De Mello: Selfish
“Part of waking up is that you live your life as you see fit. And understand: That is not selfish. The selfish thing is to demand that someone else live their life as YOU see fit. That’s selfish.” Anthony de Mello, Awareness, Daily Words, Inwardoutward.org, June 22, 2015
Anthony de Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest who also was a psychotherapist who died too young in 1987 but whose spiritual writings still speak clearly to us today. I think de Mello is trying to tell us that loving others means allowing, supporting them to be the person God created them to be. Self-love or selfishness is wanting others to be the person we want them to be. This is a constant struggle because “we are so wise and have such good ideas!” Sometimes we want others to live a certain way to live out a life along a path that we were not able to live. Other times it is a control issue thinking we know what is best. We struggle with this form of selfishness with our children, our grandchildren, our students, our partners, our friends, almost any relationship.
Of course, this also can be a hurdle to overcome in spiritual direction, wanting our spiritual friends to live a certain form of spirituality, especially the spiritual life that has worked for us. Spiritual direction is a two-way street. It is like teaching or any form of mentoring. If we are not learning from our spiritual friends as well as sharing with them, we become even more self-absorbed in our own knowledge and experience. We must constantly remember that it should be the Holy Spirit present with us in spiritual direction, guiding and teaching us as well as our spiritual friends.
My experience is that two things are helpful. First, trying to live the Serenity Prayer, knowing we can only change ourselves and not others. God is the one who makes the change. We are to sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to bring about changes.
The second is awareness, awareness when we think we know what is best and start planning the agenda of others and not allowing them to become the person the Christ, the Spirit within is leading them to be.
I am counting on the Holy Spirit to bring in de Mello holding up a big stop sign with SELFISH written all over it when I become aware of when I am doing this.
Next, we are to turn around and prayerfully and humbly ask God to transform that selfish energy directed at others into energy for the Christ within us to continue creating us to become the person God birthed us to be.