Being self-absorbed comes naturally. If there is a mirror in the room, chances are I am checking out my reflection, even as I am conversing with other people. When I get a hair-cut, I want people to notice and compliment me. Since I lost some weight, I weigh myself with even more frequency. Often in conversations, I catch myself bringing the discussion back to myself, which is my favourite topic though maybe not as fascinating as I think. Though I receive many spontaneous compliments, sometimes I am guilty of fishing for one. At times, I spend so much time looking inward, I fail to notice people with needs all around me.
Self-denial on the other hand, goes against my natural tendencies. How I can give of myself sacrificially to others is not immediately obvious to me in any given situation; More on my mind is how will this affect me and my plans or how does this person feel about me.
Selfishness is my default setting. If I don't try to put myself in another person's shoes or attempt to think of others, I won't consider their needs above mine.
It is all too often all about me. That's why I find Jesus' words so challenging as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson: "Any one who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?"
I guess if I am truly following Jesus, instead of just talking about following Jesus, he will lead me in this way of self-sacrifice and show me how it is done. He has already demonstrated a love that was willing to suffer, to empty himself, to give his life as a sacrifice. In his life, he was a servant, obedient to the Father. Even though he was God, he made himself nothing. My life has to become about him and about the people he has placed in my life. I need to radically change my focus and only then will I find my life as it was meant to be lived.