Written by Leslie Koh, Singapore
What’s all this about “denying yourself” and “living for others”? Look, I know we can’t decide when we were born and when we will die, but come on, I have every right to decide how I should live. This life belongs to me. Why should I deny myself the very best in life? Why should I live for anyone else but myself? If I’m meant to sacrifice myself for others, then why be born at all? All this talk of “dying to self” is rubbish. Here, I’ll show you how to get it right.
1. You only live once, right?
Listen, you’ve been given one chance, one lifetime. Don’t end it regretting the things you didn’t do.
That means, don’t waste your precious time helping people and doing “good” things, because no one ever remembers. You only live once, so you’ve got to make it count. Try everything you want—drugs, wild parties, whatever. Some people worry about the “consequences”, but remember: no pain, no gain; no guts, no glory. If you die, you’ll go out in style. Don’t worry about quitting school or your job whenever you feel like it. People say that’s being “irresponsible”, but they don’t understand you: you’re a dreamer; you don’t get bogged down by the details of reality. Anyway, you can always sponge off your parents or borrow from your friends. That’s what they’re there for.
In the meantime, don’t be stingy with yourself. Want the newest phone with all the bells and whistles? Get it. Thinking of a makeover to keep up with the latest fashion? Don’t look outdated, replace your entire wardrobe. Just ignore the wet blankets who keep harping about how you need to be thrifty, to save up for a rainy day, blah blah blah. The golden rule of living life is to enjoy first, worry later. Besides, you can always survive on bread and water when you’re old. Cool people die that way.
2. You’ve got to take care of yourself first
Put others before yourself—what utter nonsense! How can you help others unless you are rich and successful? How can you take care of others when you’re not in perfect shape first? How can you comfort others unless you yourself are happy and satisfied? You don’t want them to drag your spirits down, do you?
So if you’re tired from a day out at the shops or a night of partying, don’t feel guilty about not visiting someone in hospital, or taking care of a sick friend or sibling. Besides, you don’t want to catch what they’re having. In fact, you should stay away from all sick people. And if you’d rather have a quiet night in with the latest game on your laptop than join the family for Grandpa’s 90th birthday, stay in. Your health and happiness should always come first, regardless of what people think.
And if you really, really have to lend others a helping hand—say, when threatened—make sure you get something in return. No point wasting your time and effort unless you have something to gain from it. Remind them how much you had to sacrifice for them, and what it cost you. Don’t go away with anything less than profuse thanks and a promise to return the favor. And make sure they return it.
3. We’re all gonna die anyway
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We were made from earth and we’re going to return to it. So it really doesn’t matter what we do in this life—we end up in the same place, anyway. Good or bad, right or wrong, we burn or rot the same way. So stop worrying about “eternal” consequences and talk of “moral” and “spiritual” choices. It really doesn’t matter; you can always talk your way out when you’re up there (or down).
Don’t get too hung up on any so-called “right” way to live. Keep in mind that bad people get better publicity and make it into the history books. Do one good deed, and only one person remembers. Do a bad one, and everyone talks about it for months. Isn’t that how you want to be remembered?
4. Everyone’s gotta look out for his/her own self
Each of us is responsible for our own life and happiness, not someone else’s. If someone is having a tough time, that’s his fault. There’s no need to help him through it, you have your own problems to deal with. Some people talk about a responsibility for family, friends, whatever. But your first responsibility is for yourself. If you don’t help yourself, who will?
Face it, we’re living in a dog-eat-dog world of competition. Humans are at the top of the food chain because we each survived in the battle of the fittest. If we started to molly-coddle the weak and vulnerable, what would happen to the human race? How would we ever progress? If your friend is weak or poor, then it’s up to him to overcome it himself. We’ve all got to run our own race. The weak deserve to die.
5. We’re being true to ourselves
There is no such thing as becoming a “better” person: each of us was born with unique traits and personalities, and these should not be changed. If you’re hot-tempered, then people will just have to accept you as you are. Your temper shows you’re a passionate person, and people should love you for it. It’s what makes you different. If you’re blunt, then your value is in being honest and upfront. You should be proud of yourself, because your opinions will be more valuable than those of weaklings who try so hard to be “polite” and “sensitive.” The truth always hurts, and people should learn to deal with it.
What that means is that you should never try to control or restrict your actions and words in daily life. If others don’t like what you say, what you do or how you behave, it’s up to them to accept it and adapt to you. If you think something or someone doesn’t make the cut, say so. It will help them in the long run. If someone accuses you of being stubborn, unfriendly, or difficult, remind them that, “That’s just me.”
You should always be true to yourself. Never feel pressured to change just because someone says it’s the “right” thing to do.
Bewildered or incredulous? You can unfurrow your brows now—we’re not actually advocating drugs, snapping at others or having bread and water when you’re old. But let’s face it: don’t we sometimes (or most of the time) adopt a less extreme version of this selfish mindset?
It’s human nature to put ourselves first but Jesus tells us to fight it, take up suffering (for His sake) and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Sure, our selfish ways creep back in every so often but God hasn’t given up on us. He doesn’t demand perfection from us; He just wants us to persevere on—by His grace, with His help.
How has the experience been in your own life? Why do you die to your own desires? Has it been a struggle? What encourages you to press on? Share your comments below.