Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5
I find myself thinking back on this article quite a bit, so I dug it out. It is even more fitting now than even six years ago, since our ‘selfie culture’ has advanced all the more. This short article was in the February 25, 2012 issue of the World magazine with the title of “Me, Myself and I.” Here is what it said:
“The way a person writes can reveal his psychological state. That’s according to research by University of Texas professor James Pennebaker.” He wrote about a computer program that counts and categorizes words. He analyzed over 400,000 different pieces of writing from college essays, texts, transcripts from press conferences, and chat room conversations.
Pennebaker writes: “when we analyzed poems by writers who committed suicide versus poems by those who didn’t, we though we’d find more dark and negative content words in the suicides’ poetry. We didn’t–but we did discover significant differences in the frequency of words like ‘I.'”
He went on to conclude that “pronouns tell us where people focus their attention. If someone uses the pronoun ‘I,’ it’s a sign of self-focus. Say someone asks ‘What’s the weather outside?’ You could answer ‘It’s hot’ or ‘I think it’s hot.’ The ‘I think’ may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful It shows you’re more focused on yourself.” His findings were that suicidal people focused on themselves to a fault.
Now, think about either conversations that you have with others, or that others have with you. Who talks about themselves the most, or does things to point the attention and focus back to themselves–you or the other person?
I am struck increasingly about our lack of people skills, or social skills, even in the body of Christ. People don’t know how to carry on a conversation about simple life things and go back and forth to get to some point of connection, let alone to get to spiritual conversations that either encourage, spur on, or to do anything else. People ramble and not say anything much, they interrupt or get side tracked with their attention, they talk about themselves, or they just don’t go out of their way to initiate a conversation with someone else. Others use “humor” to keep people at a distance or to keep the focus on themselves, making barriers that they might not even intend just because they want to be liked or known as being funny.
Simply asking people about their family, their job, where they are from, leads to being able to ask deeper questions about what God is doing and has done in their lives, and other significant things. It takes servanthood to be the listener, the encourager, and the one not at the center of the conversation.
I lead a women’s Sunday School class, which has a varying number of participants, up to almost twenty at times. It is interesting to me those who are just waiting to jump in and pull the attention to themselves, their week, their rabbit trail. Many times it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. I try to allow time to share, to attend to how people’s weeks were, to pray…But then we move ahead. Some would never move off of self. It’s that way in any group I’ve ever been in.
How to get my eyes off of me? Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is wonderful. He says something to the effect of: As we grow in Christ, we don’t think less of ourselves. We just think of ourselves less.
One of my favorite hymns is “May the Mind of Christ my Savior,” by Kate B. Wilkinson. One of the stanzas is:
“May the love of Jesus fill me, as the water fills the sea. Him exalting, self abasing–this is victory!”