Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Dying to self


I was going to post some more Vienna talk today, but I made a quick change of plans because I have something different to say.

Growing up, dying to self was key. In case you’re not familiar with this specific descriptions, it basically means giving everything that’s “you” up in order to serve selflessly in any way possible. Sounds good huh? But it’s not. Dying to self is something you can take very literal. You will die in every way possible in order to be someone you’re not.

Some people don’t seem to bother that much, but it’s always been hard for me to be as selfless as I was expected to be. You see, I’m a very private, calm, introvert kind of person. Though I grew up in a big family, I always liked being alone. I’m not much of a team player, I prefer doing things all by myself. I didn’t hate having a big family where there was always somebody, quite the opposite, I loved it. But I always tried to make room for myself in some way. That didn’t mean that I wanted to do things I liked, it was more like just being by myself doing ANYTHING really. I hated washing dishes. I loved doing it alone. I didn’t like vacuuming. It was ok as long as I was alone. Everything I didn’t like in a group I usually liked if I could just do it by myself. I treasured the quiet moments, though my hands were busy, my mind was free to wander, not occupied by yet another conversation, prayer, training or anything like that. I loved asking myself the WEIRDEST questions. Like, is it possible that when you’re 9 months pregnant and you use the bathroom, could it just “fall out”? What would you do if that happened? Would the pain of hours of labor be condensed in that short moment or or or…? It really didn’t have anything to do with faith in those moments.

Now my Dad was eager to teach all of us, especially the girls, that dying to self is key to life and salvation. You weren’t allowed to do anything fun, you were asked to serve others every moment of your life. If you didn’t listen to him, he’d have a speech prepared. “It always about ME ME ME. Do you think Jesus was like that? Do you think he would have died on the cross for us if he cared about himself? NO! He would have hidden somewhere and lived happily ever after! He wasnt about ME. So why are YOU?” and so on. I felt really bad every time I heard that. I started wondering if Jesus could even love me if I kept acting like this. I tried to train myself. I didn’t allow myself to do things alone. When I had to wash dishes, I called one of my smaller sisters over to help me, to teach her to be a servant and a good housewife. How to keep things in order. When I was working in the garden, I asked my brothers to do boy stuff, like carrying the heavy water buckets for me. I desperately waited for God to reward my selflessness. I gave up what I liked in order to feel as good as the people who kept raving about how great it feels to be selfless, how God rewards you for it. But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel any different at all except that I was more stressed out than ever.

Prayer time was the only occasion I allowed myself to be alone. I sat down in our infamous prayer closet and opened my bible. But after a day of constant conversation, I didn’t feel like talking to God or being talked to by him. I started reading a chapter and within seconds, though my eyes were reading, my mind didn’t understand a word. I switched the chapter. And the same thing happened again. And again. And again. I closed my bible and folded my hands across my face. Ok I though, I’ll pray some. And in my mind I said “Lord… tell me what to say.” Silence, emptiness of mind. “I don’t know what to tell you.” More silence. My mind started telling me that I needed to do this, I needed to do SOMETHING. I though that was God speaking to me and I couldn’t stand a single word he said. “Be quiet.” I told him. And the voices in my head started rushing with hate and anger and disappointment. How dare you talk to me like that? Pray now, pray now, pray now, or read some more. You can’t sit in your little puddle of selfishness now. And I grew angrier and angrier with the God who hated me so much for wanting a few minutes of peace and silence. “Shut up!” I said over and over until I started crying. I cried myself empty just to realize that my time in the prayer closet was over.

As I stood up, all I could think was “Great job, idiot, time well used.” The amount of shame and hate for myself was so big that I obsessively started being as selfless as I could for the rest of the day. This wasnt something that happened every day, but it happened on many days.


Right now, I’m sitting here in complete silence. I’m all alone, doing stuff by myself. I’m selfish. I’m detestable. I’m lost. And I like it. God is quiet, he doesn’t bother me with his voices anymore. I now will go into the kitchen and have a coffee in complete silence, closing my eyes and enjoying nothingness. And I know that God will still be quiet.


25 thoughts on “Dying to self

  1. I don’t think that selfishness is a bad thing. I hate what the movement does with it – any thought of self is bad. You must constantly sacrifice yourself on the alter of others. What’s the matter with spending some time on yourself? I think life should be about balance, a balance between focusing on your needs and serving others. There is no balance in the movement. It’s dehumanizing.

    • It really is. What really impressed me was a thing the dalai lama said. They are also all about selflessness and such, but he said “Taking 20 minutes every day, just for yourself, doing whatever you like, is a good thing.” I think he’s hit the nail on the head. There ARE days where we can’t make any room for ourselves and that’s perfectly fine, but 20 minutes, even if it’s just while brushing your teeth and taking a shower in the morning without rush, are worth a fortune.

  2. I don’t get it… I mean, Jesus took time by himself to rest, etc. The irony of your father forcing you to be totally selfless and follow his agenda in all things, allowed *him* to be selfish.

