May 16, 2023

How Our Desire For Self-Fulfilment Can Lead Us Into Fruitful Service

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Episode 73     

Those of us who desire to become more loving and self-transcending can mistakenly believe that our God-given desire for self-fulfilment is something innately selfish. If we are afraid to embrace and lean into our longing for self-fulfilment, we will not be able to become the unique individuals that God created us to be.

In this episode I explain how our longing for self-fulfilment is a powerful means through which God calls us into the specific and unrepeatable personal vocation we are each created to live - which is in turn the most loving and fruitful service we can offer others.

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Clarity Consultative-Coaching with Ann Yeong

(00:05:05) - Introduction
(00:06:37) - The Objection
(00:09:40) - Created for Self-Fufillment
(00:12:53) - Serving where the Need is
(00:18:12) - Aligning Ourselves to Our Gifts and Purpose
(00:22:26) - Sometimes being Hindered
(00:26:26) - The Orchestra Analogy
(00:31:15) - What about the Cross?
(00:35:25) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:37:46) - Conclusion
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How that fear of being self-serving or selfish may have prevented you from taking action to move you forward in becoming the person that God created you to be?

Take a moment to list down just three things you've done in the past, where you felt really fulfilled, really alive.

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Hello again, dear listeners. Now, one of the ways possible life script may keep us from moving forward in really becoming who we are and flourishing, is that fear or that assumption that some of us have – in fact, I'll say a lot of us have. Those of us who are, you know, faithful Christians who are desiring to grow in love – there is this underlying fear of being unloving.

 This underlying fear that we are too self-centred or selfish. And, you know, this tugs at us, right? Because there's this tension between our longing to be alive, feel alive, our longing to be free, to flourish. And that is like a natural longing that I think every creature has. Every creature that God created is meant to flourish and there's something in it – whether it's animate or not – that propels its growth towards flourishing.

So, on one hand, we have that desire to become more fully who we are, to be free. But on the other hand, some of us have this kind of like programmed into us; a certain presupposition that when we seek our own good, that that is being selfish – that that is being self-centred and unloving, and that is somehow wrong.

So, a lot of times this is happening subconsciously. I'm not saying that we usually very consciously think that seeking our good is selfish. But I see this so often in people who feel even guilty sometimes, that their desire to know what will fulfil them, how they can live their best life, may somehow prevent them from really being of service to others, right.

Because again, there's a presupposition that to serve, to be of service in God's kingdom is predicated on need; on the need of others, on selfless giving on our part. And that therefore, if there is joy and self-fulfilment in us as we are going about our lives and serving, that maybe that is somehow less good than if our service had no element of – I don't know – of self-fulfilment.

Now, even as I hear myself say this – and I'm hoping that as you hear me say this, you can detect that, okay, that sounds a little off, right? There's something flawed about that logic. That if there is self-fulfilment involved, somehow it is less loving or less good. Well, our scripts are not rational. Okay, our scripts are sometimes a kind of rationalization, but they often are not necessarily logical.

Our scripts are there – are kind of like ways that we've tried to make sense of our world so that we can be safe. And for those of us who learned early on that to be loving, to be selfless is somehow a way to be good and therefore to be loved, to receive love, to earn love, to earn approval, to receive attention, okay – in a sense so that I can be seen, I can be acknowledged, then we are the ones – and I count myself in this – we are the ones who may sometimes feel, or without us realizing, be actually held back and really moving forward in discernment because we are afraid of self-fulfilment.

So, this podcast is actually – I'm sharing with you the recording of an Instagram Live I did earlier this year, when I speak to that objection that sometimes people have – and I have heard this raised as a conscious objection before. You know, it's so much attention on where my gifts are, where I feel alive, is it rather self-centred, right, in this process of discerning where my call is, where my personal vocation is.

But apart from even those who raise this as a conscious objection, I know that there are many of us who are hampered without our own awareness by some kind of fear that we are being selfish. So, if this sounds like you, if this sounds at all familiar to you, then this episode is for you.

And I hope that it gives you something new to think about. And if you know someone, if you love someone whom you know this is an issue, like this constant fear of being selfish if they are seeking self-fulfilment, I hope you share this episode with them and that this will set their hearts at ease and maybe see god in a new way and see the desire that God has for us, for fullness of life in a new way. And so I hope you enjoy this episode on how our desire for self-fulfilment can lead us to fruitful service.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again. Good morning, everyone.

So, in today's IG Live, I want to address an objection I come across pretty often among people of faith, among disciples of Christ. When we talk about going the mile to discern how I'm uniquely gifted to seek out what gives me life, sometimes this language of discerning what it is that gives me life, what is it that makes me feel like I'm in flow and I'm capable – you know, working in the areas of my giftedness. This kind of language sometimes make some people uncomfortable because they think it's too much emphasis on self-fulfilment, too much emphasis on what gives us joy.

[00:06:37] THE OBJECTION
And I often hear this question or this objection; isn't it a bit self-centred to go about seeking ways to serve God in the ways that I'm gifted and maybe not being willing to serve God in the areas that there is need. All right, so, sometimes there is this counter argument that when we are discerning where our call is, we should be looking at where the need is rather than looking at where we are gifted.

All right, so, let me repeat that. Sometimes, there's this objection that when we're discerning our call and our vocation, we shouldn't be looking so much at what we're gifted in, where our talents are because that seems a little bit self-centred and that we should instead be focusing on where the needs are.

So, that's what I'm going to be just talking a bit about today, addressing this objection. Now first off, I think it is a bit of a false dichotomy. Okay, I think it's a bit of a false dichotomy that we can only choose between where the needs are and where our talents are or where we are gifted in.

