Here is one little test. The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism. It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them. Why? Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people's opinion. The world tells the person who is thin-skinned and devastated by criticism to deal with it by saying, Who cares what they think? I know what I think. Who cares what the rabble thinks? It doesn't bother me. People are either devastated by criticism---or they are not devastated by criticism because they do not listen to it. They will not listen to it or learn from it because they do not care about it. In other words, our only solution to low self-esteem is pride. But that is no solution. Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us.
The person who is self-forgetful is the complete opposite. When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up gets criticism, it does not devastate them. They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change. Sound idealistic? The more we get to understand the gospel, the more we want to change. Friends, wouldn't you want to be a person who does not need honour---nor is afraid of it? Someone who does not lust for recognition----nor on the other hand, is frightened to death of it? Don't you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not admire what they see but does not cringe either?
Wouldn't you like to be the type of person who, in their imaginary life, does not sit around fantasizing about hitting self-esteem home-runs, daydreaming about successes that gives them the edge over others? Or perhaps you tend to beat yourself up and to be tormented by regrets. Wouldn't you like to be free or them? Wouldn't you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps the gold medal winner did?
To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that it was done? For it not to matter whether it their success or yours. Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself---because you are just happy to see it.
You will probably say that you do not know anybody like that. But this is the possibility for you and me if we keep on going where Paul is going. I can start to enjoy things that are not about me. My work is not about me, my skating is not about me, my dating is not about me. I can actually enjoy things for what they are. Because they are not just for my resume. They are not just to look good on my college or job application. They are not just a way of filling up the emptiness.
Wouldn't you want that?
This is off the map. This is gospel-humility, blessed self-forgetfulness. Not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in tradition cultures. Simply thinking of myself less.
Amen and Amen. Next week How To Get That Transformed View of Self.