  3. It always about ME ME ME. Do you think Jesus was like that? Do you think he would have died on the cross for us if he cared about himself? NO! He would have hidden somewhere and lived happily ever after! He wasnt about ME. So why are YOU?”

    Snap! this is pretty much what my parents used to say too. Everything had to be about other people, about thinking about other peoples needs, about doing for other people. Even today I have issues with self care because it feels selfish. I find it really hard to belive I’m worth something if i’m not doing something for someone else.

  4. He wasnt about ME. So why are YOU?

    Did it escape your parents’ attention that you aren’t Jesus? I mean, man, if any old fool could be the savior, we’d all be doing it!

    • Haha I guess you’re right, but that doesn’t matter. We’re supposed to be like Jesus because if everybody was like him, that would be the return of the kingdom (or something along those lines). At the end of the day it doesn’t matter because you’re not important as an individual and they’ll use anything they can get to guilt trip you into that.

  5. I still struggle with letting myself be alone, or take care of me. Those messages of “selfishness” and “laziness” are very engrained. I heard them from my dad almost every day, and now I hear them in my head. And like you said, God often feels like one more person demanding my attention, and I can’t help but wonder if he is only inside my head too.

  6. It is impossible for everyone to be selfless all of the time. Someone has to be on the receiving end! To demand that your children be selfless all the time is raising them to be robots.

  7. Oops please delete the previous comment…I was logged into someone else’s WP to help them and didn’t realize it would say from her over here ><

    Whenever I wanted to be alone, my dad said I was “anti-family”. I had a very hard puberty. My parents got time alone…even the other kids were allowed to be alone sometimes…I wasn’t really. At least by my dad. And having to be around people all the time is really hard on an introvert. Which you’d think my dad would understand, being an introvert himself! x(

    • Done!
      “My parents got time alone.”
      Same here. They took hours off family life in order to be together, which I think is good for every marriage, but in our family, that was a double standard. I never understood why they were allowed to have “bath dates” and such while us kids couldn’t spend time alone without being called selfish.

  8. Ok. So basically, the beauty of dying to self so Christ could live through you has again been desecrated. Lisa, I have the urge to just break down and cry over this post, even more than I wanted to when I read the story of your experience shopping with your dad. Dying to yourself, in actuality is one of the most beautiful doctrines of Christianity, not because of the death part, because according to Galatians 2:20, we are crucified with Christ. Christ was only crucified one time, so our sin nature died with Him, and by accepting Him, we accept what He did, and that we were born into sin, and His cleansing from it. It doesn’t end there, because once that experience happens, we can live in the power of His resurrection. That means all the joy, forgiveness, compassion, love, and peace that He gives belong to us. Much of my mornings are spent with a cup of coffee, sitting in the recliner in quiet meditation; not praying, not reading my Bible, not doing anything but letting the peace Jesus brings wash over me. Of course, I do read my Bible, I do pray, and I do read other Christian materials, but the best time for me is just listening to what He may have to say. Sometimes, He’s silent, and sometimes, we have communion!
    Either way, I have a very happy person who has a selfish streak. If you don’t take time to enjoy life, time to smell the flowers, listen to the birds, hug a friend, or go buy some clothes, electronics, or a new pair of shoes, life is awful dull. The Lord gave us all those things to enjoy, and He doesn’t want you to see dying to self as a burden. Sounds like your father needs to find out who the real Jesus is. I would love to tell him.

  9. Pingback: Breaking a daughter | Butterflies and Wheels

  10. But Jesus WAS selfish. He wanted us so much for Himself that He died for us. If He had been the way your father described (hiding in a hole somewhere), He wouldn’t have wanted out companionship so much that He was willing to die for it. For that matter, had God not wanted a true companion and friend but only angels to sing His praises, He wouldn’t have created man–in His own image yet. He describes Himself as “a jealous God.” And He’s not satisfied with “some,” He wants ALL to come to repentance.

    And, yet, Jesus took time to be alone. He would send the multitudes away. He would send the apostles away and then go up into the mountains. He went 40 days into the wilderness ALONE.

    Dying to self does not mean to pour out yourself to other people until there is nothing left but busyness and nothing left of you. It means to be yourself and let Jesus guide you in what is best for you and to reveal the Glory of God in you.

  11. Totally logical – totatitarian thought control. If there’s someone around, your mind can’t wander around freely, because you have to interact. Especially if it’s a small child.

  12. Someone once told me that it’s absolutely necessary to be self centered in order to live your best life. Not selfish, not demanding and taking, but self-CENTERED. Meaning, you center yourself, your thoughts, your energy. You love yourself as much as others. And THEN you have energy, love, time and compassion for other people! If you give nothing to yourself, what would you have to give to others?

