“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Life can be hectic. In the midst of our busy schedules, late nights, and early mornings, it can be hard to step back and think about others.
The thing about our time is that it is spent according to our priorities. If our priorities are all based on advancing ourselves, our career, or our bank account, it can seem like we don’t have any time for others. In reality, if we realize what stops us from doing good, we will be able to re-purpose our priorities and have the time we need to really do good in others lives.
I think most people would agree that doing good for others is a great idea. But actually doing good (i.e. taking action) tends to be harder than we think. Here are four things that can easily stop us from doing good along with some practicals to help overcome them.
Fear steals confidence. It steals vision. It steals purpose. Personally, my biggest fears include: fear of failure, fear of what other people are thinking, fear of the unknown, fear of chronic loneliness, and fear of the future. Take a second to think of your own biggest fears and how much they are able to control how you live your life. The only way to truly combat the fears that can bombard our hearts is to trust in God and get our daily dose of confidence from him.
The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.
Proverbs 29:25 MSG
Fear can be debilitating. Fear fuels doubt and in turn, stops us from doing things that we know are right. Sometimes, we just have to push ourselves to do things afraid. The experience of doing something that we have built up in our minds as impossible not only builds our confidence, but allows us to push ourselves into doing other things that make us afraid.
It only takes one time that we push ourselves to do something we are afraid of to begin the process of building our confidence. Strong confidence is not instant. You cannot will it into your personality. It is something that you build over time, something that you learn to value enough to work for. And in working for it, in fighting back against your fears, your confidence will indeed increase into something that you can draw from in order to really do good for others.
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo
Selfish ambition is when you work or strive for something that only benefits yourself. This can be how a lot of us live our lives. When we live for the next good grade, for the next paycheck, for the next raise, for praise from our boss, or praise from our parents, that is selfish ambition. When our “self” is constantly on our mind, there is no room for anyone else. The Bible talks about what happens when our minds are full of ourselves:
Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.
James 3:16 NCV
The Bible says that when we are full of selfishness, we will end up confused. For me, confusion that stems from selfishness manifests itself in my relationships. I can forget the most important things in my supposed best friends’ lives and then feel confused why they aren’t honest with me or why they don’t feel close.
Confusion that stems from selfishness is dangerous because it is hard to escape from. It is hard to notice the things you have trained yourself not to care about. It is hard to shift the focus off of yourself for enough time to notice that caring only about yourself isn’t actually achieving what you truly desire.
When we learn how to let go of our selfish ambition, our mind clears up from just ‘me, me, me’, and we are actually able to focus on other people’s needs and really do good in their lives.
“As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind, so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.”
Their pride is like a necklace. They put on meanness as if it were their clothes. Many sins come out of their hard and stubborn hearts. There is no limit to the evil things they can think up.
Psalm 73:6-7 NIRV
This Scripture says that pride makes you mean. It makes you nonrelational. The Scripture also says that pride makes our hearts stubborn. It causes us to do evil, mean things, and keeps a constant barrier between other people and ourselves. That barrier is what really stops us from doing good. When your heart is proud, you idolize yourself and your emotions. You think that you are the best in everything, and that everything you do, even though it most likely benefits you, is the best choice in that situation.
In order to let go of pride, we need to allow God to help us be humble.
Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.
Psalm 138:6 NLT
But they make themselves humble in my sight. They pray and look to me. And they turn from their evil ways. Then I will listen to them from heaven. I will forgive their sin.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIRV
God wants to teach us how to be humble. He wants us to pray to him and look for him. If we are able to let go of our pride enough to seek God, he will forgive the sins we have committed in our pride. And with this forgiveness, we will be able to remain humble enough to really do good for others.
“For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”
It is all too easy to fall into a lazy pattern of life, always wanting to sleep in, never having any schedule or any discipline, and only spending time on things that make us feel comfortable. In a lazy life pattern, Netflix becomes our closest friend, going out of the house becomes a dreaded chore, and even doing the things we needs to do such as making food can become tiresome. Living a lazy life leads to feeling tired all the time, being unaware of what is really going on in your heart, and makes us distance ourselves from people without even realizing we are doing so.
A lazy life is an empty life, but “early to rise” gets the job done.
Proverbs 12:27 MSG
The Bible has many different stories about people who lived the opposite of a lazy life. They lived a hard-working life where they sacrificed their time and energy for other people and had better lives because of it. Jesus is an incredible example of someone who lived a hard-working life. After his friend and cousin John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus still sacrificed his time and energy to feed five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:14-44 NLT). Instead of letting his emotions of sadness and grief take over his mind and make him lazy and distant, he decided to continue doing good for people.
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
Proverbs 6:6 NLT
Ants are extremely hard-working insects, they continuously work together with other ants in their farm to create a suitable living situation, and make sure they have enough food for everyone. They never give in to laziness, work tirelessly day and night, and sacrifice everything they have for the good of the other ants. Of course, it may seem weird to compare living our lives to the lives of ants, but the Bible wants us to examine their behavior and learn from it. The Bible wants us to realize that working hard and leaving our laziness behind isn’t something that only benefits us, it is supposed to benefit others. In benefitting others, we become part of something worth all of the effort.
“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.” -Anne Frank
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others.
Philippians 2:3 Voice
When you’re kind to others, you help yourself; when you’re cruel to others, you hurt yourself.
Proverbs 11:17 MSG
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
Matthew 22:37-40 MSG
Doing good for others shouldn’t be a dreaded burden that stops us from living the life we wanted to live or felt like living. Doing good for others should be something that refreshes your very soul, something that makes you more aware of who you are as a person and what you are going to do to change the world you live in for the short time you are in it. Doing good for others ultimately helps you. When we are willing to let go of the debilitating fear, the confusing selfish ambition, the vision-stealing pride, and the worthless laziness, we will be able to genuinely help others and do good in their lives.
“When I do good, I feel good.”