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Self Absorbed

Updated on February 2, 2018
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Among his varied other writing interests, Richard Parr aspires to creating interesting and inspiring stories about life.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than you, each looking out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

— The Bible

Imagine a World in Which Nobody Lived For Themselves

So much of how we experience the human condition is in direct correlation to how self absorbed we are.

Imagine a world in which nobody lived for themselves. Not slaves, or robots, or by any external means prevented from selfish self-seeking, but simply they'd determined that the best way to live was in the elevating and serving of others; though I suppose in one sense that could be said to be self-seeking, in that they lived by a rule that also proved best for themselves (though not to do so could be interpreted more foolish than selfish).

But imagine such a world.

I can only imagine it by considering those I already see living it; my wife for example (and many other mothers I know - selfless creatures). Rising early to care for their children (and we husbands), putting their own cares out of mind as they pursue ours.

However, the image quickly deteriorates with the children’s rising (not to mention my own). For our response is often far from grateful; in fact it’s often downright selfish; almost a taking advantage of another’s selflessness. Too rarely is it reciprocated in kind.

“More toast please [now]”; “Mummy I don't want this [perfectly tasty food] for breakfast, I want cornflakes [and I'll pout and fuss until I get it]”; “Honey, could you make me a cup of coffee while you’re up, thanks.”...

Sound familiar.

Imagine now, that the mother rose to serve her family only to find that those same children (stretch your mind here), and her husband (OK, this is maybe too much of a paradigm shift) were instead making her breakfast, had laid out her clothes and were considering how they might make her day fun and enjoyable... Hmmm (NB: Mothers day and birthdays doesn't count).

A world in which everyone went about considering others best interests before their own. Now there’s a thought!

Of course, there are a hundred and one reasons (excuses) we can all think of why this doesn’t and can’t happen... but what would be the consequences if we did?

I can't help but think how fewer problems there would be; and in no area more-so than mental health.

Ironically, I think, it is our very self interest that feeds the root of our greatest harm.

How much does our self-absorbed mindset impact upon our mental/emotional/spiritual well-being?

How much of the pain we experience internally is the consequence of selfish ambition and vain conceit.

Like most, I too have experienced extreme and dismally extended lows, those unwanted negative emotions of life (after all, such is common to man). However, I've also travelled far enough through my life to see that beneath much of the blaming, victimisation, guilt and regret, lies a hidden black root, a reason to why we fall so easily and rise so slowly (if at all) from such pain – SELF ABSORPTION.

How Strong The Narcissistic Tendency Can Be Within Us

I once caught one of my children practicing their woe-is-me face in the bathroom mirror. They had previously been reprimanded and had run off in a huff of screams and indignation at such mistreatment by their parents. The wailing and bemoaning had gone on for some time, beyond what I thought sufficient to alert the neighbourhood (which I assumed was their intent), and I’d gone to investigate.

Of course, I'd thought to find my child face down in a pillow, tears streaming and contorted expression of misery. Instead I found a child so engrossed in the sound they were making and the face they were pulling, they’d lost themselves to the reason that led to it; even failing to notice that I stood behind them, watching. In hindsight it was very comical; but it did reinforce how strong the narcissistic tendency can be within us, that we can so easily lose reason and perspective when looking overly long in the mirror.

And while we're talking about self-reflection; ever been into a Hall of Mirrors? A maze wherein everywhere you turn is only seen a manifestation of yourself and your world, and to escape requires discerning what is real from what is seen.

Whichever way you turn or look, you can't be certain what’s real

If you spend all your time looking at yourself, your ability to move forward is blocked, for you have no true idea where to turn (is it his left or mine). Life becomes unnavigable when we keep looking at ourselves for a point of reference (it is not within man to direct his own steps); especially when our orientation is from the bottom of a hole. Of course, if we want to stay in the hole, then a mirror is all we need.

Self-absorption, as the word should imply, will eventually only suck you in, leaving a dry, joyless, husk.


Now there is a wonderful Christian acronym.

J esus
O thers
Y ourself

Non Christians may gag, but found within this simple three letter sermon is the most fundamental truth ever written for humanities wellbeing.

The deepest joy I have experienced and the sincerest joy I have witnessed in others, is when love for God has motivated an act of love for others and resulted in a sense of fullness within the one loving.

