Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. –Philippians 2:4
One day, a centipede walked by a tree where a wise old owl was perched. The owl asked the centipede, “You have so many legs! How do you know which one to move next?” The centipede froze in his tracks. He started thinking. He didn’t know which leg to move so he couldn’t move any. He cried to the owl, “Help me! I’m stuck!” The owl said, “My little friend, you are stuck because you are too focused on yourself. When you are focused on what is going on in the world around you, you have no thoughts about how to move. You simply move.” The centipede looked out to the horizon and saw the sun setting. “How beautiful,” the centipede said. Just then, his legs were freed and he began to walk again.
It’s been reported that Dr. Karl Menninger, a famous psychologist, once gave a lecture on mental health. During a question and answer session that followed his lecture, he was asked, “What advice would you give someone who felt a nervous breakdown coming on?” He replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need and do something to help that person.”
Both the story and anecdote above remind me that when we focus on ourselves–on our problems and circumstances–we can become inwardly paralyzed, preventing us from being everything that God intends for us to be, including serving others effectively. We can freeze in our own tracks.
Following Christ is not primarily an exercise in introspection, but rather of reaching out to others and lovingly serving them in His name. In times when I’ve been in tough situations, or have felt sorry for myself for some reason, I’ve experienced release from my anxiety by changing my focus to others and getting myself involved in serving. Routine self-evaluation is healthy. An obsession with self is not.
Today, if you are feeling paralyzed by the weight of a difficult personal situation, I encourage you to shift your focus from yourself to the Son and find someone you can serve in His name. The weight will seem lighter and you will start moving again.
1. What situations in your life have pulled your focus away from God and onto yourself?
2. What action can you take to help you keep your focus on God? Who can you serve today?
Philippians 2:1-4; Galatians 5:13-14; Hebrews 12:2