I have a wonderful little boy in one of my French classes. He is only 5 years old. He has a charming smile and a winning way with him which would melt the hardest of hearts. He is also extremely intelligent and has a phenomenal memory. We will call him Johnny.

While Johnny’s peers are desperately trying to remember one of the 4 French words we might have learned during one lesson (and sometimes resorting to just putting ‘le’ or ‘la’ before the English word, as in ‘le chair’), Johnny will inevitably be able to remember all 4 words – and all of the words from the previous lesson too. This week I wanted to revise the colours with the children so I asked if any of them could remember one colour in French. Johnny was able to rhyme off all 7 colours of the rainbow in French, in order.

Johnny is a delight to teach. He saps up information like a sponge. He is also a delight to know. You never know what he is going to say next. This week, he told us that his name is ‘Professor Johnny Michael Anderson’ (names changed for protection). He went on to say, ‘I live in Johnny-land. In Johnny-land we speak Johnny-ish’. When I asked him to speak some Johnny-ish for me, he came off with some gibberish and then translated it for me: ‘I would like some ice cream please’.

Last week he walked into class and asked, ‘Where is Emma?’ When I pointed out Emma to him, he gave her an invitation to his birthday party. This was repeated with another little girl (while he completely ignored the fact that there are actually 3 girls in the class). Then, when they were colouring in some pictures during the lesson and he saw Emma’s new rainbow felt tips, he said, ‘I would like those for my present’. I tried to explain that we don’t usually tell people what we want for our birthday, unless they ask, but he was completely oblivious of that social convention and couldn’t see why on earth not. Fair enough.

We find such behaviour in a child cute. But somehow this kind of attitude, while cute in a child, can become ugly in an adult. It strikes me that most of us still live for a lot of our time in Johnny-land and still speak Johnny-ish. Our worlds revolve around ourselves and what we speak about is often when we want, what we hope for, what we desire.

O I know we have learned how to cleverly camouflage that and we do sometimes genuinely seek the good of others instead of ourselves. But try running an experiment for a day. Tune into what/who you think about and what/who you talk about most. Tune in to your self-talk – for we do talk to ourselves all the time, just not audibly most of the time!

What do I talk to myself about? I tried this yesterday when I was driving. I realised that what I talk to myself about in a traffic jam, or when I am driving behind a car driven by a learner driver, is not the good of others! I am thinking about myself – about my schedule, my time, my need to be somewhere. So yesterday instead of just praying for protection as I drove, I asked the Lord to make me a more gracious driver, courteous and looking out for the needs of others instead of my own. That’s quite a challenge. I would rather live in Pauline-land and speak Pauline-ish. It meant that when I had parked my car at the supermarket and saw that I hadn’t left a great deal of room for the next car, I had to get back in and try again.

And that was only one small thing. Why not join me today and listen to your self-talk? See if you can begin to think and talk about others’ needs more than your own – even for a little part of the day.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:3-11.

In this season of Lent, when we are encouraged to think about the cross, there is no greater picture of the selflessness of Jesus. He didn’t think about Himself. He thought about us. He emptied Himself – to save us. Let’s follow Him. Let’s get out of Johnny-land.

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