I used to spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. Some of you have heard me refer to myself as a natural Eeyore. I was a decent complainer and quick with sarcasm, but I was an expert at false humility. I was largely a negative person, despite having so many good things going for me. It gives me no pleasure to admit it, but it’s true. I am happy to say that God taught me something that changed the way I looked at the world. It also changed the way I see myself. I am not a quick study, so it took some time for me to learn it. In fact, I had to hear it every Sunday morning at church for about a year before it started to sink in.
When I first became Episcopalian, I went to the early service so I could make it to my youth ministry job. Every Sunday at the beginning of the service the deacon would say, “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…. And the second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Slowly the meaning of this crept into my brain. “Wait, loving God and loving neighbor are the same? And I can’t love my neighbor… if I don’t love myself??? So, it isn’t possible to love God at all if I don’t love myself?” It was difficult, but I started asking God to forgive me for being so down on myself. I started checking myself when I found myself mentally going down the rabbit hole of negativity.
It is so simple and yet so profound. Love God and love others. This was only possible when I accepted that life isn't about me. It’s not about you. The world does not revolve around either of us. But when we spend all our time feeling sorry for ourselves, ironically, we are making it about us. What feels like self-deprecation is actually ego and hurt pride.
It is easy to confuse self-centeredness with humility. If you struggle with this as I did and sometimes still do, the pro tip I would like to share is that hurt pride is all about me. Real humility focuses on God and neighbor. Real humility is life giving.
Here is another pro-tip. If you often find yourself comparing yourself to others, or dwelling on how someone is treated better than you, it could be a sign you need to spend some time focusing on your neighbor. It could be a sign you need to ask God to help you see yourself as God sees you. Or perhaps you could try what helped me. When you start to find yourself in the seat of honor at your favorite pity party, open the Book of Common Prayer to page 324 and read the top paragraph.
I have no one particular in mind as I write this. I was reflecting on my own faith journey as I was considering the changes to our worship as we enter into Lent. We will all hear Jesus remind us of the great commands at all three services every Sunday of Lent.
See you in church,
Fr. Tom +_