Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Social Dryness

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There are times in our lives when we come to the realization that we are not the center of the universe. It is a difficult realization; for by our very perception we are inclined to see ourselves as the focal point of a great and wide circle. I look "out" at everything thats not "me;" and when I turn my head the world seems to revolve around me. When I am in my car, I am the only driver I can appreciate; all other cars are lifeless machines, mere obstacles. When I stand in long line, the line seems to move much too slow until, of course, it is my turn.

And naturally this sense of "centeredness" gets transposed to my social life as well. It is always urgent that people notice me. I must prove that my opinions are quite important, and it is best that my presence and my character be admired by others at all times. And of course, it is more important that people notice things about me than about anybody else. Its quite a natural feeling; after all, its "me." And all this has often been referred to more simply as the ego.

Then suddenly, a period of social emptiness or social dryness hits. For a while, strangely, inexplicably, my importance subsides a little. My opinions are not met by others with dazzled glares; my conversations are not considered that interesting anymore; my presence is not as sought after as I once believed. In other words, I come to realize that I am not the center of the picture; I am only a small detail, positioned not in the middle but a little to the side and almost lost among the thousand other details. Instead of everyones eyes being continually on me, as I once thought, I am noticed really only a fraction of the time. And inevitably, I begin to feel a bit depressed. Why am I not that important anymore? My self-esteem takes a plunge, my emotions and activity become lazy. I begin a period of social dryness.

God does purposely allow each one of us to go through such an experience at several points during our lives. He intends it; it is all a part of His method of shaping and sculpting us into better souls. For the soul that believes itself to be the necessary center of everything is patently sicka sickness to which we are all continually vulnerable. The weeds of pride, ego, self-importance are ever growing on us. And as our Lord Jesus Christ said (John 15:2), in order to bear fruit for Him, we must be pruned. Pruning involves trimming and cutting and severing; and it can be quite painful. Often the only proper elixir for our illness, the only proper pruning for the weeds is a memorable period of social emptiness, a period in which I am clearly reminded that I am not everything.

In more direct terms, we are speaking here of humility. Very many of us sincerely desire it, but we just dont know what to do to "get" it. Well, God sometimes, out of His love, out of His goodness, gently presses it upon us. He "compels" us to be humble for a while, hoping that we might take away from the experience a permanent lesson.

Of course, there are feelings of lack of importance and self-worthlessness that can come from the devil rather than from God. For these we must be cautious. An abysmal and hopeless depression is never Gods intention for us. But a healthy "abasement," a light and temporal lesson in lowliness God does often deal to us. And the ultimate message every time is the realization that my importance in the sight of others, in the long run, wont do much for me; all that matters is my importance in the sight of Him who always sees me. For he who exalts himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11).

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