Learning to Live with Yourself
WOULD you try lifting a ten-ton boulder with your bare hands? Or would you attempt to memorize a thirty-volume encyclopedia? Either endeavor would, of course, be impractical. We readily admit that we have physical and mental limitations—at least when it comes to such colossal tasks.
Acknowledging limitations in other matters in everyday life, however, is not always easy. In fact, one of the greatest problems that many people have is learning to recognize their own limitations. Yet, unless a person does so, he cannot experience true satisfaction and happiness.
For instance, we need to realize that our demand for rest and sleep may differ considerably from that of others. Some adults do well with six hours of sleep nightly, or less, while others need nine or more. But, whatever requirements we have personally, it certainly is wise to get sufficient rest and sleep. Otherwise, we may experience energy loss or become nervous and find even normal activity to be difficult and unpleasant.
Similarly, not everyone feels the best when eating all the things that others enjoy. The amount of food needed also differs with individuals. So, in this and other ways, we act prudently if we learn our own needs and take care of ourselves, instead of doing things simply because others do them. Only then are we more likely to enjoy life.
As for personal abilities, there is much opportunity for development, and all of us can learn from others. But the fact remains that not everyone excels in every endeavor. How does that fact of life affect you? For example, someone you know may be an accomplished musician and you may not be. It is a great pleasure to hear him play, is it not? But is there any reason to be discouraged if you are unable to match your friend’s skill at music? Why, even under the influence of God’s holy spirit, not all persons in the early Christian congregation could do the same things.—1 Cor. 12:27-31.
Actually, the fact that not all individuals excel in the same things provides a basis for appreciating, for highly esteeming, our fellowman. We can enjoy and show gratitude for the work of an expert carpenter or stonemason, a fine seamstress or cook, or an accomplished musician, even if we are unable to do the same things that that one can accomplish. How rich and satisfying life is when we properly esteem the fine qualities and abilities of other people!
On the contrary, if we constantly endeavor to push beyond our capacities, we may ruin our health and thus impose even greater limitations upon ourselves. This might be illustrated by what sometimes happens to very ambitious individuals. Determined to become rich, a man may virtually slave for years, only to discover that he has ruined his health in the process. Perhaps he can now afford to buy good food in abundance. Nevertheless, as the Bible says: “The true God does not enable him to eat from it . . . This is vanity and it is a bad sickness.” (Eccl. 6:1, 2) What real satisfaction and happiness can a person have if he has driven himself to the point of illness only for things that are materialistic?
An individual like the one just described has ignored something very important. It is that human life should have a spiritual side to it. To enjoy true happiness, contentment and satisfaction, humans need to have a proper relationship with God. It has been said: “The fact that man, everywhere at all times, from the beginning to the present day, has felt the impulse to call upon something he believed to be higher and more powerful than himself, shows that religion is innate and should be scientifically recognized. . . . we should stand in awe, amazement and reverence to see the universality of man’s search for, and belief in, a supreme being.” (Man Does Not Stand Alone, by A. Cressy Morrison) A vital part of learning to live with oneself, therefore, should consist of acquiring and applying knowledge of God in one’s life. Jesus Christ truthfully said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matt. 5:3.
The person who really has learned to live with himself recognizes that, just as he needs food and rest, so too he has spiritual needs. As a result, he does not allow materialistic pursuits to crowd out spiritual interests. Such an individual agrees with Jesus Christ’s remark that “even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15 ) And the spiritually inclined individual can testify to the truthfulness and wisdom of the apostle Paul’s statement: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
Could you find contentment in pursuing such a course? It is true that individuals differ as to personal needs, and Jehovah God is not insensitive to this. He recognizes that there are differences among those worshiping him. God does not expect all of them to be alike or to accomplish the same amount in his service. The apostle Paul ‘labored in excess of all the apostles.’ (1 Cor. 15:9, 10) Apparently he had good mental ability, a fair measure of physical stamina and freedom from family responsibilities. Others could not do as much, perhaps because of various obligations, health limitations and the like. What does God require of each one? That they as individuals truly love him and faithfully do the will of God whole-souled.—Eph. 6:5, 6; Luke 10:26-28.
So, we can serve God acceptably despite our limitations. But that does not rule out the need to put forth unusual effort at times to achieve and maintain a satisfying relationship with Jehovah God. Thus one sixty-year-old man desiring to be baptized in symbol of his dedication to God underwent water immersion for that purpose while seated in a wheelchair. Another witness of Jehovah faced numerous trials during many years of illness prior to his death from cancer in 1974. Nonetheless, when partially disabled, he helped to construct a Kingdom Hall, a house of worship. Later, when confined at home because of his condition, he participated in the congregation’s Theocratic Ministry School by recording his Bible talks, which were then played at the meetings. This ailing Christian also found ways to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to others, and his spirit was such that visitors often remarked that he built them up more than they hoped to build him up.
Learning to live with ourselves, then, involves significant factors. It includes acknowledging our limitations, as well as taking care of ourselves. Especially vital is realizing our spiritual needs and even making unusual efforts that will enable us to enjoy a proper relationship with the Creator. Surely, such a course will result in the greatest contentment, satisfaction and happiness.