The fight against self-absorption

June 30, 2017
June 30, 2017 Jonathan Evans

The fight against self-absorption


There are moments one is completely self-absorbed, or is fully absorbed by what is on his mind or heart. He is therefore oblivious to everyone around him, particularly those he loves and who love him. If not oblivious, then deliberately not paying or giving attention to them. He is present to the moment and to himself in that moment.

It is only after that moment and at a distance from his wife, children, or friend that he begins to think outside himself or beyond his circumstances and to ask himself, If he were never to see them again, would he be at peace with those last moments together?

He realizes that he would in fact have regrets, that he was too anxious and stressed and mean, that, mainly, had he known those were his last moments he would have instead been attentive, appreciative, and open about what was bothering him, that in the end what was bothering him was not as important as that relationship.

Morbidity, though, is not a good catalyst for change, at least not an enduring one. But love is.


How did he know and feel his self-absorption? Because there was someone else in his life. Only in the presence of others, in relationship to others, can we distinguish or identify ourselves, can we find our place. And upon knowing another, we grow to love them, and love leads us towards self-giving and sacrifice rather than to self-absorbtion and selfishness.

The fool is one who not only hides (or denies or ignores) his mistakes, but, worse, cannot imagine himself mistaken. He is self-deceived; he is not self-aware. He does not see or know himself, because he is not in open relationship with others. He seeks his own way, because he is in isolation from others. He cannot imagine his actions taking him anywhere destructive nor himself being bothered by how his actions might hurt others along the way. He has no “understanding,” no internal sense or structure of where wisdom for life is learned.

To have any hope the fool must break out of his self-absorption, or, rather, must be broken out. He must become self-aware. How? Only through an awareness of others. But not by simply acknowledging that someone is there: by being present to them and attentive to them. He must be drawn out of himself and into conflict with himself. It is love that draws us out of our lazy selfishness by requiring of us the hard work of self-sacrifice.


This is the daily fight that we are engaged in.

We must learn to pay attention to our conflicting desires: while we want problems to go away or be fixed, we don’t want to hurt or be mean to those we love in the process. While we want certain things to go our way, we don’t want them at the expense of those we love. We want a heart that is united, in harmony and peace, every part working together towards the same end, singular in it’s resolve to love others.

We must learn to be in faithful relationships: it’s when we’re in committed relationship with others that our self can “snap out of it” by being challenged or corrected, by seeing and hearing how our words and actions are harming others. We want relationships that are full of peace, not the absence of disagreement or difficulty, but the absence of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.

We must learn to pray continually: the first thing to go in moments of self-absorption is our sense of need and dependance on God. We get caught up and caught in lesser things. Learn to turn the urge to pick up your phone into prayer; turn the sense of anger or disappointment into prayer; turn the awareness of busyness or chaos into prayer; turn the inward looking thoughts outward, upward in prayer.

It is ultimately from our peace with God, our secure and intimate relationship with him through Jesus, that we will find peace for within and peace with others. The first and greatest thing the heart can do, then, is to fix its eyes on Jesus, the Savior, the Creator, and the Lord of all things. In listening and looking to him, in being in relationship with him, and in keeping all things in place in their relationship to him, we can not only guard our hearts in love, but walk in love.

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