However, before JOY can truly mature and thrive, it requires we tackle, and also takes great pains, to breaking away from its nemesis in our lives; S.A.D

S elf
A ddict
D isorder

When my modus operandi stems from a love of someone outside myself, I find joy. If that source is another person, then I can experience a certain level of joy (hence why marriage, children, and friendships are so valued), but if that source is God, I can experience the greatest joy, for he is the source of it, and the greatest motivation for me to give of myself to others.

On the flip-side if I operate from a position of self-centredness, in the end I will only rob myself of true joy. I may mistake some things for joy along the way, such as power, lust, thrills, passion, covetousness ... but these also are empty husks, neither as lasting or fulfilling as true JOY; and from a source that can be quite opposed to God’s will.

I have yet to meet anyone that did not suffer from the S.A.D complex to some degree, though I have met many in whose life it was a diminishing problem.

There are far more, however, and I speak of Christians here (for who am I to judge those outside the church), who seem to have muddled the two acronyms together. They are attempting to experience JOY using the SAD philosophy. They acknowledge that Jesus is the answer; they admit that the ways of the world are not just SAD but SIN... yet then they go and (Enthusiastically and willingly it seems) involve themselves with it; either at a distance, admiring what they see; filling their minds with what “leads to death”; or just as SAD, committing it themselves.

Then they are surprised at the ensuing SADness in their lives; a result, at least in part, of their own self-absorbed interests at the expense of Christ in their lives.

What is it you seek? JOY or SADness? What do you believe will get you from one to the other?

SIN is something that will impact us throughout our lives, however, our success at overcoming it and moving toward greater Christ-likeness has much to do with the degree of the J.O.Y or S.A.D attitude we foster; and that begins with trusting God, believing he knows best and has your best interests foremost at heart.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, "Whoever would love life and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

© 2010 Richard Parr


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    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      9 years ago from Australia

      @jimagain ~ great comment Jim. Yes, I too have been a sorry victim of my own selfish-interests, which is why I felt inclined to write this hub. Enjoy reading your hubs mate.

    • jimagain profile image

      Jim Henderson 

      9 years ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      My turn to comment! Nothing seems to be more miserable than to place your happinesss above others. Having been a victim of self-inflicted misery in the past, I've found I can never succeed at staying depressed when I put others ahead of my own self-interests. Your acronym for SAD is so true, especially when I see so many people trying to find happiness in the same empty manner. How much needless strife we subject ourselves too!

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      9 years ago from Australia

      @stessily ~ Thank you for stopping by and for leaving such a lovely comment.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      An amazing harmony (my word for synchronicity) just occurred. As I started reading this hub, the CD I'm listening to, Whisper to the Wild Water, by Moya Brennan (Enya's sister) began playing Moya's composition, "Peacemaker," which gives St. Francis' great prayer in English and Gaelic. I learned so much from this hub; you have such a compelling writing style --- honest, funny, thought-filled, creative. (I love the part about catching one of your children practicing the "woe-is-me face in the bathroom mirror"!) I wish that I could write so movingly about my less-than-stellar moments.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      9 years ago from Australia

      @LisaMarie ~ Thank you, I've enjoyed reading several of your poems too.

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 

      9 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Simply Beautiful

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @UlrikeGrace ~ I think in a few paragraphs you managed to sum up my entire hub perfectly. I really am glad your back amongst us Grace, you have such a sincerity of heart and beauty of spirit. God bless

    • UlrikeGrace profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      Ah yes Parrster...the disease of self-absorption...of wanting to be the center...of wanting to believe the original lie Satan ever told...if you eat this you'll be like God...and from there we have battled ever since. I loved your story your child watching himself/herself having a tantrum in front of the mirror...oh how much are we like this but would never dare to admit it!

      The joy of the Lord is our strength and without it I don't know how we could go on...not surface happiness but the deep seated joy of the Lord...that causes us to smile at His comfort, encouragement, or love when we least expect it. That is grace.

      Thanks for the thoughts and the reminder to look up and not in...when when we do have to look in.

      Blessings and grace in His mercy Ulrike Grace

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @Kristeen ~ Thank you for your kind comment and I am so pleased you were encouraged by it. Your malady is one shared by several great biblical characters (as well as humble old me). Anything that gets us to look up and outward has ultimately accomplished a good thing. The mental anguish and heart pain of depression is something I too have come to hand over to God whenever it arrives; no less an act of faith, I think, than entrusting any other part of ourselves to him - though more difficult than most non-sufferers may realise. Keep up the good fight - God bless.

