“The paradox of our existence is that we must lose our selves in something outside ourselves in order to experience our real selves.”November 24, 1968
The full title of this sermon could be “You Are Your Own Worst Enemy… If You Live Only for Yourself”. Rabbi Olan frames extreme self-involvement not as a moral problem but as a failure of psychological development. According to him, egocentricity is normal in infancy and early childhood, but some people never mature beyond that phase. They crave admiration and love but they are denied them because they think only of themselves.
Rabbi Olan says that much damage is done when such immature people marry and become parents. “Children are the supreme joy of our lives,” but “self-centered people… can never really love” each other or their children. They are unable to experience their children as real others with needs and gifts of their own. Such parents use their children “to fulfill what they have not been able to achieve”.
In addition to marriage and parenting, Rabbi Olan includes creativity, teaching, and working for the good of the community as ways in which we can grow beyond ourselves.
Finally, Rabbi Olan says that self-centered people are denied the experience of religion because they cannot trust in God, only in themselves. “The very meaning of life lies in our capacity to bring our selves to something outside ourselves, to somebody beyond ourselves.”
*Written by Lionel S. Joseph and Frances M. Olan*