Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pretty is as pretty does

Sometimes kindness is just selfishness in a pretty dress. My dad used to say, "Pretty is as pretty does," which besides being a Peachism (my father's words of wisdom, usually borrowed from a tv show or movie, such as one of his favorites, "Take care of you," from Pretty Woman) didn't make much sense to me when I was young. Now, I see examples of that quite a bit. Beautiful people doing ugly things. Good people doing bad things. Friends and family gossiping about each other. Christians taking the Bible out of context to spread hate.

A friend of mine told me recently that the Catholic church had done an investigation into nuns and found many of them unfit. Apparently, they were putting too much energy into such trivial tasks as caring for the poor and spreading love and peace rather than following their calling by the Catholic church--to stand up against abortion and gay marriage. The pastor at our non-Catholic church advises that we should strive to be remembered for what we love, not for what we hate.

Despite my efforts to do good, to serve, to follow Jesus, in the last two weeks, two people defriended me. Not just in the facebook sense, but in a real, "It's been nice knowing you," sense. These were people I know and love and who know me better than most everyone in my life. Granted, I've tried very hard over the past year to put my faith in God and not be unhinged by people who don't like me, but that makes a person wonder, "What am I doing wrong?"

As it is, I really don't have relationships with my siblings other than the occasional phone call or text. I love them, but I don't really know them that well. Sometimes I wonder if it's because our shared history is so pain-filled that it's easier to remain distant. Whatever the reason, we're not close. I find out things about them on facebook, just like the people I went to high school with and haven't seen for twenty years.

So all of this brings me to selfishness and a book I'm reading that has really opened my eyes. How even the kindest gestures can be motivated by selfishness, if we perform them with the hope or expectation of reward or recognition. Many times, I have done something for someone and felt hurt later when it seemed my efforts went unnoticed or unappreciated. Selfish. Many times, I've helped a stranger and then told somebody. Selfish. Many times I've felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and left out. Selfish. Basically any time our heart is motivated by anything other than bringing glory to God through our actions, we are acting out of selfishness. And it's really easy to tell exactly where your heart is.

When I let a person pull out in front of me and they don't wave a thank you, I think: Rude. When I give my time or energy to a person, and only to find out when I need them, they have no time for me, I think: Self-absorbed. When I clean the house, and the kids promptly make a mess, I think: Ungrateful. What does all of this say? That I surround myself with selfish people? No. It says that all too often my motivation is myself not God. I am not serving others to bring glory to God, I'm serving to fulfill my own needs and desires.

People have said that about my blog. They've called me egotistical and said I post it so that I can revel in the compliments. If that were the case, today, as I'm analyzing my heart's motivation, I would delete it and never share it again. But I can honestly say, I share it because I hope that maybe someone, somewhere will read it and feel understood, feel hope, feel the desire to get closer to God, and pass that on to someone else.

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