When you think of someone that is self-centered, what type of person comes to mind? Perhaps you imagine a powerful business man who will do anything to move his way up in a company. He doesn’t care who he hurts or who gets squashed under his giant feet, he just wants to take care of #1.
Perhaps you imagine a woman who is vapid and conceited. She can’t seem to see past her own face and tends to disregard the feelings of others. No body matters but her. Maybe, she even takes a lot of pride in her physical appearance and believers her beauty makes her better than others.
Or maybe, you envision a child. A child who wants what they want exactly when they want it. If they don’t get what they want, you can’t count down to a full-blown tantrum. They don’t care if mommy and daddy are tired, broke, or frustrated. The world revolves around them.
These are the types of images that come to mind when we think of someone who is self-centered.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4
Self-centeredness isn’t always so obvious, though. Have you ever known someone that makes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells? They’re so easily rattled that you feel you can’t say anything without upsetting them. Have you ever known someone who seems to believe everyone around them is mad at them, to a point where they seem paranoid? Have you ever behaved this way?
Being a self-centered person can be believing that the lives of our friends and family completely revolve around us. Believing that those around us obsess over our every word and action can, sometimes, come from a place of pride. Of course we want to be aware of our behavior, especially as Christians, but there is a line between self-awareness and narcissism.
Self-centeredness can also look like self-deprecation. A person who is constantly beating themselves up may appear to have very low self-esteem. That may be true. However, they are thinking of themselves often. If our thoughts are always on ourselves, that doesn’t allow us much time to think of others.
We demonstrate pride and self-centeredness when we refuse encouragement and empathy based on the belief that no one could possibly understand our situation. While we can never truly walk in a person’s proverbial shoes, as believers, we can still build one another with love and grace.
To paraphrase C.S.Lewis, humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. When we focus on Christ’s command to us; to love God and love others, it’s beautifully ironic how our view of self seems to fall right into place.
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [b]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
When we only and always focus inward, there is no way to keep our focus Godward. It certainly makes it difficult to serve those around us too. Again, we don’t need to belittle and speak poorly of ourselves, perhaps, we just need to get out of our own heads from time to time.
A spiritually-mature believer is self-controlled without being self-centered. They are aware of the way in which their actions affect those around them without being prideful. They aim to grow in holiness, not for their own glory, but for the glory of God alone. They selflessly serve those around them, not for recognition, but in humble service to their creator.
Take care and God bless