Rick Warren’s mega-bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, begins with these simple words: “It’s not about you.”
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember the rest of the book. But I remember those four words. And I need that reminder on a daily basis.
As discussed in the previous post, when Paul says that love isn’t jealous or envious (1 Cor 13:4), the background idea is that desire can be directed in loving and unloving ways. The unloving way, of course, makes it all about me, about compensating for and correcting anything in my life that feels like a deficit. Our self-centered desires take many forms, from angling for power and prestige to fishing for compliments.
But let me be clear. I am not saying that people can be divided up into two categories, the good and the evil, the loving and the unloving. I believe that our self-centeredness is rooted in sin. But I also believe that a robustly biblical understanding of sin includes all the forms of brokenness we suffer because of imperfect relationships.
Sometimes, we fail to love well because when we were helpless and dependent on others, they did not love us well. We become wary and self-protective, often with particular areas of sensitivity in which we’re too easily rubbed the wrong way.
None of that is meant as an excuse. It is, however, the reality in which we live this side of the new heaven and new earth for which we wait. God has called us to love, not to earn his favor, but to demonstrate that his Spirit is in fact loose in the world, here and now, embodied in a people who know that there is another Way.
Love isn’t envious or jealous. Put differently: it’s not about me and it’s not about you.
Perhaps you know that unloving impulse. As a public speaker, for example, I’ve envied the eloquence of others: their ability to turn a phrase, their easy humor, everything from their timing and delivery to the content of the message. And sometimes, skulking alongside that genuine admiration is the thought: Hey, look at the attention s/he’s getting from the audience. I want some of that. Or worse: Hey, I deserve some of that, because I could do better.
In such moments, the Holy Spirit often whispers, “It’s not about you.”
And sometimes, thanks be to God, I even listen.