I found myself thinking about myself today, on 9/11, the 7th anniversary of a sad, sad day.
Why was I thinking about myself? Because it seems I am always thinking about myself. Well, not always, but usually. Perhaps you are familiar with this condition? It’s called being human, and it works like this: You wake up in the morning, and you are thinking about yourself. You try to think of others. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Then you go to sleep. The next day, you wake up and guess what, you’re thinking about yourself again. Rinse, repeat.
I’ll be honest with you. I have problems. I have things in my life you don’t know about that cause me grief. Some are pretty trivial. Some are a bit bigger. Thankfully, at this moment none of them are severe…though I know that can change at any moment.
Here’s the thing though. Despite the fact that most of my problems are small, I still seem to focus on them far more than I focus on the problems of others. When I pray, it’s usually in response to a need I have. When I try to alleviate someone’s pain, it’s usually my own pain that I am trying to lessen. When I do something to try to make someone happy, it’s usually ME that I am trying to make happy.
Now, I’m not advocating a world where we forget about ourselves completely of course. Not sure that’s possible. But what if I put as much energy into helping solve the problems of others as I do into solving my own problems? What if I focused less on myself?
If I’m having a crummy day, I can dwell on my own problems for hours until they appear to be twice as big as they actually are. Maybe some of you can relate to that? I was actually having that kind of day today. But as I read stories about 9/11, I started thinking about the families who lost loved ones 7 years ago. The hurt, the pain, the loss, the emptiness. And it made me think, wow, next to those kind of problems, suddenly my big issues don’t seem quite as important.
But I think it goes beyond just perception. When I take the focus off of myself and look out into the world, not only do my issues SEEM less important, I believe they actually BECOME less important. And that’s huge, because when that happens it becomes much easier to stay focused on people other than myself. And when I start to focus on other people, chances are I’ll see more of the needs that I can help fill.
So in honor of all of the people who died on this tragic anniversary, my encouragement and challenge to you is to become aware of the selfish tendencies we all have to focus on ourselves and to try to actively work against that on a daily basis.
Chances are there are people who are close to us who could really use something that we can give them. Maybe it’s a dollar. Maybe it’s a kind word. Maybe it’s an hour. Maybe it’s a hug.
Whatever it is, I hope we can all get our eyes off of ourselves more so we can see the needs that are out there, and I hope we are moved enough to do something in order to meet them.
I’m going to try to be better at this and if this is resonating with you at all, maybe you can too.