Tackling The Weeds Of Selfishness

“Batho Pele” is a phrase of the Sotho people in South Africa which means, “People First”. No, it is not about importance in the order of creation, although the Bible makes very clear that human kind was the pinnacle of all that He had made. Rather, it is the attitude that puts the welfare of others over and above ourselves. It might therefore be better phrased, “Other People First.”

This is something that doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to the deeply embedded attitude that fights to ensure my place at the front of the line. “Me first” are not words that I need to say to make them true of me. “Me first” is a weed I have to constantly dig out of the soil of my heart, with the problem that every time I tug at it, some fragment of its roots remain, ensuring that it is not too long before I need to go weeding in my heart again.

Practically, what might this weeding look like?

Any successful gardener will tell you that the place to nurture a beautiful garden is not from the couch inside. The place to begin is to step into the garden, to survey the landscape, and from there to look for those menacing plants that drain the soil of of the water and nutrients needed by the desired roses and daisies and poppies etc.

So we step into our hearts, the seat of our affections, and acknowledge that selfishness is there.

The gardener follows this observation by getting his hands dirty. With his hands and a garden fork, he digs around the weed to loosen the soil, doing his best to remove it without leaving any fragment behind.

What does getting our hands dirty look like when dealing with selfishness? Its about asking forgiveness. Even if we perceive that our selfishness was a matter of the heart not observed by the one who was on the receiving end of it, we pick up the telephone, we write an e-mail or text message, or we drive over, and we say something like this, “My heart was not right when I responded to you in (such and such a way). Please forgive me.”
This is an incredibly humbling process, but there is no greater ‘weed-killer” for the weeds of our hearts than than actively putting ourselves in positions of self-humbling.

Having dealt with the weeds, the gardener begins to plant the roses, or whatever else he prefers.

To plant the roses of “Batho Pele” in the soil of our hearts requires actively, intentionally pursuing kindness. It says of those moments that may immediately strike of inconvenience, that these are opportunities to bring the garden to full bloom. No life is more beautiful than the life where kindness grows.

“Batho Pele”…others first!

“Batho Pele”…my wife and my children, first!

“Batho Pele”…my church community first!

“Batho Pele”…my neighbours first!

“Batho Pele…Serapa se setle (Others first…a beautiful garden)!”

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