    • Kristeen profile image


      10 years ago from Michigan

      What an awesome hub! It is very uplifting to myself who suffers depression at times. When depression episodes arrive, prayer and the word helps to turn me outward to my Savior who is the source of all goodness, love and happiness. The Bible reference fits perfectly also. I gave it a very definite "up" vote and marked it useful, awesome and beautiful. I plan to continue reading your hubs/books.

      God's blessings to you!


    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @tonymac ~ And isn't selfishness the heart of most our problems. Great comment. thx

      @CMCastro ~ Great to hear from you. Yes, the use of mirror analogies are often to be found. Even the bible is referred to as a mirror (in James for example); a mirror we can walk away from being changed or walk away and forget what we saw. All the best.

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 

      10 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      Thanks for your unique way of looking at things. I have had the experience of being with out a mirror for several days due to home renovation which is a challenge to judging my appearance. So I use my instincts to trust my personal appearance to the eye of the beholder (haha).

      I also made an observation in the home of my Jewish Aunt.

      When her husband passed away, the tradition in her home was to cover every mirror in the house during the time of mourning (called a shiva). During the funeral I observed that my Aunt did not comb her hair nor even wear makeup.

      Personally, I respond to an inner satisfaction to my

      Spiritual connection- a relationship with the Lord in

      my private time, because I know His approval of me will

      never fail. If I focused on the negative all the time

      I would look SAD and have no hope of tomorrow. I rather

      would Celebrate: that is a response to JOY, the Jesus in me. Thanks for your Hub, Parrster.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Great Hub - service is very important for growing ourselves and the society in which we live. It is selfishness that destroys.

      Thanks for sharing

      Love and peace


    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @equealla ~ Thanks for this great comment. I agree, taking time out to recoup and refresh is essential; even Christ did this (although even in His re-energising, it was to the end that he might better serve God and others, and not so much himself - a stark contrast to why many of us take time-out). I suppose my main point was not that we love others at the exclusion or neglect of ourselves, but that when it comes to making a decision that benefits first ourselves or others, we choose others (Christ dieing on the cross was the perfect example). Personally, I do not think such selflessness can be maintained for long on our strength alone... Thanks for stopping by.

    • equealla profile image


      10 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I agree 100% in the joy obtained when serving. But we need to have the time to love ourselves as well. If we cannot like ourselves, how on earth will we be able to love another. (Love your neighbour as yourself)

      To love myself, I need a pinch of time to spend with me, myself and I. We have issues to sort out. This is self absorbed I know. But sorry I need it, for my sanity.

      Suppose that is the difficult part of being human, is to find the balance. By the way, I adore your kids. They "KNOW" their parents very well! lol ( Don't they all?)

      Good article to make one ponder about the ultimate possibilities.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @Pamela99 ~ great comment. Yes, it is simple. I've found in my life, though, that our choices can complicate things and distance us from simple truth, sometimes to such an extent that finding our way back is a complex maze.

      @Kaie Arwen ~ So true. The bottom line of faith is letting go of self. Naivety is a small problem when resting in God's palm. Thanks for commenting.

      @valerieblew ~ Hope you didn't find this hub overly simplistic Val. Your experience with addicts has likely proven the depths to which people can become lost in themselves and the complexity of recovery. I'm thinking of do a part 2 that further addresses the darker side of self-absorption. Thanks for commenting.

      @springboard ~ I think I get your meaning. I suppose I'm really addressing motive here. Deeds can be done for many reason, but it is the motive that will ultimately determine the type of reward. Thanks for stopping by as always

      @billyaustindillon ~ That's an interesting comment. I suppose part of my point is guarding the extent to which we look inward and the motive behind that inward look. Too often it seems that ill-guided and prolonged introspection only accomplishes to dig a deeper pit for oneself... but that's a another story.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      10 years ago

      This hub provokes looking inward and a realization of ones self absorption and the frailty that impounds - great work. St FRancis is a perfect inspiration for enabling this introspection.

    • Springboard profile image


      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      In a way, even being concentrated on the needs of others is self-absorbent, as it means that you MUST feel the level of self-importance...

      To serve because to not means the world would surely fall apart.

      Not to diminish the rationales of mothers and wives. But, you know...

    • valeriebelew profile image


      10 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      It is true that the times I've felt the most full have been the times I've gone out of my way to do something important for somebody else. great topic. (: v

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      10 years ago

      This was great........... even at the worst of times I am naive and optimistic; faith conquers all things!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Parrster, This was a truly inspirational hub with so much truth, It really is quite simple; you have a choice between joy and sadness. Jesus brings me peace and joy and I wouldn't want to live any other way. Rated up!


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