This is part 3 of a 5 part series. This series was written for my friends in the cardiac-rehab program at Valley Regional Hospital.
The Principle of Self-denial
Closely related to the one-another principle is the principle of self-denial. Human beings are basically selfish. We spend our day seeking to satisfy our self. Some ways in which we satisfy ourselves are totally necessary for our survival. We need to satisfy our hunger and warmly clothe ourselves when we are cold. There are other ways we seek to satisfy ourselves which are not necessarily important. Seeing the football game on Sunday is not necessary. Being first in line to purchase the latest product release or to talk to the bank-teller or to get a burger at the fast-food chain are not necessary. Having expectations of giving a picture perfect, flawless weather, excellent reception, and beautiful ceremony for your daughter’s wedding may be placing an unnecessary high-expectation on being satisfied when just being happy your daughter found someone who will love and care for her may be enough.
We expect our satisfaction. When someone or something steps into our path and delays or prevents our satisfaction, we get all bent out of shape.
We want to get to work on time, but we keep getting red lights. Each red light increases our stress until the end of the commute, we are ready to explode. Deny your urgency, and replace it with patience. Leave earlier in the morning. Deny yourself the five minutes of alarm snoozing or the late show on television the night before.
It’s funny how we take a stressful job situation because we like the extra money and then we use the extra money to buy the extra nice car we stress about getting scratched. Do not lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves may break in and steal.
We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about our reputation and our image. We are overly concerned with how others think about us and how they perceive our economic status, our social status, our intelligence, our clothing, our physical appearance, and so forth. We think a lot about pleasing ourselves and being happy. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Which of us by worrying can add any measure to our height? Why do we worry about clothing? God clothes the rest of nature, He will also clothe us.
How much of our stress is caused by worrying about the future? Why do we worry about things which haven’t even happened yet? The majority of the time, we find we worry about future events and when the day of the event arrives, we find out it wasn’t bad after all. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient are the troubles of today.
Let’s look at this principle from another angle. What is our response to difficult situations? Let’s ask ourselves, “When I am stressed in a situation, when I am not being satisfied for some reason, what is it I want I am not getting?” What is this thing I want so badly I get angry, treat others unkindly, and I become a difficult person to be around? We get stressed out at people like the waitress, the guy in the other vehicle who just cut us off, or my family member who lost the remote to the television. If we can gain a proper perspective of life, we will not react negatively or let these events bother us. Instead, we will “roll with the punches” and not let the little things in life get under our skin. We need an eternal perspective, a big-picture view.
To deny ourselves, we put others first. We give others first place and don’t care so much if we are second or third. When we deny ourselves, we don’t seek too hard with an unhealthy ambition for life’s creature comforts and instead become content with what we are given. When we deny ourselves, we don’t get angry and say, “I deserve better treatment than this, after all, I’m the customer.” Instead, we patiently wait for the person behind the sales counter to fix their error, and we smile and thank them because we know we also made a few mistakes along the way.