Joyfully Dying to Self
I hate dying to self. I am a fairly extroverted person and a constant learner, which means that my go-to conversation is an unending chain of facts interlinked together. Want to move a conversation from the Florida everglades to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations to the history of Protestant denominations? I probably could link them all together. It’s what I enjoy. But the propensity for me to insert myself into conversations, while I often do it unintentionally, can smack of hubris. So, I have been learning to die to self, which for me often means not talking about something I’ve done or experienced and just letting the conversation keep going without my interjections.
Recently my wife and I helped lead communion at our new church for the first time. The person who helps run the communion team was kind enough to pull us over for a quick training on what to do when serving communion. Everything was great, yet I felt this nudge to interject.
“This is great. You know, I was the facilitator of communion at our old church for four years. I wrote an original prayer and presided over the elements each week. I know what I’m doing. I ... ”
Something made me hold my tongue, and I’m glad I did, because truthfully, that doesn’t really matter now. We’re part of a new community, and we’re learning how this community does things, so I had to be honest with myself and consider that relating how awesome I am at communion would not serve any purpose other than a subtle acknowledgement of how good I am at this, to a kind person who is instructing me. Dying to self, and humby submitting to someone’s helpful words, was what I needed to do, no matter how much prior experience I thought I had. And letting someone cheerfully explain to me all the details of communion in this community easily took the place of what little gain it would have brought me to talk about myself.
We all have areas in our life that we may be blind to that we need to open our eyes up to and die to self, joyfully. There are hard and fast stipulations about what kinds of character flaws we need to eliminate from our lives, but what makes dying to self so hard is that we need to reflect on our own lives to see where pride, contempt, anger, malice, deceit and the like thrive in our own lives, because pride pops up in your life differently than it does in mine.
Pushing further, a big part of growing in self-control, I have found, is identifying the areas where you don’t see a need to die to self, but others do. When I talk about what I have done or my past experiences, I really don’t intend to show off or broadcast how awesome I think I am. I just love how stories connect and intersect — but the way I say it sometimes, and how often I may share, can appear like pride to others. So even though I don’t feel like I am being prideful, I need to continue to grow in self-control to stomp out the ways that I am appearing prideful before other people. If we begin to exercise the gifts that God has given us, the joy of dying to self will far outweigh the fringe benefits we can receive by going our own way and refusing to die to self when it is not convenient.
What areas of your life do you need to die to self in, even if you don’t feel the spiritual need to do so?