The past few weeks, my Bible Study group has been engaged in another wonderful study series. I particularly like this one because it focuses on my favorite definition of love, as found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.
Last night's focus was on envy and arrogance. I could probably write for ages on these two topics, especially considering I have often found myself comparing myself to others - most often wishing I could be as good as others, but also sometimes believing I'm better than others. But what really struck me was towards the end of the evening - a question in our guide asked us how letting others in keeps us from being arrogant.
Woah! I said What?! But... My Walls...
There was a lot of discussion and ideas. And then, without realizing what I was saying, I found myself spouting off about how keeping others out is arrogance in itself... in a way. Or, at least, that it was for me. Others were quick to defend my walls (or, perhaps their own), by saying that it isn't arrogance - it's self-preservation. I tried to explain where I was coming from, although I'm not certain why. I love my walls. I have comfortably hidden behind them for years (or, at least, until a couple years ago). But I found myself hesitantly stating that perhaps the rest of them were right.
This bothered me most of the night. An annoying voice kept chirping inside my brain that I was on the right track. That annoying voice kept repeating two things:
1) if we don't open up, at least a little, we cut ourselves off from being God's hands helping others; and we prevent others from being God's hands helping us;
2) words a wise man once told me - Sin is synonymous with selfishness.
My Definition of Self-Preservation
In my opinion, most of the time self-preservation is not wrong or selfish. When we're spiritually, emotionally, mentally, or physically not well, we need to take time for ourselves. We need to hide away for a bit to refill our own sanity and well-being. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it's a good thing. We cannot hope to help anyone if we have nothing left to give.
But, what I was talking about last night is how I am - or, was. It's how many who have been traumatically hurt, especially when it's a repeated offense, get. You see it often in those who have been abused, or who have constantly had people abandon them. The self-preservation isn't temporarily, nor is it discriminating. The walls created, though invisible, are usually made of the thickest, strongest material. No one gets in. Not even a little. They didn't even get to look through the window. Ever. I could know a person for years, but still not open myself up to them. As far as I was concerned, I was the only one I needed, the only one I could trust, and everyone else sucked.
Arrogance at It's Finest
... I was the only one I needed...
... everyone else sucked...
Essentially, despite my low self-esteem, I had determined I was better than everyone else (or, they weren't good enough). Yes, it was for self-preservation. It still is for self-preservation. But when I lock myself away behind those walls, with those thoughts, that is arrogance or pride. It is selfishness. It's protecting myself and determining I'm the only one who matters. It's keeping others at a distance regardless of whether or not they may need help.
And, it is not love. It keeps away love. It keeps away the ability to love, and to allow others to love.
What exactly is my point?
My point is that to love without arrogance or pride, we need retractable walls. We need to be able to have a safe place to hide away for awhile to re-energize ourselves. We need to be able to hide part of ourselves from others until we're able to determine how trustworthy they are.
But we also need to be able to come out from behind those walls, and give of ourselves. We need to be able to allow others to give to us. We need to stop being so arrogant as to assume we need no one else (especially Christ!). We need to stop being so selfish as to believe we are all that matters. We need people.
God cannot work through us if we're locked away behind thick steel. God cannot work through others to help us if we don't let those others in.