Self-Absorption Can Ruin Your Life

Ex 17:8-13 / 2 Tm 3:14-4:2 / Lk 18:1-8

The famous golfer, Sam Snead, once got stuck in a tournament with a partner who was notorious as a self-centered, arrogant braggart.  After several hours of the man’s non-stop talk about himself, Snead’s patience wore thin. So as they approached the next hold, he turned to the young man and said, “Son, when I was YOUR age and playing this hole, I’d take my driver and fade my shot right around the corner over those tall pine trees. It saved me about 100 yards — but that might be a little tough for you.”

The young man bristled, “I can do anything you ever did.  Get out of my way!”  And with that he hit a long drive … right into the top of the pine trees. “Nice try, son,” said Snead.  “Guess I forgot to mention, when I was your age those pine trees were only shoulder high.”

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Have you noticed how many people on the road, in the stores, on the TV news, or just about anywhere seem to think they’re the only folks around, or at least the only ones who count? It’s called narcissism: Total absorption in oneself and one’s own agenda and desires. A person like that doesn’t even see other people, unless they get in his or her way. “Everything is about me, and I’m entitled to whatever I want.”

That kind of thinking has huge consequences for a life: It means that anything goes, if it’s good for me. And, with the passage of time, anything does go: Friends, spouses, commitments, life’s real joys. Step by step, the self-absorbed person sinks deeper and deeper into himself, shrinking ever smaller, more and more trapped in his or her life patterns, and always resentful if he or she is challenged or denied of anything.

All of this is what happens when we get disconnected from God: We lose our center; we lose our purpose as human beings, which is to  reach out and build family; and we lose our joy. It happens so easily, not just to pagans, but to Christians as well. And it will happen to us, unless we learn to open our hearts all the way to our Lord, and keep them open and listening.

If we are connected to him, we will see life as he sees it. We’ll break out of the trap of our self-absorption. And that great-hearted prayer which St Francis prayed with such a happy heart will finally make sense to us.  At last we’ll understand: We only find life, we only find joy, by giving it away.

And so we St Francis’ prayer our own:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.