By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS
A doctor, a lawyer, a little boy, and a priest were out for a Sunday afternoon flight on a small private plane. Suddenly, the plane developed engine trouble. Despite the best efforts of the pilot, the plane started to go down. Finally, the pilot grabbed a parachute and yelled to the passengers that they better jump, and he himself bailed out.
Unfortunately, there were only three parachutes remaining. The doctor grabbed one and said, “I’m a doctor, I save lives, so I must live,” and jumped out. The lawyer then said, “I’m a lawyer and lawyers are the smartest people in the world. I deserve to live.” He also grabbed a parachute and jumped.
The priest looked at the little boy and said, “My son, I’ve lived a long and full life. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Take the last parachute and live in peace.”
The little boy handed the parachute back to the priest and said, “Not to worry Father. The smartest man in the world just took off with my backpack.”
We think a lot about ourselves. We may not realize it but it’s true. As individuals, we are far too concerned about our own comfort – which requires the removal of mental and emotional distress while acquiring things in life that bring us pleasure. On top of that, we spend far too much time worrying about how others perceive us and working to make good impressions. If you don’t believe that just look at most Facebook postings.
And what is at the heart of this selfishness? Misguided pride.
In his book, Mere Christianity, the well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis had this to say about pride: “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
When our egos get out of control, I refer to this as shame-filled pride. Shame-filled pride always seeks to gratify itself. It seeks the limelight, power, prestige, praise, affirmation, and status. The basic problem with shame-filled pride is it darkens our hearts. It becomes a heart filled with envy, suspicion, greed, anger, and most of all, fear. The fear of others discovering the intense sense of unworthiness we try to keep hidden from others and ourselves.
Remember, it is God – and not us – that should be the center of our universe. But for that to happen, we need humility. However, one of the issues keeping us from achieving this critical virtue is that humility is not very attractive compared to believing we are someone important and influential. But learning to move beyond ourselves and our drive for self-gratification offers rich blessings. This is known as a sacrifice.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:3-5, NIV).
Greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Wow, that is an impressive promise. We would be crazy not to take advantage of it. Yet, there are so many of us who keep seeking to enhance our pleasure via materialism, power, or status. We are caught up in the “I want it all” culture that surrounds us.
We measure our success based on counting the number of toys we have in comparison to others. Our warped perception is if we have more “stuff” than our neighbors, we’re winning. And if we are lagging in accumulating toys, we believe we are falling behind. We must stop thinking our worth is based on material successes. We have to stop chasing toys. Our self-worth is based on our identity in Jesus Christ and is seen in the quality of relationships we formulate and maintain with Him and others.
A survival mentality (which is the “me first, it’s all about me” attitude) really is nothing more than simple-minded thinking. It limits us and our potential to accomplish all God has prepared for us to do. If I am inwardly focused, I can only engage with the limited knowledge, experience, and reasoning that I have accumulated during my lifespan.
However, once I move away from that limiting mindset – by turning my attention toward others – I open myself up to new learning experiences that lead to maturity. Instead of living in fear of one day losing everything, we come to realize God’s Spiritual gifts empower us to make a real difference in the lives of others. With these new gifts, we can experience a profound peace about where God is leading us. Our concern no longer focuses on achieving or accumulating, instead God’s gifts shift our focus from acquiring more for us to providing more for others.
When we move beyond ourselves, we stop clutching tightly to false idols that bring us temporary pleasure but long-lingering grief. When we move beyond ourselves, He opens doors we never knew existed –– and He closes doors that limits us in this lifetime.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38, NIV).
Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS is a licensed, Christian counselor with a private practice in Marietta, GA. He is certified in the treatment of sexual and pornography addiction. He is the author of the book, Removing Your Shame Label: Learning to Break From Shame and Feel God’s Love. Read a sample here.