Published May 26, 2005
I was having dinner in a restaurant located on a large cove along the Pacific coast. A large picture window was in front of me perfectly framing the view that was unforgettable. A young couple entered the restaurant and was ushered to a table adjacent to mine. I would later learn that this near-30 couple was on a first date.
At once the young man went into great detail to describe how he had swum the cove many times. It was clear that he was trying to impress his date. I was impressed. I had seen the swimmers prior to dinner. The water is cold and deep and the route they swim is long. "Oh, yes," he boasted, "I have done it many times."
Trying to seem interested she said, "How far is it?" He replied, "Well, from that buoy to the next buoy is one quarter mile. Then from there to the next buoy is another quarter mile. Then back to the starting point is about a half mile. So, I guess it is about a mile." By the way, he was tall and slender. I thought I would probably be tall and slender if I were a swimmer, as I reached for another piece of sourdough bread.
I really wasn't trying to eavesdrop. It was a small restaurant and he was talking loud enough for the people next door to hear him.
As they were seated, he began to tell her about his work as a stockbroker. I could tell he was brimming over with pride. She, petite and attractive, looked him straight in the eyes clearly wanting to be attentive. He droned on and on about being a stockbroker. Then his cell phone rang. It was a client, or so it seemed. He started giving advice and quoting annual percentage yields of various funds. It was all very impressive.
While he was talking, his date left the table (I couldn't blame her) to go to the ladies room. He eventually hung up. The waiter stopped by the table, noticed that his date was gone, and said, "What did you say that ran her off?"
I thought, "If you only knew."
As she returned to the table, he immediately began describing his client as a guy who had heard about an investment from a friend and wanted information. "It happens all the time," he said with a ho-hum tone.
Next the young man said, "Let me tell you about my family." I thought, "Wait a minute buddy, why don't you show some interest in her?" As a father of daughters, I wanted to go over there and tell this girl to head for the hills. He went into a long diatribe about how his father coddled his brother's every whim but did not have the time of day for him. There were many illustrations of this unbalanced relationship that were laid bare before all of us. I couldn't help but wonder if he would ever stop talking and allow her to express herself.
Finally, the conversation fell silent. I thought, "Okay, this is it. Now she is going to get to say something." Just then, unable to stand the silence any longer, he prompted her by saying, "Why don't you ask me some questions about my work?"
This young man had one of the worst cases of egocentricity I have ever observed. I felt for the girl and hoped she would see through it all, enjoy her dinner and then move on.
The foundation for lasting relationships is not ego, but genuine interest in others. Being married to someone who is deeply in love with himself or herself to the exclusion of all others would be intolerable.
By the way, this illustration does not just apply to dating couples. A self-centered person is a bore. He thinks everyone else is as interested in him as he is interested in himself. He is sadly mistaken.
The kindest, most loving thing you can do in personal relationships is to show genuine interest in others. In this, you will be more like Jesus who cared for everyone else more than Himself. The attitude of service and self-sacrifice is a far better foundation for marriage and friendship than self-centeredness. Jesus teaches us as He taught His disciples in Mark 9:35b, "If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all."
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