  13. “Ok I thought, I’ll pray some. And in my mind I said “Lord… tell me what to say.” Silence, emptiness of mind. “I don’t know what to tell you.” More silence. My mind started telling me that I needed to do this, I needed to do SOMETHING. I though that was God speaking to me and I couldn’t stand a single word he said. “Be quiet.” I told him. And the voices in my head started rushing with hate and anger and disappointment. How dare you talk to me like that? Pray now, pray now, pray now, or read some more. You can’t sit in your little puddle of selfishness now.”

    Dear sweet Lisa…can you see now the voice wasn’t GOd speaking to you?…it was your Dad…and his version of God!!! I believe our earthly father’s have a huge role in our own feelings towards our heavenly Father. He never showed you that you are chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12). Instead he marked you as having an “evil spirit” from a very young and tender age.
    He never showed you that we do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.( 2Timothy 1:7) but instead ruled by instilling fear.
    Instead of showing you that you are a temple of God. His spirit and his life live in you. (1 Corinthians 6:19), he underscored the idea that a woman should hide her body, never speak up..because what you have to say isn’t worth it.
    Ephesians 1:1 says You are a saint…to your father…you were a dirty SINNER!!
    You are complete in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:10) action or ritual that you do can make you less. But in you Dad’s perspective…you could NEVER DO ENOUGH….there is always MORE MORE MORE that you need to do and be.
    YOU ARE LOVED (1John 3:3) Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.(1 John 4:18). Your Dad wanted you to live each moment in constant FEAR of punishment. And in turn robbed you of the chance to experience the true love of God.
    He never introduced you to a merciful loving God (Deut. 4:31). Instead, he showed NO mercy. Instead of teaching you the beautiful truth that you are redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14.), he never forgave fully..he held grudges…he made you walk on eggshells…he made you HATE yourself.

    That, dear Lisa, is not God. It NEVER has been. I ache for you. I am so thankful that you have gotten out from under the authority of a man who has such a SMALL understanding of who God is. I pity him. I fear for him. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6.
    Lisa, I completely understand why you would turn your back on a “God” like that. Praying that you will find grace and healing in your journey….and slowly be able to catch a glimpse of who God really is. Praying for you and would love to email if you ever wanted to.

    • Thanks for your comment, I read it several times and thought about it for the last few days.
      When you’re small, your Dad is your hero and everything he does is right and good. Being told that Dad was like God in our house made sense to me, hence why I always thought God was telling me those things. I know now that it wasn’t God and I’m wondering who spoke to my Dad to make him act the way he was.

  14. Sorry Lisa .. once again … I think that the only person speaking to your father … was .. your father … or yet again perhaps . ‘someone worse’ slipped in there.

    I was a nurse and also a Red Cross First Aider. The FIRST thing you are taught .. is to take care of yourself. Meaning for example, you don’t go running out there onto wet ground to rescue the man who is being electrocuted by a cable that is loose – because YOU will be the next victim. One HAS to take care of themselves, because without doing that .. you will be in NO fit state and unable to take care of anyone else.

    We all need that quietness and reflection …. you are not being selfish ….

    • I’m a nurse, and I had that same thought. Our profession is founded on caring for others, and I was taught in nursing school that you cannot take care of others well unless you first take care of yourself. And that means, among other things, taking some time to rest and relax. It’s a legitimate human need.

  15. God created all of us with different gifts and talents. He created us with different persoanlities. I’m an introvert, too. I think the point in diing to self is to use those gifts and talents in a Godly way, not erasing everything God created you to be, to be someone He didn’t create you to be. When I was a kid I was sitting at the dinner table and said that when I grow up I want to be a singer. My step mom’s immediate comment was “That might not be what God wants”. Way to shoot down the talent God gave me. What she could have said was “God will find a way to use your talent”.

  16. Lisa, unfortunately we spend our entire lives undoing the wrong that was done to us in our childhood. I was actually abandoned by both of my parents when I was nine and left in an orphangage and I was preached to about Jesus and all that stuff and then finally I was so desperate to feel loved and wanted and needed the hurt to go away so badly I decided that I didn’t know if everything they were saying was true about Jesus but If there is a God in Heaven that loves me then I’ll give this relationship thing a shot! My relationship with Christ truly changed everything about who I am and where I am today. The dying to self that Jesus talks about is not about focusing on what you are giving up, but it’s about what you are gaining through an awesome relationship with Him. Your dad’s heart may have been in the right place but his approach was certainly not God’s way of showing you exactly what He ultimately wants you to know… How much he loves you! How you can call Him Father and Daddy! Psalm 27:10 ” though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will recieve me.” Get to know that God and allow the truth to set you free! John 8:32 Sara Jenkins

  17. Dear Lisa,
    You are not hiding your pain as some do but I think your idea of dying to self is misconstrued. If the joy of the Lord is to be our strength, everything we do with a pure heart is dying to self. God is not silent. You sound depressed. ..I’m selfish. I’m detestable. I’m lost. Open the scriptures and read the Psalms.
    A sister who hears your pain,

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