Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wife Rule #93: Overcome Selfishness

An acquaintance of mine was recently arrested on various charges, some of which had to do with the poor way he treated his wife. My first reaction to this news was great surprise; I didn't know this man well, but I had enough history with him to be surprised that his life had taken this dark turn.

Then came disgust, when I thought of what he had put his wife and children through; he took a sacred union, a marriage that had been created with vows of loyalty and respect and love, and had essentially dragged it through the mud, leaving it a tattered and broken shadow of what it once was.

And after this came feelings of sorrow--of pity, really--that this man had made choices that took him away from a place of peace and light and understanding, into the dark realm of utter selfishness, and the profound emptiness that always accompanies it.

How could he do this? I kept asking myself. How could a man who has once tasted the sweetness of love and companionship, who has willingly taken on the responsibility of fathering children, who has spent years providing for and protecting his family, end up in a situation where he is so consumed with himself that he would sacrifice all that ought to be most dear to him--his family--on the altar of selfishness?

It appears that this man currently thinks of his wife as merely a tool to be used for whatever selfish purpose he wants. This objectification of his wife--and by extension, of women in general--flies in the face of what marriage, companionship, and love are all about. Maybe because I have found such joy and satisfaction in my own marriage, the dominant feeling that has stayed with me after several weeks of mulling this over in my mind is one of pity.

I pity this man. I pity his wife. I pity his innocent children. I pity all those who have bought into the great lie that the pursuit of pleasure is man's purpose in life. I pity those who find themselves in a position of such intense selfishness that they are unable to experience the pure, simple sweetness of real love.

They are like the drug addict who is so set on getting his next fix that he is literally unable to enjoy the scents and tastes of delicious food; the sounds of beautiful music; the sights of mountains and trees and flowers; the joys of friendship and true, sincere companionship. All that matters is the drug.

In other words, their minds, souls, and even senses are stunted, seared, and pushed aside for their all-consuming quest of chasing the illusion that happiness is found through self-indulgence. When they finally realize they have followed a mirage into a vast desert of emptiness, their only trail back is to follow the ashes they left behind them: the wasted remnants of lost joys and opportunities and potential, which will haunt them long after they have finally given up the fruitless chase, which they always eventually do.

I pity the day when millions of men will someday wake up from the thoughtless, staggering stupor they wander the earth in, and realize that they have blown their one and only chance to experience the highest, and noblest, and by far the most satisfying of human emotions, love.

Love can only be found in the giving of self freely. Love can only be found by thinking more of the welfare of others that of self. Love can only be found by following the divine pattern laid out by the Author of Love, who spent and gave up His very life to save a world who largely ignores, or openly spurns Him. Love can only be found in the selflessness embodied by God Himself.

And love is within the reach of every man. Everyone can learn selflessness; everyone can learn to love. Even my acquaintance, who has descended so far into the darkness, can resurface and repair that which he has broken.

Even those of us who have tasted the bitter fruits of selfishness need not let that be the last taste that lingers forever on our tongues. Our God has given us brains and knowledge and the choice of a better way. He has even paid for our mistakes, giving us the power to purge our lives of selfishness, if we will only sign our debt over to Him and trust in Him. Now it's up to us to do it.

2 comments:

Mom said...

Wow, Matt you really know how to tell it like it is and to express yourself so beautifully. You described the tragedy in our world so well. Thank you for saying it for the rest of us.

Shell said...

Matt, I admire you so much for seeing this subject as it really is. Ditto to what :mom: said.