Another year, another set of resolutions – promises we make ourselves that we swear to uphold for as long as possible. Isn’t that always the case for most of us? With the coming of a fresh new year, it seems like we can’t help ourselves from declaring to the world that “this is it, it’s going to be my year; I will make good on all my past mistakes and make my future better.” We tend to promise things like losing weight, decreasing debt, learning new things, or going to church more frequently – and whether you decide to go to a non-denominational church in Dubai or otherwise, all these “promises” boil down to one thing, and that is an urge to improve one’s self.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-improvement – and granted at times it can even help in the long run – but it’s also important to note that there are bigger things out there as well. While concentrating on one’s self seems like a natural thing to do, why not consider making promises this year that can help others instead?
Look around you – at your friends, your family, your neighbourhood, and your community – and try to spot things that need to be done. Ask yourself, “How can I help?” Or better yet, ask yourself “What breaks my heart?”
This is undoubtedly a difficult thought to muster an answer for, but the moment you do, you start to realize that everyone around you has needs of their own that you can’t do anything about and that you can’t fix all the wrongs of the world; while it may be disheartening to know that you can’t help everyone, take comfort in the fact that you can help someone. It might not be much, but there’s a reason why people don’t help as much as they can in the first place – because helping takes time, and money, and resources – some of which people deem to be better off spent on themselves. This is where self-improvement becomes a bit of an issue.
The problem with us humans is that we have an inherent sense of self-preservation; we’re naturally wired to think of ourselves and our kin more than we think of others. That’s not to say this trait is all bad, but it’s not all good either – because (and this according to Andy Stanley) “whoever devotes themselves to themselves will have nothing but themselves to show for themselves“, and the unfortunate truth is that most of the time we – as we are, no matter the degree of self-improvement we engage ourselves in – simply are not enough.
In order to follow Jesus, we must learn to discard this aspect of our humanity. Instead of always searching for self-improvement, instead learn to engage yourself in self-denial – that is, deny your urges that center on yourself and learn to submit yourself to another’s command. Jesus’ to be exact.
Giving to gain life
Why, then, submit yourself to Jesus? This is because he offers you a way to save you from yourself – he can pull you out of that seemingly infinite cycle of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Luke 14:25-27 says:
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
To be his disciple (and true follower), one had to be able to deny themselves; they had to submit themselves to Jesus and allow him to call the shots of their lives. Those in the crowd who followed him realized there was more to discipleship than simply following him around; it was also about allowing Jesus to be the supreme authority in their lives. By doing that, they gave their lives to something bigger – something more than themselves. It gave them purpose. By giving their lives to Jesus’ cause they gained more life in themselves – giving them fulfilment no amount of self-improvement could ever achieve.
Live a life of purpose
Purpose is an important aspect of life as it drives us to an end goal other than ourselves. It gives us something to do that actually matters. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get caught up in the troubles that come with daily life; most of the time we concern ourselves with no more than our bodies and our finances. In the end, though, if that’s all that we’ve accomplished then we’ve accomplished nothing.
Finding our purpose, helping others who are already helping, and making the world a better place isn’t so difficult as long as we overcome the initial fear of stepping out of our comfort zone. We must deny ourselves and instead pursue other goals. As Andy Stanley stated:
“If you devote yourself to more than yourself, you will have more than yourself to show for yourself.”
So this year, consider altering your new year’s resolution to improve those around you rather than focusing it on yourself. You’ll find that it’ll give you more self-satisfaction in the long run.
Remember: giving life begets it.