Like most behavioral traits, indeed, states of being, I became selfish over time. (By “selfish”, I mean a self-centeredness that rises above or, better, more accurately said, falls below that common human element of enlightened self-interest that manifests itself, for example, in taking flight in the face of danger, adopting a healthy lifestyle, or planning prudently for the future.)
Now, being selfish wasn’t my nature, for I don’t believe I was born that way. It was more a product of my nurture; though not necessarily by intent, nevertheless what I learned along the way.
My God-believing-and-fearing father and mother sought to instill in me the Christian value of self-sacrificial care for others. However, my parents, born in 1911 and 1915, respectively, came to maturity during the Great Depression and the specter of unmet want and need, I believe, continually clouded their vision. Despite the Christian gospel’s bright and daily call and challenge of the liberty of life abundant, my folks practiced a theology of scarcity. There never was enough. Money. Time. Ability. Opportunity. Anything. And whatever one possessed needed to be held, clutched lest it get (or be taken) away. As an outward manifestation of this worldview, my parents were hoarders or, using the more polite term, collectors. My father died in 1996. In 2010, I moved my mother into a care facility. Clearing and closing the home they had shared since 1952 was an arduous, weeks’ long exercise in trash disposal. And though rejecting their penchant for collecting everything, tending toward simplicity and neatness, I developed a strong me-first sensibility and a hyper-sensitivity to my wants and needs.
I now behold within my soul the long flowering and continual ripening of the healthy seeds of compassion and care, verily, love in kindly affection and altruistic action for others. This, the counterbalance to what I call my Pablo-centricism, also took time to develop. Principally through the grace and mercy of God and through the competence and benevolence of therapists, pastoral counselors, and spiritual guides and through my vocation (sometimes I muse that God called me to be a priest so to assure that I would be compelled to recognize and respond to the needs of others!) and through many, many charitable souls who, akin to God, in the words of the song, “looked beyond my fault and saw my need”, loving me to death and to new life.
More to come…
 He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need, Dottie Rambo (c. 1970)