WITH the way things are nowadays, we need to be keen in distinguishing between real self-giving and a fake one that masks what actually is self-indulgence. This is because we can now easily make use of many good things and yet our intentions are not pure.
Or we can profess to have a good intention using good means, but in the end it can be seen that the good intention remains only as an intention, as a principle, but is not acted upon. We have to be familiar with the tricks of the fake forms of self-giving. They usually use good, beautiful and legitimate things to inflict their poison.
Now that we are entering another election season, we can expect politicians flaunting their self-giving which would already make that self-giving suspect. Most likely, an ulterior motive is behind all that. It’s actually self-indulgence that is done right before our eyes. But then again, let’s be careful with making rash judgments and just proceed to pray and offer sacrifices that everything is done as it should be done.
Of course, this masking of self-indulgence with shows of self-giving can happen to anybody. Even the ordinary Juan in the street is prone to this anomaly. Now with all the technological advances we are enjoying, it is very easy to make use of them to do some good work and yet end up simply indulging oneself.
The social media, for example, has tremendous usages. It can facilitate communication. It can open new opportunities for business, etc. For the religious minded, it can be a good vehicle for evangelization and apostolate. And yet, it can lead us to nothing short of self-indulgence, since pride, vanity, arrogance, greed, lust and envy can easily sneak in and spoil all that good work.
We have to be truly guarded against this very likely possibility. And the secret is simply to be firmly united with God. There’s no other way. Without God, everything good that we try to do would only be apparent at best. It would only be a sham, a deception.
And God has shown us how to do it in Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity who became man precisely for the purpose, among many other reasons, of showing us how we can be with God in all circumstances, whether good or bad, favorable or unfavorable, etc. We really cannot complain that we would not know how to distinguish between self-giving and self-indulgence. Christ has shown us the way.
Everything good can only come from God. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1,17)
And we can somehow know that we would be with God if our self-giving would have the following characteristics as articulated by St. James:
“The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.” (3,17)
We therefore need to pray. We have to be ready to make sacrifices and to do a lot of self-denial. We have to learn to live always in the presence of God. Our thoughts, words and deeds should be animated by purity of intention.
And that means that we do everything solely to give glory to God. All other motives are secondary and should only serve to enhance that intention of giving glory to God. Otherwise, there’s no other way but for us to fall sooner or later into self-indulgence and other worse predicaments.
For some practical and concrete means to distinguish between self-giving and self-indulgence, it might be wise to take away the camera and to make photo-ops when doing some good works of mercy.