead, the world offers us “you do you” and “look out for number one”. We are being inundated with messages that train us to believe we are most important.
“Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.”
All the things that the world offers are not enough. Even the things which we know to be objectively good are not enough.
It’s not what we live for, but Who we live for. We live knowing that our goal is to reach Eternity. While we might not be actively looking to separate ourselves from our Creator, are we truly living for Heaven? Or maybe, at times, are we living for purgatory?
“God cannot give us a peace and happiness apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
Everything comes from God, and everything is fulfilled in Him. We are created for complete and total union with our Creator. That is what will bring us happiness. That is when it will finally be enough for us. Happiness apart from God does not exist; however, that doesn’t stop us from trying to find it.
“The happy life is this – to rejoice to Thee, in Thee and for Thee.”
If the only thing that will bring us true happiness is getting to Heaven, how do we get there and why do many of us fight it?
Jesus gives us the answer. He tells us plainly what we need to do to get to Heaven. So often we think there has to be another way, an easier way, but anything in life worth having will not be easy. It will challenge us to grow and strive for perfection. It will challenge us to die to self and offer everything we have. We have the perfect example to follow.
HOW DO WE REACH HEAVEN?
Take some time to listen to these words of wisdom by Venerable Fulton Sheen. Try to remove any distractions and focus on his message.
We will never reach Heaven if we are so focused on ourselves that we forget about God and others. He is the reason for the breath in our lungs and the clothes on our backs. Even if it is a constant battle, it is a battle worth fighting.
We need to go the extra mile and not just do the bare minimum asked of us. Jesus loves us deeply and profoundly in a way that no human could ever love another. His love for us is so great that He gives us His grace without merit. He gives us the energy to do the impossible.
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
We don’t want to be like Judas counting each penny of the alabaster oil; God is worth infinitely more. Instead, we need to break the jar and give everything even when we feel like we have nothing.
I do not want to be complacent anymore. I do not want to give the Lord only a portion of what I can because He gave everything for me. I want to go the extra mile and wholeheartedly abandon myself to His love. I want to adore and worship Jesus for all of eternity with the angels and saints in Heaven.
This life will never be enough for us. What are we doing to reach the next?
Jesus has given us a way – The Way. It’s time that we stop trying to rely on our own strength and stop trying to obtain whatever we want in the moment. Too much of our lives are focused on ourselves. We have to focus on the Lord and allow Him to transform us so that we can be Jesus to others.
It’s difficult, and I‘m not going to pretend that I’m perfect and I can do it all easily. I’m learning every day what it means to live as a Christian. It is not about wanting more of the world, but wanting more of God.
“The freest soul, I think, is the one most forgetful of self . . . You see, pride is love of ourselves; well, love for God must be so strong that it extinguishes all our self-love.”
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
What are some practical steps we can take to remove our focus on self?
ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE TRANSFORMED
Before we do anything, we need to recognise the areas of our life that needs attention and invite God to work in us. It’s no use to do anything on our own strength because it’s just not enough. God has infinite graces to give us; we just need to ask. It’s only once we fill ourselves with Him that we can become like Him.
BE READY AND WILLING
There is no point putting off to tomorrow what you can do today. We might be tempted to say that we are too weak or too sinful, or we don’t have time right now. God has new challenges waiting for us each day. We must be like Samuel and say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. It is truly amazing how many opportunities for growth and service we waste by not being attentive to God’s voice.
MAKE DAILY SACRIFICES
The best way to forget self is to deny self. You might even think that your sacrifice is so small that it is insignificant, but no sacrifice for the Kingdom of God is lost. God can use even the feeblest offerings. You know what your struggles are and you know what sacrifices will please God.
REFLECT AND EXAMINE
Self awareness will combat selfishness. If you’re struggling in a particular area, it’s important to take time out of your day to reflect on how it’s going. Acknowledge the growth as well as the shortcomings, and ask God to help you again. Practice does not make perfect; practice makes progress.
First, take five minutes to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration, guidance, patience and anything else you might need in order to overcome the areas of selfishness, self-centredness or laziness. It’s extremely important to rely on God’s strength for anything that we do.
Then take at least thirty minutes to journal and reflect on these questions:
- What areas of my life do I need to address?
- What treasures am I hoarding for my own gain?
- How can I give these things more freely to others?
- Is there something hindering me from giving these things to God and to others?
- How does this impact my daily life?
- How does this impact my relationship with God?
- How does this impact my relationship with others?
- What are some sacrifices I need to make?
- What actions can I take?
Once you have finished reflecting, you need to put those thoughts into actions. It can be tempting to get caught up in thoughts and never really do anything about it. This will be different for each person and you need to make your actions personal to you and your situation. I would suggest you spend at least ten minutes over three days on these actions and sacrifices.
At the end of these three days, spend no more than five minutes reflecting on your progress. Give glory to God for the improvements and ask for mercy in the shortcomings.