Imagine the freedom of knowing you’re NOT the main character of your own story.
Long after you yelled at that guy in traffic or sent murder-waves at the lady who cut in line, those people continue to live their lives. As we reflect on their horrible behavior and our own upright decency, those people are also reflecting on their bills, their anxiety, their children, their hopes and dreams and insecurities, just like you. While I’m looking out a window commending my own sensibility, they’re also trying to make good and do their best with the little they have.
When you can only think about your own struggle, we end up imprisoned in a tower of hostility where we defend our treasure-trove of self-referencing ego. It’s living inside your own head, cut off from the world, which is exactly why people kill each other thinking they need to protect their own selfish narratives.
You might have seen some movies where the main character acts like a jerk and crushes people who are in the way, but then later “makes up for it” by deep contemplation next to a lake — but you know, that guy is still a jerk. He is not suddenly cool just because he is self-aware. Sometimes self-awareness is really just self-absorbed, and that can only breed a franchise of destruction.
There is a slow unfolding horror when you realize that the universe is not about you. No one is thinking of your embarrassing moment after you slipped on the stage. No one continues applauding our trophies and childhood achievements and our ten seconds of fame. No one is thinking of ways to bow down to our pampered entitlement. They are trying to make it, and so are you.
If only we knew that life was about how to be for one another. It is the task of the soldier to think of the next soldier. It is the mark of a noble person to sacrifice, to serve, to regard the other as even better than yourself. Even praying for someone is, in a sense, becoming the other person, to walk inside their shoes and feel the anxiety of their needs.
Without this, we grow hard and resentful. But with this — we become healers in a world where our brokenness far outweighs mercy. Any time a corner of our world has changed for better, it has never been because someone hijacked the role of the protagonist. Instead they considered themselves as a bit cameo in the story of humanity, and without even trying, became the characters that we want to be and remember. It is our mercy that is celebrated beyond the brevity of our tiny little lives on earth.
This is really all God’s story. He calls us to participate in the overflow of His love, just as He gave Himself for us. So long as God and others are the real main characters of our lives: we have embraced our real selves, the roles that we were made and created for. You can be free of the tyranny of yourself, and you will be free for a reckless joy that expects nothing back.
So — hand over the pen. Let Him write. Give up the credit and glory. Be free.
Now there are very few rules about improvisation, but one of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if they are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv … And like improv, you cannot win your life.
— Stephen Colbert