Friday, 2 November 2012

Self-absorption

Self-absorption is defined as a preoccupation with self: an excessive concern with our own life and interests. This condition is endemic to the human race.  In other words this is a condition of the human heart which is widespread, prevalent, rife, rampant, pervasive, and common.  Yes that includes me and you.

It is the number one problem in marriage, out weighing such favorites as finances, sex, in-laws, children, and division of household chores.  It underlies the desire to view pornography, participate in unhealthy communication via social media, co-habitation, friends with benefits, connecting up and affairs.  If I have left anything out it is due to a naiveté, ignorance or an inadequate vocabulary.

Tim Keller
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City,  says that “Nothing makes us more miserable than self-absorption, the endless, unsmiling concentration on our needs, wants, treatment, and ego...It is at the root of the breakdown in relationships between nations, races, classes, and individuals. ”  The word “nothing” seems fairly all inclusive.

It all started with a tree.  God made it perfectly clear, “do not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden or you will die,” shame on God for making it so ambiguous.  From that moment on we have all made similar decisions every day.  It is as if we comply with God’s directions as long as they suit us, but when my perceived need is more important to me than being obedient to God then I willfully serve me. Or as Keller puts it “we comply with God’s directions only when it fits in with our goals and interests, then we are actually trying to get God to orbit around us.”

“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves…” (2Corinthians 5:15)  So Christ died because of our self-centeredness.  And James tells us that we quarrel because we don’t get our desires met. (James 4:1-2).  That sounds like self-centeredness to me.

So if self-absorption is why we quarrel and why our relationships break down then it stands to reason that it is the thing that is at the root of much of my misery.

The Human Heart
Do you suppose that is why when Jesus was asked which the greatest commandment is in the Law, He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

All I need to do is to become other-centered.  Fortunately that isn’t up to me and my efforts or it would never happen.  He died so we should no longer live for ourselves.  He makes it possible to change.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Are You Angry? Part II

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:29-5:2
 
Dave Powlison, nationally known author, counselor and lecturer, understands that stuffing one’s emotions is not the answer, nor is dumping your anger on a person for a perceived wrong.  He is also aware that relaxation techniques and medication can be beneficial to some but none of these approaches deals with the heart.   The real key to dealing with one’s anger is to follow the Biblical model provided by the Apostle Paul.  First in Ephesians 4:29-5:2 Paul lays out what we should and should not do with our anger, summarized as Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Powlison then recommends five questions that we should ask ourselves when we are feeling angry.

1.     What is happening around me when I get angry? What pushes your buttons? Think of specific times when you become angry. Make a list of the last five times you got angry, or keep track of the next five times.

2.     How Do I act when I get angry? Look at your list and write down what you do when your anger goes wrong

3.     What were my expectations (what did I want, need, demand) when I became angry? Examining your motives brings God into the discussion, because it reveals what hijacked God’s place in your heart

4.     What message does God have for me, in His word that will speak to my anger? When we remember that this is God’s kingdom and not ours, the way we deal with our anger will be hugely affected. When we add to that an understanding of our real sins, then we will also see how God, in Christ, is tender-hearted and forgiving to us. Our anger will be transformed.

5.     What am I called to do? Our relationship with God will always lead us to our relationship with people.