Have you ever tried to use super glue but couldn’t because the cap was stuck to the tube, and you couldn’t get it off? Or maybe you got the cap off, but you still couldn’t use it because the nozzle was clogged?
Did this frustrate you? If so, perhaps you felt this way because you believed, by now, the super glue manufacturer should have solved this problem. (After all, why sell a whole tube of glue if it’s single-use only?) But maybe you felt frustrated because you thought the person who used the glue before you could have been more thoughtful, perhaps gone the extra mile, in order to make it more user-friendly for the next user.
I call this seeming thoughtlessness the “super-glue mentality” (SGM). It’s because we often fail to think about the next person, the one who comes after us—whom Jesus said we always ought to put “before” ourselves. If we are to love others as we love ourselves, then we must break free from SGM and go the extra mile.
Unfortunately, most Americans have a bad case of SGM. We tend to have an “I am in a hurry and need it now” mentality. We think thoughts like, “I shouldn’t have to wait in line,” “Why is the microwave taking so long?” or “My computer isn’t downloading fast enough!”
But Christians ought never to have SGM.
When we use the “super glue,” we should be courteous toward the next person who uses it. We shouldn’t be satisfied only when our need is met.
Instead, we should be content only when the next person isn’t having to “wipe away the excess glue.”
SGM is an illness that must be diagnosed and treated. Otherwise, we will continue to be nearsighted when it comes to the needs of others and we will fail to prioritize Christ’s commandment to love others first.
Scripture makes it clear that a man should “consider others” better than himself (Philippians 2:3) and “put others” above himself (Romans 12:10, 1 Corinthians 10:24). The Bible also says that when a man loves another with God’s unconditional love, he is loving others as he would his very own body.
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29).
Here Paul is touching on a universal truth. While we may not like ourselves very much, or we may feel unworthy of being loved, our own actions demonstrate just how much we actually love ourselves. In other words, we treat ourselves in a way that is most loving to our own self. Self-love doesn’t mean liking yourself, it means seeking your own good over another’s good.
Of course, it’s only natural that we seek our own good. For example, if you are hungry, no one cares more about feeding you than you do. If you have pain, no one cares more that it disappears than you do.
Loving others as yourself means to have a heart disposed to seek another person’s good—using the identical amount of energy you would use for yourself. It’s greater than empathy.
The Message paraphrases Romans 12:10 this way: “Practice playing second fiddle.”
When I broke my ankle playing basketball, I had to wear a cast on my leg for four weeks. During the first two weeks I was asked many times, “Eric, what did you do to yourself?”
People cared and I enjoyed the sympathy—at least while it lasted.
However, by the third week the sympathy faded. Even my wife was less inclined to listen to my needs. Yet, it was the last two weeks when I needed it most. The enormous irritation and annoyance of the cast wore on me. I needed more sympathy, not less.
During the first two weeks, everyone was thoughtful, kind and sympathetic. I thought, “Wow! These people really care about me.”
I even felt the staff at my dental office had gone overboard taking care of me. But at the office Christmas party when all the spouses saw me on crutches and asked, “What happened to you?” I was stunned.
I wanted to say, “You mean, no one told you what happened to me? Your wife didn’t explain to you how much I’ve suffered?”
This was crushing news to me. Oh, not really, but it did make me understand the passage to “love your neighbor as yourself” a little better.
I realized that no one cared about my broken ankle more than I did, and there was no one who wanted it to heal faster.
Paul was right. We care more about ourselves than we do others.
But, as Christians, this should not be the case. We must fight this urge and break free from SGM. We should seek to deny our own needs as much as possible for the sake of others. Although it may seem impossible, Christ said that we are more than capable of doing it (John 14:12). The Apostle Paul believed it too (Philippians 2:3-5). The Spirit who lives in us can help us with our SGM.
In his book, “Desiring God,” John Piper wrote:
“All our inborn self-seeking is made the measure of our self-giving. Do we seek to satisfy our hunger? Then we must with similar urgency feed our hungry neighbor. Do we long for advancement in the company? Then we must seek out ways to give others as much opportunity and to stir up their will to achieve. Do we love to make A’s on tests? Then we must tutor the poor student who would love it no less. Do we hate to be laughed at and mocked? Then let there never be found on our lips a mocking word.”
We must ask ourselves this question: Am I desiring and seeking the temporal and eternal good of my neighbor with the same zeal, ingenuity and perseverance with which I seek my own?
If so, then perhaps we may have just broken free from SGM.
Eric Veal has been a member of Southeast Christian Church for 29 years.