Self-importance, self-worth, self-assurance, self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence and self-centered are all words with the prefix self. People live their lives for themselves. It’s all about me. Many friendships are based on ” I’m in this relationship with you for me, and you are in this relationship with me for you” The new craze is to take “selfies.” All these statements confirm that we are part of a “Me-generation” a generation of people whose lives are centered on self with very little regard for others. I am not pointing fingers at anybody, if I were there would be four pointing back at me.
How did we get here?
The me-generation and how it originated
Here is a little bit of history on how this “Me-generation” originated. This quote is from the book “Deliver us from Me-ville” authored by D. A. Zimmerman. This quote gives us some insight as to why we are where we are today.
The reality of God came into question philosophically in the late nineteenth century when Friedrich Nietzsche declared God dead at the hands of his creation. With God’s lights out, the theory went, the world plunged into darkness. The question took on stark dimensions in the years that followed as a world war was eclipsed by a global economic crisis and a second world war, one in which entire people groups’ including God’s chosen people, the Jews faced a very real possibility of extinction. The war ended with a strong punctuation mark in the first two atomic bombs, leaving hundreds of thousands dead in two instants. Maybe God is dead, philosophers wondered; maybe he never lived in the first place, others considered. Maybe we are a meandering step on an evolutionary journey dictated by random events and mathematical possibilities. Maybe we are not that important.
Social psychologist Jean Twenge, in her book Generation Me, suggests that the decades following this philosophical self-doubt nursed a self-esteem crisis that in the wake of the Vietnam era reared its ugly head:
The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, a scale written specifically for children [revealed that] during the 1970s when the nation’s children shifted from the late Baby Boom to the early years of GenX kids self-esteem declined, probably because of societal instability. Rampant divorce, a wobbly economy, soaring crime rates, and swinging singles culture made the 1970s a difficult time to be a kid. The average child in 1979 scored lower than 81% of kids in the mid-1960s.
A strong concern for the emotional health of children in the wake of this cultural self-doubt led to a system wide commitment to training people with self-esteem.
Research on programs to boost self-esteem first blossomed in the 1980s, and the number of psychology and education journal articles devoted to self-esteem doubled between the 1970s and 1980s. Journal articles on self-esteem increased another 52% during the 1990s, and the number of books on self-esteem doubled over the same time. Generation Me is the first generation raised to believe that everyone should have high self-esteem.2
Not everybody has self-esteem as a result of this. However, all this has slowly, but surely, influenced people and has created a general focus on self. Most people suffer from superbia as a result of this. Superbia can be defined as pride, haughtiness, arrogance, conceit, vanity, rudeness or discourtesy.3
This self-importance or superbia has as a result, devastating results for the individual. Jean Twenge wrote:
Another outcome is not taking responsibility for our own situation, but externalizing it because of our belief that we are too important to be responsible for the situation we are in. We play the blame game just like Adam and Eve did.
When things go well, we take credit for it, but when things go wrong, we blame our childhood or other external circumstances. We don’t take responsibility for our own choices.
To summarize, when we become self-absorbed, it results in the following:
- not trusting people and as a result disconnecting from others
- not taking responsibility resulting in blaming others and circumstances
The process of becoming self-absorbed is gradual and therefor not noticed by ourselves. Others that cross our path does see it and are affected by it. It is not attractive and ruins relationships. You will see later that it is also contrary to what is taught in Scripture, we are therefore to identify it in ourselves and ask YHVH to help us change.
Do you suffer from superbia?
So, how do we find out if we suffer from this? We can do this by evaluating our interactions with other people. Take note of your thoughts about other people when you interact with them either in real life, Social media or in any other way, even when you just pass someone on the street. Also note what thoughts about yourself surface when you think about these people. Also, if you were to create a pecking order in your mind, where would they feature compared to you. This will create an awareness of your own superbia. This is necessary to do, because we are mostly unaware of our own superbia, but we need to identify it, if we want to change.
Even if you don’t suffer from full-blown superbia, you may display selfish behavior. We know that we can be selfish towards other people, but did you know that we can be selfish towards YHVH?
Selfish behavior towards YHVH
It is not easy to distinguish between selfishness towards YHVH and men, because what we do unto others, we actually do unto YHVH (Matt 25:40.) However, one area where we can identify selfishness toward YHVH is in our reluctance to be obedient to Him, especially if it impacts our lives in any way. We may even reject YHVH’s truth as a result of this. Obedience to YHVH may require from us a change in what we eat, our day of rest or in the feast days we observe. This will cause us not to want to obey YHVH because it may change our lives too much. This is selfishness towards YHVH, or obeying unrighteousness. This is our choice, but we will be rewarded according to our choices.
