Continually discovering the roots of self-centered behavior shouldn’t be a surprise. New shoots spring up all the time, even if it seems that we’ve cut them back to the ground. We can possibly change the self-centeredness within us, but it never really dies. It has the persistence of weeds which can appear even where and when we don’t want them.
To progress in love we must temper our self-centeredness with daily practices attempting other-centeredness: behaviors like paying attention to someone, giving some time, noticing, affirming, being thoughtful, helping, anticipating needs, serving in some little ways. Basically making habits out of other-centered behaviors. This is training in love, dying a little to the self. It is not rocket science at all. But is nonetheless quite difficult.
At the same time we can try to tame some of the interior mental self-centeredness, by not allowing every thought and desire to control us. This is a very personal thing. You might know best what appetites or impulses control you instead of you controlling them. It might be food, sex, alcohol or drugs, bluntness of expression, interrupting others, judging others, comparing yourself to others for better or worse, etc., etc., etc..
Some of this you might consider to be what Dr. David Amen calls Automatic Negative ThoughtS (ANTS) and figure out what skills you need to develop to be a good “ant EATER.” I suggest laughing (even out loud, maybe) at your self-centered foolishness, and pray “Lord have mercy on such as me. It’s a really good thing that you love me so much,”
Most of all though we need to be patient. Each of us is a work in progress. In reality, we know that we are foolish and delusional to think that we can, or already have, totally detached ourselves from self-centered love. It’s not even a goal, quite honestly, because it would be totally unrealistic. Little steps in loving, that’s what we can hope and strive for.
“It is not possible to empty ourselves completely of ourselves.
While we are here below, and until such time that God bears us up to heaven, we must always bear with ourselves….
So we must be patient and not think we can overcome in a day all the bad habits we have acquired through the poor care we have taken of our spiritual health.” –Francis de Sales