If there is one thing about the spiritual life of which I am thoroughly convinced it is the direct correlation between growth and the negation of self. The self is characterized by our actions. Actions arise from our being. What we do springs from what we are. So, if we want a good assessment of ourselves, we should step back and take a good look at what we are doing. How much of what we do is self-serving? If it is almost everything, then we are selfish and stunted.
I am convinced that this is true, but there is a subtle facet of this that gnaws at me. If Yogi Berra were to put it in words it would probably come out something like: ‘it’s awfully selfish to be so selfless.’ What this expresses is another aspect of the “saving myself” mentality by which we so erroneously become entrapped. The fallacy is in thinking there is anything we ourselves can do to save ourselves. All we can do is love. And the less self there is in love the truer and purer it is. When we work to diminish ourselves in order to save ourselves there is still too much self-concern and self-serving involved. But when we desire to jettison those aspects of what the self does that bars You from shining through us (in other words Love with a capital “L”)we’re on the right track because it’s about what You want not what we want.
I truthfully see times in my own life where my desire to be selfless is generated by selfish motives. This is the dross which must be slowly purged. We are often blinded by its subtlety. How easy it is to fall into unselfishness in order to get to heaven, and how subtle is the error!
What we must come to understand is that the losing of self is not about gain but rather about disposing ourselves to that for which we exist. It is, in the mystical sense, what Marsha Sinetar calls “self-transcendence.” Learning self-transcendence with everything else going on around us and in us is an inch-by-inch process and may never be 100% devoid of some form of self-interest. It is our nature and, because of that, we fight against that which we are. But it is the fight that is our concern, not the outcome.