You have sometimes heard it said of people that “they have to be handled like eggs”; eggs must be handled carefully, or you are likely to break them. Some people are super-sensitive: you have to be very careful what you do or say, or they will be hurt or offended; you can never be sure how they are going to take anything. Such people are much of the time suffering from wounded feelings, are displeased and offended. It is true that some are of a highly nervous temperament and naturally feel things more keenly than others, but it is not this natural nervous sensitiveness that leads to the results above mentioned, it is a morbid and unnatural state into which people allow themselves to enter. The natural feelings may need restraint and careful cultivation, but these morbid feelings need to be got rid of.
Sometimes people can bear to hear others ridiculed or talked about in a gossiping way, or see them slighted, and think nothing of it or even be amused; but when they themselves become the target for such things, it almost kills them, or at least they feel almost killed. What makes this great difference in their feelings? Why do they feel for themselves so much more than they do for others? Trace the feeling back to its origin, and you will find that their self-love is the thing that has been hurt. If they loved others as they love themselves, they would feel just as much hurt by that which was directed against the other as by that which was directed at themselves. It is self-love that makes people easily offended and easily wounded; and the more self-love they have, the easier they are hurt and the quicker their resentment is aroused. Self-love begets vanity; it quivers in keenest anguish at a sneer or a scornful smile; it is distressed by even a fancied slight. Self-love throws the nerves of sensation all out to the surface and makes them hyper-sensitive, and so the person feels everything keenly. He is constantly smarting under a sense of injustice. He feels he is constantly being mistreated.
Oh, this self-love! How many pains it brings! how many slights it sees! how often it is offended! Reader, are you a victim of self-love? If you are so sensitive, always being wounded and offended, self-love is what is the trouble. If you will get rid of this self-love, you will be rid of that morbid sensitiveness; that is, you will get rid of that morbid sensitiveness that makes people have to be so careful with you.
Self-love makes a person wonder what others are thinking and saying about him. It makes him suspicious of others, suspicious that they are saying or thinking things that would hurt his feelings if known. If two others talk in his presence and he can not hear what is said, he is afraid lest the talk is about him or he is hurt because he is not taken into the confidence of the others. If others are invited to take part in something while he is omitted, he feels slighted and hurt, and can hardly get over it. I have often heard people make remarks like this: “We shall have to invite So-and-so, or he will feel hurt.” Self-love is a tender plant; it is easily injured. We may make all sorts of excuses for such sensitiveness; but if we will clear away these excuses and dig down to the root of the trouble, we shall find that God has it labeled “self-love.”
Another thing that increases sensitiveness is holding a wrong mental attitude toward others. This attitude manifests itself in a lack of confidence in the good intent of others. If we are looking for and expecting slights, ridicule, and like things, it means we take it for granted that others are holding a wrong attitude toward us. We do not really believe that they love us and have kindly feelings toward us, or that they will be just and kind and sympathetic in their actions that affect us or relate to us. Have you not seen children who, when one would hurt another and say, “Oh, I did not mean to do it!” the other would retort, “Yes, you did; you just did it on purpose”? There are many older persons who are always ready to say, “It was just done on purpose; they just meant to hurt my feelings!” This is childish, but alas, how many professed Christians hold such an attitude! This is a sure way to destroy fellowship and to take the sweetness out of the association with God’s people. It is unjust to our brethren. It is the foe of unity and spirituality. Were it not for self-love, we would not think of attributing to others an attitude different from that which we feel that we ourselves hold toward them.
This self-love crops out in all our relations. It constantly exalts us and as constantly depreciates our brethren. God’s saints are animated with a spirit of kindness and brotherly affection for each other, and this does not manifest itself in wounds and slights, and if we are looking for such manifestations it is because we do not believe that they have Christlike feelings toward us. God wants us to have more confidence in our brethren than to be looking for them to misuse us.
If we are looking for slights, we shall see plenty of them—even where none exist. If we are expecting wounds, we shall receive them even when no one intends to wound us. Self-love has a great imagination. It can see a great many evils where none exist. It is like a petulant and spoiled child. I remember one child of whom it was said, “If you just crook your finger at him, he will cry.” Thinking that this was an exaggeration, I tried it, and the boy cried. There are some people six feet tall who are hurt just that easily. They are truly “lovers of their own selves.” Paul said, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” It is high time others were doing the same thing. Suppose Christ had been as sensitive as you are, would he have saved the world? If Paul had been like you, would he have endured the persecution and dangers and tribulations and misrepresentations that he bore to carry the gospel to the world? He was not so sensitive. He was not looking for slights. He was a real, full-sized man for God. The secret is that he loved Christ and others more than he loved himself; therefore he could endure all things for his brethren’s sake, that they might be saved.
The cure for self-love and the sensitiveness that comes from it is to turn your eyes away from self to Jesus Christ, and look upon him until you see how little and insignificant you and your interests really are. Look upon him until you see how high above all such narrow pettishness he was, until you see that his great heart was so overrunning with love for others that he had no time to think of himself. Then ask him to revolutionize you and fill your heart with that same love till your eyes and your thoughts and your interests are no longer centered upon yourself, and self no longer fills your horizon, but your heart goes out to others till it quite draws you away from yourself. You will find this the cure for your sensitiveness; and when you are thus cured, you will no longer be an egg-shell Christian, and people will no longer have to be afraid of wounding or offending you.