How does one die unto himself?
How does one die unto himself?
Normal Human (and animal) life to care about oneself above all else.
To die to oneself is to always put the desires of God and the needs of others before the wants and needs of self.
By accepting the circumstances of your life, and thinking of and serving others. By loving others, before yourself. This is the essence of being a Christian.
This is what Jesus meant… when He said:
"Then He said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
By not sinning is what I’m sure our Lord meant. Whoever loses his life will save it and whoever gains his life will lose it. he wants us to die to self by fighting against our natural inclination towards evil. Sacrifice is it. No sin.
To die to ourselves is not an easy process. I deliberately use the word process, because that is what it is. In simpler words, dying to ourselves is what St. Benedict called on-going conversion of manners. We begin to change the way that we do things. We begin to adopt our choices to comform to those of Christ’s choices and his teaching.
Part of this process requres that we do as St. Francis said, “I am who I am before God, nothing else.” What we are before others or before our own eyes is not as important as what we are before God. The first step comes with realizing that we are loved by God. No matter how sinful and how far away we may have been from God, he was never far from us. We often have to pray that God will help us feel loved by him or believe that we are loved by him. There is a human tendency to project our feelings onto God. We tend to believe that God sees us and others through our eyes. Nothing can be further from the truth. God sees us through the eyes of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Those are the eyes of love. As we grow comfortable with being loved by God, despite our weaknesses, we also begin to love others despite their weaknesses.
We cannot die to ourselves without embracing poverty. As St. Therese of Liseux said, the greatest thing that we can offer God is our poverty. This means that we have to let go of those things that we no longer need for our health and work. By detaching from material things and focussing on what we need rather than what we want, we begin to see God as the greatest need in our lives.
Sometimes we have to endure pain and suffering. No one should go out and look for suffering. God does not call us to be self-centered and try to martyr ourselves. But there are times in life when suffering comes our way. We have a moral obligation to do the best that we can to alleviate the suffering. At the same time, we have to accept the part that we cannot change. We unite it to the sufferings of Christ on the cross. At this point, suffering becomes redemptive.
There is a social dimension to dying to self. Christ did not save us in a vacuum. He saved us as a people as well as individuals. We must wake up and pay attention to the things that are happening in our community, our family, our parish, our nation and our world. Some things call for our attention, concern and involvement. To spend all the time in the world in prayer for the salvation of our soul and not present the world to Christ is contrary to the spirit of prayer. Even monks who live in enclosed communities away from the world know what is happening in the world. They pray for the world. Some even write books for the world. Those of us who live in the world must take action so that the Kingdom of God can become a reality.
The final act of dying to self is doing it all without whining. I would use another word, but it may get deleted on CAF. But you get the point. Take care of your spouse, children, community and world. Take time for prayer even if your vacuuming has to wait a day. The floor isn’t going away. Get rid of all that junk that’s in your house that you do not need and other can use. It’s only taking up space while others suffer for lack of these things, especially in these hard times. Stay close to the sacraments, even if have to go to an early mass. Remeember, love is not about agreement. It is about giving. You don’t have to agree, but you have to give. Sometimes you have to yield a battle to win a war.
In conclusion, accept the fact that you are a sinner and thank God that he is there. Do not torture yourself with guilt because you sin. Try again. Don’t give up. God has been trying to save humanity since he created us. What would have happened had he given up after the Garden of Eden? We can’t give up either. But getting down on ourselves is not the solution. The solution is to work on ourselves.
This is just the beginning.
Br. JR, OFS
Great question! I think that the world and the church have very different ways of thinking about things. “Dying to self” may sound simply other-worldly or harsh to the worldly-minded, but is actually a key into understanding Christian spiritual life as a whole. Originally, I thought of those words in the context of St. Luke’s gospel, “Whoever does not deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow after me cannot be my disciple.” “All are called to join the kingdom of God” it says in the Catechism. The world is often on the side of self-love, which is why the gospel’s call to repentance can sound on deaf ears, but only God can forgive sins, and it is sin which is the real problem to Jesus’ mind.
As far as how to “die to self,” it starts with self-denial, or mortification. There are many books which can instruct us in this matter, but it is simply this: to learn to prefer the will of God over one’s own. It is the first step in the famous three stages of the spiritual life, namely, the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive. Whatever our will is attached to can draw us into sin, therefore, detachment from pleasure is a sure start, including spiritual consolations. The goal of these practices is to become holy, pleasing, worthy before God, frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist therefore is essential. I also recommend reading the classic Spiritual Combat by Scupoli in addition to Imitation of Christ.
God is familiar with human nature, since Jesus was one of us, like us in all things but sin. The Bible reminds us that we have a mediator who is not unsympathetic with our weakness. Indeed, though God is infinitely just, Jesus takes great pains to show that his mercy is greater, in a sense, such as through his messages about Divine Mercy through Sister Faustina. He invites the sinful, and not the righteous, to dine with him, how much more now does he call sinners to repentance, so as to know true joy, the joy which comes from salvation and friendship with Christ.
Meditating on the Passion and Crucifixion of our Lord is a great exercise for this purpose. Don’t just read, meditate on the Bible. The Holy Rosary, especially the sorrowful mysteries, is an excellent way of prayer and Pope St. John Paul II calls it “nothing other than contemplating with Mary the face of Christ.” Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving are the three traditional forms of Christian penance, we hear preached about more during Lent, but should be part of every Christians daily life.
St. Theresa of Avila wrote “Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is an excellent time to practice this kind of prayer although it can be done anytime according to some writers on the spiritual life.
Of course it goes without saying that staying close to the Sacraments of the church is like staying on Noah’s ark, to avoid the destructive floodwaters, for only they can impart sanctifying grace. St. Paul writes “By grace you have been saved.” The floodwaters will not overcome the church, with St. Peter’s successor at the helm.
In short, “dying to self” is the Bible’s language of describing the stark contrast between self and God, the world and the church’s way of thinking. It is best understood in the context of the language of love, when lover (the soul) relinquishes his/her will for the sake of his/her beloved (God or Christ), who loved the soul first. In this sense does the soul die to self, because of the higher love God gives it, to desire heaven, which also happens to be the highest and truest way we love our selves.
By resisting sin and temptation and putting God above all else. When you really stop and think about it, all sin can be traced back to our natural selfish human inclinations and desires. Dying unto oneself means our formerly self-seeking ways become dead and we become born anew in Christ again, seeking to love and serve Him before ourselves.
The false self, the construct made up of social concerns, worries and anxieties, aka the “bushel basket” that gets in the way of the light of our true selves, made in the image of God, has to die.
By the time we are seven years old, most of us in “civilized” society have been so deeply programmed in a dysfunctonal world of basically mind-numbed robots, concerned about worldly things and easy to sway one way or the other by emotional manipulation.
Through various means (and this is the tricky part) this self has to die, and for most of us it seems to happen only when all other systems break down.