A Lesson in Selfishness: Trees and Roses

What does selfishness have to do with trees and roses?

I learned when I recently spent the night in a hospital.

I wasn’t the patient. I simply wanted to be available for someone close to me. Nighttime hours are busy for nurses, and sometimes it’s difficult to get their attention and care. (Although we pretty much had the best nurses…in our opinion.) Plus, doctors start rounds super early in the morning…too early for me to get up and make the drive to the hospital with any certainty of hearing their updates.

So, I stayed in a waiting room that served several wings on the same floor of the hospital. I learned not everyone in the room had family members on that floor. Some had commuted from other floors. The first time I stayed in the waiting room, there were only a few of us who spent the night. But this time was a different story. Every (semi-comfortable) chair and couch was taken. Every tv was set to a different channel with scattered remote controls. But the lights were automatically dimmed at 11 p.m. and raised at 7 a.m., so that was promising.

roses treeMy “neighbor” seemed friendly as I struck up a conversation with her before the lights were dimmed. She also seemed quiet…until the lights were dimmed. I quickly dozed off after a long day, but it soon woke up in a groggy fog. As I remembered where I was, I wondered, “Why is someone talking about trees?” I didn’t open my eyes until I was fully convinced I wasn’t hearing things or dreaming. Then, I looked around and found my neighbor having a phone conversation while browsing the internet in the corner of the room. And she was talking about trees. I couldn’t put all the pieces together, but I learned a lot about trees…for an hour. The conversation stopped, but not before she said, “Okay, but if you have time later, give me a call.” I thought she meant later in the day. I was wrong.

Her phone rang one hour later and lasted an hour. She returned to the computer for more research. This time, the focus was roses. I got to learn about a lot of different kinds of roses, where they can grow, what soil they need, and…I won’t bore you with the details. At the end of the hour, she said, “Well, I need to get up at 7. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

I hated to break the news to her, but it was already tomorrow.

I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped I would. But I wasn’t as irritated as I was perplexed.

I just couldn’t figure out how or why she thought it was okay to talk through the night with a roomful of tired people who had experienced who-knows-what that day. And the topics of choice were trees and roses?

I laughed as I recalled the story to several people the following day. It still seems ridiculous when I think about it. But I’m sure it didn’t seem ridiculous to her. Like so many of us, when something makes sense to us, we can’t imagine it doesn’t make sense to someone else. We might declare, “Well, that’s just me!” to justify what we do, yet say, “She has no right!” or “What was she thinking?” about someone else. One thing is for sure: we can have very different perspectives and values from others.

We don’t have to completely understand others’ behavior or perspectives, but it’s important to call ourselves out on the similarities. While we might not do exactly what “they” are doing (nor would we, we declare with arrogance), we can always find selfish tendencies. That’s really what most of our issues boil down to: selfishness. If we don’t see any selfishness in us, pride (otherwise known as selfishness) is the cause of our blindness.

I’m not saying we’re always selfish, but it’s a huge reason for the chasms we create between ourselves and others. If you follow my blog at all, you know I take a stand on my faith in and the truth of Jesus Christ and His teachings. I believe there are absolutes. There’s a difference between truth and Truth. Could my belief be seen as a selfish perspective? Sure…if I let it divide me from others. But differences in beliefs, opinions, values, faith, priorities…and the list goes on…doesn’t have to bring out the selfishness in me. In fact, it can do quite the opposite. I can choose to dismiss others because they are different from me, or I can stand firm on the truth of God’s Word while having conversations with others, learning their perspectives. I can disagree with someone without dismissing him or her.

After all, there are a lot of trees and roses out there. If I listen, I might just learn something.

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. (James 1:19-20)

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