The more I hang out with my boy, the more I realize how self-absorbed I am. He says this phrase all the time, “Daddy, whook!” He’s calling for my attention and wanting me to see his latest accomplishment. When I look over, I usually see something like the picture above.
Or he’s letting our dog lick his face. Or pouring his milk on the floor. Or showing me his belly. The important stuff.
There is a great commercial that shows exactly what I’m talking about:
Here’s the problem though; as much as I love my son and want to be the best dad possible, I am interested in my own things. I’ve got this phone with me that gives me access to every kind of information, entertainment, or communication I could ever want. I can’t focus on him because I’ve got so much important stuff to check out on my phone.
I’m ashamed to admit this but my son points to my phone and says, “pocket!” He is very aware of my attention. He knows when I’m focused on him or on something else.
This is the shameful and painful truth—I spend the majority of my life pursuing my own interests. I seek after the questions: “What do I want to do?” “What will make me happy or entertained?” “How does this benefit me?”
When I focus on myself and my interests, I look past the people around me. I miss out on them because of my concern for myself.
Sharing Our Lives
When I finally look up from my phone and I see my son and I acknowledge him by saying, “good job, buddy” or “I see you,” he looks at me and gives a big smile.
Because, what does he really want in these moments? When he says, “daddy, whook,” what is his agenda?
- He wants to share this moment with me.
- He just wants to know that I am with him.
- He knows that this moment is a chance to connect with me.
In our short lives on earth, we only get these moments. We have the chance to share these moments or spend them on ourselves.
- How many people in our world just want to be seen?
- How many people just want someone to say, “I see you?”
- How many people are desperate to share their moments with someone?
I have this weird thing about comedies. I don’t watch them by myself. When I’m watching a movie or TV show alone, I watch suspense, drama, documentaries, and sports but I never watch comedies. The beauty of comedy is the sharing of laughter. Laughter is best when it’s shared. Laughter is contagious and infectious and loud.
Life is like this. It’s not a solitary thing. No man is an island. This is one downfall of technology. Technology, by design, helps make our lives more convenient. Technology serves us. Of course, this includes modern things like smartphones, endless entertainment, and food-delivery apps. But it’s also the truth with older technology like cars, air conditioning, and microwaves.
All technology caters to ME. The more technology I have, the less I need others. The less I need to venture outside of my house or my bubble.
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection — or compassionate action.”
Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
Our self-absorption kills our ability to empathize.
My mom’s favorite book (and one of the best books ever written) is To Kill A Mockingbird. Empathy is one of the main themes. Throughout the story, Atticus urges his children to step into other people’s shoes. Whether it’s Boo Radley, Mrs. Dubose, or Tom Robinson — each person has a unique back-story and perspective. Instead of judging them, Atticus teaches the kids to look at the world through their eyes.
It’s impossible to put ourselves in the shoes of others if we only care about our own interests. It’s impossible to see the world through another’s eyes if we are always looking inward.
“The more empathy I have, the less annoying people get.” Alan Alda
The Mindset of Jesus
In the 2nd chapter of the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul writes about having the mindset of Jesus. He indicates that one of the main ways is by “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
If we long to have a mindset like Jesus and live a life of impact like he did, we must fight our self-absorption. We have to see those around us.
His entire life was in service to others—to this world.
I want to live my life for something bigger than myself. I want to see others. I want to look up from my phone, my desires, and my agenda and share my life with others.
Where is your attention? Do you see those around you or is your head down?
Do you view your phone as a tool or as a necessity? Do you feel like you need it at all times?
Who are you sharing your moments and life with?