Flesh will tell us to seek comfort.

     “We deserve it!  We work hard!”

Yet our spirits truly suffer,

     when the ‘self’ gets high regard.


This is a tough section for me to write about!  Because we do earn and/or merit some reward in this life through our work, and especially by living as true disciples of Christ where we reap, through the cross, the blessings God provides through grace.  Yet this idea of being ‘deserving’ is often a mask for self-indulgence; sometimes extreme self-indulgence.  I recently read the following ‘status’ on Facebook:


Two income household + no children = early retirement.


I find this incredibly sad, selfish, and short-sighted.  Do these people know they have a soul that will live forever?  Do they care?  What do they think will happen to them when they are old?  Who will watch over the quality of the care they receive?  Will they opt to be euthanized when life is no longer fun?


This is just another example of a world that is so focused on me and my life and my plans that people are unable to think through to the consequences of their actions.  Not to mention thinking about how their actions will affect others.  Nobody comes into this world by themselves; we all have parents.  And none of us lives without being affected by the actions of others….and without making an impact – be it good or bad – on others through our actions!  Everything we do touches someone else, some way, somehow.


My mind just can’t comprehend this extreme self-centeredness!  So I basically have two options in dealing with things like this.  The first – and what I have chosen to do in the past - is getting irritated, annoyed, and angry, and then going out and doing the same kind of things myself!!  (If you can’t beat them, join them.)  This just made things worse.  It was a self-perpetuating cycle of frustration and unhappiness.  The second option is to turn to God.  I can’t take any credit for coming up with this brilliant idea on my own because I was so far down the path of darkness and unhappiness that the Lord had to intervene and show me what was possible on ‘the other side’.  May He be forever blessed for the goodness, mercy, and love He pours out on His children in great abundance!


What I find on ‘the other side’ is gratitude.  My heart fills to bursting when I think of how very fortunate and blessed I am.  I was born in a time of plenty, in a country where life is good.  We were poor, but I don’t ever remember going hungry.  I wore a lot of hand-me-downs and was made fun of at school for it, but I also never lacked for someone to play with.  I lived on a farm with animals and gardens and fruit trees galore.  We learned the ways of nature, of life and death, of working hard, playing fair, and counting our blessings, because if you look hard enough, you can always find someone who is in a worse situation than you are.  Thanks Mom & Dad!


I also find on ‘the other side’ that friendship, joy, love, concern for others, living in and for Christ, and prayer, are also self-perpetuating.  The more you give, the more you find comes back to you.  We never run out of love!


Add to this better way of dealing with things, what St. John of the Cross says in his Cautions Against the Flesh, “All those who come into our lives are artisans.  They are there to shape, fashion, form, and test us.”  We can not only deal with ugly things in a more peaceful and positive manner, but we can also learn from them.  If we give ourselves in complete trust and abandonment to God’s Divine Providence, what we learn from these difficulties can lead us to one day be grateful, not only for the experiences, but to/for the person they came through, as well.


One of the most valuable lessons I have learned on my spiritual journey is that the soul knows. 


When I graduated from high school in 1977 all I wanted to do was get married and start a family, and I did.  But as time went by, I found myself being greatly influenced by the TV shows, commercials, and the “experts” who were saying that stay-at-home-moms suffered – and were somehow mentally and socially stunted - because their most stimulating conversations were so often with children age three and under.  One commercial in particular stays with me to this day.  It perfectly epitomizes the “supermom” syndrome for me.  The commercial stars a sophisticated, tall, thin, woman wearing a business suit (skirt, jacket, and high-heels).  I don’t remember all the details but I do remember the song she sang in a provocative voice and manner.  I can bring home the bacon……..fry it up in the pan……..and never, ever let you forget you’re a man…..’cause I’m a woooooo-man!…… W-O-M-A-N.” 


I fell for it, hook, line………and sinker.  I went out and got a job; part-time at first, working evenings when my husband was home to watch the kids.  Then came the lure of a bigger house, newer cars, etc., etc.  Part-time became full-time when my youngest was in school all day and soon I was working, and taking classes, in order to move up the company ladder.  Fast-forward ten years and I had almost completed my degree (one class at a time, usually online), had moved up the ladder to a point where I was completely miserable (because I was being asked to do things that I believe were unethical.), and I found myself in tears one morning, physically unable to move my feet to walk out the door and go to work. 


Why?  Because I was living a lie.  I was pretending to be somebody I’m not, and deep inside I knew it.  I had been unhappy with my job (and lifestyle), for several years, but didn’t think we could survive without my income.  I was afraid of what people would say, so I stayed until I was mentally and emotionally worn out.  Then God gave me a mid-life crisis, and turned me toward Himself.  I quit my job, gave my life to Jesus, and miraculously we are still managing!  Best of all, the people-pleasing aspect of my ‘false self’ is gone, I am happier than I ever have been, and I possess a genuine sense of deep peace, the kind the world cannot give.


Please do not misunderstand me!!  I am not saying that all women should stay in the home and none of us hold outside jobs.  What I am saying applies to both women and men, and it is simply this: put God first in your life and everything else will fall into place. (Funny…..isn’t that what the Bible teaches?)  I allowed the media, its propaganda, and the opinions of others to take a higher degree of importance in my life than God.  I put my ‘self’’ and worldly things first and I have suffered much because of it.


Our souls come to us from God, and they have kind of a ‘homing device’ built-in that seeks and wants to be reunited with Him.  But when we ignore the internal promptings we can damage and even kill our conscience. 


Just as there are natural laws we must adhere to if we want to remain healthy – such as eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep and recreation - there are also spiritual laws that, when we follow them, enable us to be ‘whole’.  These are found in the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the lives of the saints, the Catechism and other official teachings of the Catholic Church.  We are spiritualized bodies, and we cannot neglect the needs of our soul without suffering the consequences, just as we cannot neglect our bodies without suffering the consequences.


One of the best ways to remain spiritually healthy is by frequenting the sacraments.  I like to think of the sacraments as spiritual vitamins that help me avoid temptations, inspire me to do and seek what is good for my neighbor and myself, strengthen me to fight against the sins that I fall into most often, and to persevere on the path of holiness.


The very best axiom I’ve heard in regard to the topic of selfishness and how to overcome it is this:


God first, everybody else second, me last.


Love & prayers.