Self-centredness is the curse of the human race since men fell. What most of us need above everything else is to get away from ourselves, to forget ourselves. But we revolve around ourselves. We are the centre of our universe. We are always looking at ourselves. We judge and evaluate everything in terms of us. What it means to me and what it does to me. All our rivalries, bitterness and jealousies come out of that. It is true of individuals and nations alike.
In addition to this is our selfishness. The wanting everything for the self. The self-centred man or woman is always selfish. Feeding this self, pandering to it, wanting it to obtain things, and wanting others not to have it. We do everything to build up and to satisfy this horrid, terrible self, which governs us and which controls us.
All that leads, of course, to being sensitive. We see insults where they are not meant, and where indeed they very often do not exist. We are hyper sensitive. Always afraid somebody is going to take from us. We are always feeling hurt and feeling wounded.
And that in turn leads to self-protectiveness. We spend a lot of our time protecting ourselves, even trying to avoid the possibility of something that might harm us. It becomes quite a great business, always protecting this delicate hypersensitive self at the centre.
On top of all this, and this is the most mysterious thing of all about mankind, in spite of all I have just been saying, man as he is by nature is, in the main, self-reliant and self-confident. In other words, he believes that he has it in him to make a success. 'I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. He does not like religion because it tells him that he cannot save himself. He objects to it. He believes that he can. He has the power, it is in him. 'Believe in thyself’ says the whole psychology of the world, and he is ready to do so. Trust yourself. Be yourself.
So the life of man is governed in this way, by this entirely wrong and false view of himself. He lives through himself. He is the beginning and the end. He is his own god, he is autonomous. Self-centred, autonomous, modern independent man, who does not believe in a God because he does not need him, because he himself is someone. And yet you see that the whole time here he is, nervous, apprehensive, afraid, sensitive, hyper-sensitive.
(paraphrased in parts from The Cross)