Our responsibilities toward self are: (1) to be an example of Christian goodness; (2) to be humble and patient with ourselves; (3) to be simple in the use of the things of this world; (4) to be pure in thoughts, words and actions; and (5) to avoid pride, laziness, envy, and intemperance in food and drink.
1. Our responsibilities toward self include being an example of Christian goodness.
No one has ever spent himself for others as much as Christ did when He dwelt among us. In his life in the world, the Christian should endeavor to personify the love of Christ in such a warm and attractive way that others will be induced to imitate it. The Christian should also communicate to others an impartial and selfless love which is as strong and as true as the love of Christ. His external conduct should be marked by the dignity worthy of a Christian. By his example, he can spread to others the faith that is in him, especially when he gives charitable assistance to his neighbor.
2. Our responsibilities toward self include being humble and patient with ourselves.
Through self-denial, we imitate Jesus. Having come down from Heaven to show us the way to eternal life, Jesus followed no other way than that of the Cross. He suffered for us that we might follow in His footsteps. He said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
The true way to holiness is to love God and our neighbor for God’s sake and to sacrifice ourselves in order to better fulfill this love. We sacrifice ourselves out of love for God and neighbor because we want to love still more, and because God loves a cheerful giver. Our patience in the face of our own shortcomings pleases God more than our zeal. Our sufferings, when borne for love of God, produce more fruit than our activity. Our failures, when accepted with renewed confidence in God, lead more souls to Him than our successes. All that matters is that God may be glorified and that souls may be saved, starting with our own.
3. Our responsibilities toward self include being simple in the use of the things of this world.
Detachment from earthly possessions is one of the first sacrifices Christ asks of those whom He calls to share His mission. A Christian should have a spirit of simplicity and dependence upon God as Christ did; he should see poverty of spirit as a key to genuine freedom and as a way to become Christ-like. Christ declared: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
In a world which feverishly seeks for earthly riches and material things, there is an urgent need for those who, by the example of their simplicity and detachment, bear witness to Christ’s teaching that spiritual, supernatural and divine things have the highest value. The witness of Christ-like simplicity in Christians who are devoted to the glory of God and the Salvation of souls can be an inspiration to other Christians who may be negligent in this area. This neglect often occurs because such Christians are overly concerned with providing material goods for their own families.
4. Our duties toward self include being pure in thoughts, words, and actions.
In these days when sensual love and the pleasures of the flesh are emphasized and often depicted as ends in themselves, the example of Christian chastity is particularly impressive. To this world where the body and sensuality seem to count for so much, the true Christian, by a life of decency in thought, word, and action, demonstrates that purity is possible, fruitful, and liberating for both those who are single and those who are married.
5. Our responsibilities toward self include avoiding pride, laziness, envy, and intemperance in food and drink.
Christians must guard against the Capital Sins of pride, with its many manifestations; spiritual, intellectual and physical sloth (laziness); envy of other people’s successes and their financial and material possessions; and intemperance, i.e., lack of self-control and abuse of one’s bodily health by overindulgence in food, alcohol, and the abuse of all drugs.
Deliberate sin, whether mortal or venial, is preceded by an inducement to sin, which we call temptation. There are three sources of temptation: the world around us, the devil, and our own inclinations to sin. The principal temptations are those dealing with pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. If we pray, God will always give us the strength we need to overcome our temptations. In order to avoid sin, we must also avoid the occasions of sin—any person, place, or thing which in all probability will lead us to sin.