“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25, ESV).
Recently, the Lord led me through a self-preservation reflection. What is that? I’m glad you asked! Self-preservation is a barrier to healthy relationships, whether at work, at home, at school, on a team, at church, etc. When we act in our own best interests and go into cover your… eh, backside mode, we erode trust and degrade love. If we struggle to be honest about our weaknesses, people will struggle to place confidence in us. This is ironic because we think we’ll destroy their confidence by revealing our weaknesses. But our lack of vulnerability has the opposite effect we expect—it depletes confidence and trust, not builds it.
Self-preservation is also a sign of immaturity. When kids are young, they’re focused a lot on themselves and their needs. If a two-year-old sees another toddler with a toy she wants, she goes and takes it away, by force if necessary, without remorse for the other kid’s wailing and tears. When one of my preteen boys is hungry, he wants food… NOW—or “I think I’m going to starve to death.” But as we mature, we begin to develop a group identity and our thinking shifts from myself to my people.
Those who regularly live in self-preservation reveal a lack of maturity. Often this is context-specific. For instance, do you go into self-preservation mode with your spouse? Or at work? Or with a male authority figure? Are there certain subjects of conversation that send you spiraling into self-preservation? Where are the patterns, and what do those patterns reveal to you?
A few years ago, a pastor named Tom Nebel shared with me a simple little tool for identifying areas of self-preservation in your life. This is what the Lord brought me back to recently. Ask him to guide you through these simple questions.
- What am I afraid of losing?
- What am I trying to hide?
- What am I trying to prove? To whom?
These questions can bring powerful insight and self awareness. They’re also helpful in examining your heart when you’re in a conflict with someone or are experiencing stress that you can’t seem to nail down.
Spend some time reflecting and listening to the Lord, and write down what comes to mind. Then, share your thoughts with a close Christian friend and pray together. That’s what I did, and the Lord encouraged me greatly!