Forgetful. That’s me! The thing that drives me crazy about being forgetful is that I can’t remember what I forgot! How about you?
I forget my kids’ names. I forget phone numbers and appointments and birthdays. So, I write down all that important stuff (not my kids names, I really do know those) and then I forget where I put the paper. Girl, it’s bad sometimes!
But, there is one thing I never — no never — forget. And I need to…me. Yep, I always remember to think of my wants, my issues and my opinions!
Yet, I want to be forgetful when it comes to me. I want to grow in self-forgetfulness because when I am the most self-forgetful, I am the most happy.
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And that is true for you too, my friend. When you are not the first and biggest thing on your mind, you are the happiest, too.
So how do we do that in real life? In an everyday, practical sort of way, how can we reduce our self-focus and increase our self-forgetfulness? Well, these are three habits I am trying to form to help me, and I think they will help you, too.
Habit 1: Acknowledge “I”
Pay attention to how often you think or say “I.”
Self-focus is a habit. We come by it naturally but it is supernatural to leave that habit behind.
Now, do not misunderstand. You absolutely should think “I” thoughts — that is healthy. But having an overabundance of “I” thoughts, and having them in exclusion of any “God” or “others” thoughts, isn’t healthy.
Ask God to awaken you to how often you think and say “I.”
“I like…” “I want…” “I think…” “I wish…” “I feel…”
Then, turn your “I” statement into a question.
Here’s an example:
You think, “I can’t believe she said that to me! I feel so offended. I feel so insulted right now that I want to throw a pity party where I am the guest of honor and I eat all the cake while I complain about how I am mistreated.”
That was a whole lot of “I” wasn’t it?
Instead, you could ask the question, “What would Jesus do if the woman who just insulted me insulted him?”
Or ask, “could she be having a bad day and her behavior has nothing to do with me?” Or, “How can I rise above my feelings and be kind to her right now?”
You get the idea. Training your brain to not think “I” first will keep you from ending up alone on your own “I-land” of discontent.
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Habit 2: Substitute “I” With “God”
If you realize you have a whole lot of “I” statements swirling in your brain and escaping through your lips, counter them with “God” statements.
When you say “I feel,” follow it with, “God says.” For example, following a statement like, “I feel like no one cares about me” with, “God says He cares about me so I can cast my cares upon Him.”
When you can’t get beyond “I want” thoughts, follow them with “God gives” statements.
For example, when you think, “I want relief from this heaviness” follow it with, “God gives me a garment of praise to wear when I feel this heaviness.”
Or, if you find yourself thinking, “I want what I want when I want it” you can follow that with “God gives me what I need in His perfect timing.” You get the idea.
Oh girl, I’m not saying this is easy — it isn’t. But it is possible. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
With God’s help, you can train your heart, mind, and spirit to follow your “I” statements with “God” statements. Eventually, you will develop the habit of thinking “God” along with “I” — and that is when you begin to experience the freedom of self-forgetfulness.
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Habit 3: Consider Others
Paul wrote, “In humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). But, he didn’t tell anyone to disregard or devalue themselves. The verse doesn’t say we ignore our legitimate needs or treat ourselves as if we don’t matter.
The point Paul was making was to focus on other’s interests, not just your own. I love how The Message says it: “Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:4 MSG).
When we think this way about others, we forget to think so much about ourselves and our issues.
One of my friends has done this, and it has helped her so much. She was struggling with loneliness and rejection because her husband of 20 years walked out on her.
She started volunteering at a teen homeless shelter and weekly served meals and helped them with their laundry. Most importantly, she just hung out with them. It helped her shift her gaze from her own problems and get a broader view; it helped keep her own pain in perspective.
As we see others’ needs as important, ours morph into their proper size.
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When we begin to replace “I” thoughts with “God” thoughts, it does result in us thinking less about ourselves and more about the Lord and others.
And when we are more focused on others and their needs, we become less focused on our own. There really is healing and freedom when the letter “I” shrinks in size.
Making these mental, spiritual, and emotional shifts won’t create a utopia of perfect happiness, but doing so truly will help us to not be the first and biggest thing on our minds — and when that happens, so does happiness.
What about you? What habits do you have in place to keep your “I” in perspective?