Forget Thyself

From Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

The self-forgetful person would never be hurt particularly badly by criticism. It would not devastate them, it would not keep them up late, it would not bother them. Why? Because a person who is devastated by criticism is putting too much value on what other people think, on other people’s opinions. The world tells the person who is thin-skinned and devastated by criticism to deal with it by saying, ‘Who cares what they think? I know what I think. Who cares what the rabble thinks? It doesn’t bother me.’ People are either devastated by criticism — or they are not devastated by criticism because they do not listen to it. They will not listen to it or learn from it because they do not care about it. They know who they are and what they think. In other words, our only solution is to low self-esteem is pride. But that is not a solution. Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us.

The person who is self-forgetful is the complete opposite. […] Friends, wouldn’t you want to be a a person who does not need honour — nor is afraid of it? Someone who does not lust for recognition — nor, on the other hand, is frightened to death of it? Don’t you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not admire what they see but does not cringe either? Wouldn’t you like to be the type of person who, in their imaginary life, does not sit around fantasizing about hitting self-esteem home-runs, daydreaming about successes that gives them the edge over others? Or perhaps you tend to beat yourself up and be tormented by regrets. Wouldn’t you like to be free of them? Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success. Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy as if you have done it yourself — because you are just so happy to see it.

You will probably say that you do not know anybody like that. But this is the possibility for you and me if we keep on going where [St. Paul is going in 1 Corinthians 3:21 – 4:7].

When I first read Keller’s book a year or so ago (which is very short and only takes about 20 minutes), I found myself hungering for this experience of inner freedom. I read the book three times in a row, and picked it up again this week and devoured it. It’s even more poignant now to me than it was before.

Source: From the cover of The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.