Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From Suffering to Selfless


"Sometimes, when things aren't going right, we think we need to get away from a place or a person. Sometimes that helps, but most of the time what we need is to get away from our old self and our selfish feelings. We can leave a place behind, or we can stay in that place and leave our selfishness (often expressed in feeling sorry for ourselves) behind. If we leave a place and take our selfishness with us, the cycle of problems starts all over again, no matter where we go. But if we leave our selfishness behind, no matter who we are, things start to improve" (John H. Groberg).

At first glance, this quote doesn't seem to apply to me. I rarely get the yen to go someplace else for more than a vacation, and I love the people in my life far too much to want to escape them, but maybe I'm being too literal. What struck me as I read these words from John A. Groberg's magnificent book, In the Eye of the Storm, was his take on selfishness as frequently being expressed in the form of feeling sorry for ourselves. This characterization resonated with me, and I wanted to spend a moment today figuring out what it means in my life.

Blessed as I am (and I know that I am), there are a number of chronic health problems I deal with on a daily basis. I've generally experienced self pity as a destructive, sort of self-limiting exercise, one that rarely makes me feel better and has a tendency to bring me down every time I indulge in it. For this reason, I do my best not to indulge in it (sometimes more successfully than others), but my reasons for that effort have been practical more than spiritual. In fact, my reasons have been somewhat selfish in origin. It just doesn't make me feel good. Feeling sorry for myself puts me in victim mode, and I feel a lot happier when I can avoid that mentality. I'd like to avoid it more often.

Elder Groberg's words (above) made me realize that I've been coming at my health problems from the wrong angle. My approach has been reactive, struggling not to wallow because it feels bad. Instead, I could take a proactive stance, striving for selflessness (and the spiritual gifts, healing, and lack of wallowing that must always accompany any Christ-centered trait). Let's face it; striving trumps struggling every time. It just feels better. Which is why I think I will do better with a mindset of actively pursuing selflessness as the cure for what ails me rather than reactively flailing against the quagmire of sinking feelings that all too often accompanies chronic health problems. Reframing is a good thing!

A spiritual perspective is always better than a worldly one, and when I feel myself wanting to run away from a place (the one my health problems puts me in) or a person (myself, reacting to those health problems), I am going to take Elder Groberg's advice and leave my selfishness behind.

{point of view is everything}

=)

13 comments:

Caroline said...

Such a great perspective, Sue. I never thought about it that way. When I think about it like that--my motivation for being cheerful sometimes is selfish. Maybe I'm not acting cheerful for the sake of showing kindness to others--but because I don't want to feel bad--it's more about how I feel if I'm TOTALLY honest about it. So, the motivation has to come from a spiritual place or it's empty--that's how I feel this applies to me.
Great words from your Elder Groberg.

:)

Katie Blacker said...

I have been thinking about health a lot lately since it has been taken away from me in some ways over the last month or so. I have been reflecting on how much I take my health for granted and how much I admire those who struggle with it constantly...and still find a way to keep going and even still be positive! Your words are such an inspiration to me today, and you are too. Thanks for sharing.

Darlene said...

Wow! I really needed that today, Sue. I am still dizzy!! I am truly beginning to think it will never go away this time. I think I have been feeling so sorry for myself that I haven't had time to think about anything else, and that truly is being selfish. I need to approach this will a whole new perspective and will truly try. Thanks for this.

anitamombanita said...

I, too, have taken my health for granted...mostly because I've just been so blessed to be so healthy. But even that has its limits as we begin to approach a different phase of life. I think it's then that we start to realize how much we take for granted and how "selfish" we can be. Sometimes it's a little hard to look in that mirror, but look we must.

Elder Groberg is a personal fave of mine, as you might know. He's full of wisdom and sensibility...not to mention that he's just a very very nice man with a wonderful wife who is of the same ilk.

Anyway, thanks for this post. Loved it.

Cherie said...

Words of Wisdom Sue.
I had alot of health problems in the past year. It was not fun. I am not a complainer by nature and I really keep things close, so most people never even knew I was struggling.
I have thought of that when I look back and wondered if that is healthy to do. I am just not the type to burden people - not even my family.
In a way I feel that, that was selfish because although you do not want to be a pain in people's behinds you do want to give others the chance to show love and to serve.
I also know that everything about my health is my own fault so I have guilt in there. Sigh...
There are so many facets to selfishness and selflessness but I love Elder Grobergs quote.
Thanks for sharing.

Dixie Mom said...

Yeah but....
My selfishness is stuck like glue. :)

karen said...

I like that, and I am going to do some more thinking about it. My thing is that I don't want to be defined by my disease, or my circumstance. If I can constantly strive to rise above and do more, or at least my best in each moment, I think I can leave the negativity behind. Some days are harder than others and no one is perfect, but we can do it! And the more we take control, the stronger we get. And the more we can do.

Grandma Honey said...

This reminds me of a quote I heard decades ago: "There you are, here you are." That we will be bringing ourselves with us to the "new" place so history is basically going to repeat itself. If we are happy here, we will be happy wherever we go.

Health problems though...those are huge challenges!

Tiffany said...

So wonderful to share...I love the part about reframing I could use a little of that almost every day.

Tiffany

Pondside said...

Reframing - such a good concept, but it has to be within the right context or all it is is change for the sake of change.

Brian Miller said...

i actually can relate to this...and your perspective on it solidifies it as well...the feeling sorry for yourself...it played a big role in my challenges coming back to lynchburg after finding myself out of ministry...i wanted to escape, move, get out and not have to face many of things i was being taught through it...

Ames said...

Hi Sue, I am awarding you The Versatile Blogger award because I love what you create with words. Stop by my blog and grab your award.~Ames

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

Thanks for this, Sue. Featured it at MW. :)

http://mormonwoman.org/2012/02/13/facing-health-problems-with-faith/

Health trials certainly provide lots of opportunities for reframing. I'm grateful when others with similarish struggles are willing to share their insights of what helps them through.

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