8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
The Complete Jewish Bible translated this verse as follows:
8 But to those who are self-seeking, who disobey the truth and obey evil, he will pay back wrath and anger.
Selfishness leads to rebellion and sin.
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
The word disorder can be translated as follows:
189 (akatastasia), Î±Ï‚ (as), n.fem.; Str 181; TDNT 3.446 1. LN 39.34 rebellion, disorderly insurrection (Lk 21:9; 1Co 14:33; 2Co 12:20; Jas 3:16+); 2. LN 39.36 riot, violent disorder (2Co 6:5)5
Evil means bad, dysfunctional or harmful. That, in essence, is what sin or disobedience is, evil or bad, dysfunctional or harmful. So, if we paraphrase this verse, it will read as follows:
“Where jealously and selfishness exist, there is rebellion and every sinful thing” This is in essence what we get where there is jealousy and selfishness, rebellion towards YHVH and sin towards YHVH and other people.
Whenever we sin, we are selfish, and whenever we are selfish we sin. When we sin, we act on what our flesh wants.
Selfishness towards others
Y’shua taught this:
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Consider Y’shua’s words, He names three things: love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Selfishness says, this person hurt me, therefor I hate him or her. Also, I do not have time to invest in doing what is right or helping others and I will not lend, because I won’t get it back.
We will also not harbor unforgiveness, because we won’t be able to love our enemy if we have not forgiven him. Y’shua chose three areas that are most difficult to show selflessness in. Something to ponder…
These words of Y’shua are in line with what Paul later taught:
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
This is a great verse to memorize! From this we learn that the opposite of selfishness and pride is humility of mind and regarding others as more important than ourselves. It is interesting to me how much these two verses have in common. If we regard one another more important than ourselves, we will love our enemies, do good and lend when asked.
1 Corinthians 10:24
24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
Selfishness is not new, but is said to increase in the last days.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of Elohim, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
We are to be alert for others needs
27 He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.
13 He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered.
16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices Elohim is pleased.
How are we to live?
Apart from what we quoted, what more does YHVH’s Word teach us about this topic?
37 And He said to him, You shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
What Y’shua taught was not a new commandment, He was quoting from the Torah. These verses are from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 respectively.
5 You shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.
If we love YHVH, we will put Him first and we will want to do what pleases Him. That means we will follow His instructions. If we love our neighbor, we will want to please them. Doing this is selfless, not doing this is selfish. As easy as that. There are three more quotes that affirm the second part of loving our neighbor.
12 In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Another great verse to memorize!
14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Messiah.
There is another amazing passage that describes what we are to do. YHVH does not want us to practice mere religion, but is pleased with us when we help others:
6 Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? 7 Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of YHVH will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and YHVH will answer; You will cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness And your gloom will become like midday. 11 And YHVH will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Ponder on this…
Why would we want to do this?
2 Corinthians 5:15
15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
This is the greatest reason there is. Y’shua gave everything, we are His disciples and are to live for Him, not for ourselves.
Self-centeredness has become the norm and the worst is that we are not even aware of this. We have learned how insidious superbia or self-absorption is. Chances are that we are all suffering from it to some degree. We are selfish beings, it would otherwise not be necessary for YHVH to teach us not to be selfish.
To remedy this we are to love YHVH with everything we have and our neighbor as ourselves. We are to do unto others as we would want them to do unto us, and we are to consider others as more important than ourselves. If we consciously do this, we will not be selfish. Our relationships would improve and we will live in such a way that we draw people to YHVH. Living our lives unselfishly is a great testimony and fulfilling our purpose. Greatness to aspire to!
Make these Scriptures your own by memorizing it, and live it. Here is another great opportunity to improve ourselves in order to be more like Y’shua. He gave everything and we are to follow Him.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Messiah Y’shua, 6 who, although He existed in the form of Elohim, did not regard equality with Elohim a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Yâ€™shua for Jesus.
- Zimmerman, D. A. (2008). Deliver us from me-ville. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.
- Jean Twenge, Generation Me: Why Todayâ€™s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitledâ€”and More Miserable Than Ever Before (New York: Free Press, 2006), 52â€“53.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.