Because the truth is, where we are called is usually where those two things actually meet. That is where we are called is usually where the needs of the world and where we are uniquely designed and gifted to flourish in – where these two things meet, that's usually where our vocation is, where our call is.

Okay, so, I think that it's a little – it's a bit misleading to even raise this objection that perhaps seeking where our heart's desire is or where we feel very alive in is self-centred or selfish, okay. So, my argument here is that I think God created us with a certain design to be listened to – okay, to be listened to.

Now many of us, especially in this day and age, we kind of cringe at the word obedience because obedience feels a bit very stifling – especially if we have experiences of authoritative figures in our life, kind of forcing us to obey. Obedience doesn't feel life-giving at all.

But the root word of the word obedience really comes from the verb "to listen". So, obedience is actually about listening and listening well – well, to the source of life, okay; to God. And when we find that there are certain activities that we gravitate towards because it makes us feel alive.

Because it makes us feel like, you know, we're strong, we're capable. That kind of feeling sometimes like I'm made to do this. Those are clues that are calling out for us to listen a little bit more closely, right. To listen more closely to what God is saying to us through our life, through the design that He has given us.

Now, it may surprise my fellow Catholics, at least, that there was actually a Pope who is a "blessed". All right, there's this Pope Paul VI who actually wrote in an encyclical – and this is in the 1960s, I think 1967. And in a document, in an encyclical about the development of people, okay.

And he wrote that in God's plan, every man is born to seek self-fulfilment. So, just at that first sentence, I think he's saying that God created us to seek self-fulfilment. Because in the way that God created us to seek food, you know, because when we're hungry to seek nourishment, to seek safeties, to seek shelter. We are also created to seek self-fulfilment.

Why? Because every human life is called to some task by God. So, this is still Pope Paul VI's words, right? And because we're called to certain tasks, He has built into us a sense of fulfilment when we are more aligned with doing the task that we were created to do, okay.

And here is something else that Pope Paul VI said. That at birth, a human being possesses certain aptitudes and abilities in germinal form, like, you know, in seed form. And these qualities are to be cultivated so that they may bear fruit. By developing these traits through formal education of personal effort, the individual works his way to what the goal is set for him by the creator.

Okay, so, what Pope Paul VI here, saying is God created us for a certain purpose. And He has equipped us – including equipped our hearts to be inclined – in certain directions toward the goal that He has set for us uniquely, each one of us.

So, this is what I see often happening. First, when it comes to young people ministry, that there is an effort or a kind of narrative that they should serve in different capacities and train themselves to serve in different capacities – even in the areas that they are not gifted in. And the argument goes well, you know, that it's service first, not just where you want to serve.

And secondly, in order to stretch yourself out of your comfort zones. Right, and become maybe a more well-rounded individual and to serve where the need is. But a lot of this emphasis seems to come from this fear that it will breed self-centeredness in these young people if they are given an opportunity to server only in the areas that they're gifted in.

Now, this is not just prevalent in young people ministry because I have had clients in their fifties that tell me that that same narrative is being given to them in their communities and in their ministries – the ministries in which they're serving. That they should stretch themselves outside of their comfort zone and try different areas, even if this is not an area in which they are gifted and even if they're very poor at it – this is where the need is and that's where you should be serving.

You know, always that need of the community or the need of the church first, before your inclination and even your giftedness, right. I think there's a bit of a confusion here or a conflation, okay? What is the conflation? Now, there is no doubt that to really bear fruit in our vocations, we need to grow in maturity. And that includes spiritual and emotional maturity, spiritual and emotional maturity.

Of course would also include the willingness to go sometimes where we would rather not go if God calls us. But that's one dimension. That's one dimension. Not to be confused with at the same time, listening to how God has designed us uniquely, specifically towards certain tasks or certain goals or certain ways of operating.

To think that in order to grow in spiritual maturity and emotional maturity demands that we do everything, or just go where the needs are without obeying, without listening to the unique way that God has designed such an individual – like each of us. I think that's a huge mistake. That's the confusion of two different things. And that is actually very counterproductive for the kingdom.

Why is that? God did not create all of us to serve Him in the same way. Right, all of us, if you want to use the word instrument – we are created as very, very different kinds of instruments of God.

In the book that I love by the renowned author, Max Lucado – the pastor and author Max Lucado– he wrote this book called Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. Now, he spoke from his own experience at a time when his church was growing and they needed a new building. And there were few years where there was just a lot of resources and time spent on building this expanded new church.

[00:15:36]At the end of those years of church building, when he finally could address his flock in the new church auditorium, he said – he wrote this in the book – that he was standing from the podium and he looked up at this sea of eager faces so happy to be in this new church that they'd been waiting for.

And he was just so burnt out that I think at that moment, he was even doubting if this was his calling anymore. Right, and he became curious, fortunately, about why this was. Why was it that he felt like he had nothing more to give. And he consulted someone who was a career consultant or a career coach, who spent a weekend with him apparently, and helped him to identify certain recurring patterns in his own life.

What had been life-giving to him? What had made him feel since he was a boy and a young adult, all the way through his adulthood – what had made him feel really like in flow – you know, where he really felt that he was of service and where he wasn't burnt out in serving.

And he realized that there were several key activities and tasks such as writing, such as preaching and being with people, ministering to people. These were things that were very life-giving to him, that he was clearly very gifted in. And not only when he did these tasks, not only was he blessing other people, he was himself topped up and filled up. He did not burn out when he was doing these tasks. That in the preceding few years of church building, all these tasks that he enjoyed so much had diminished to, like – I don't know – less than maybe 10% of the amount of work that he was doing.

And the bulk of his time, during this time, was sitting in board meetings – meeting lawyers, meeting builders, architects, and working out all these legalities. And these were things that suck the light – the life and the light out of him. Right, and he hadn't realized it. He saw all these as necessary in terms of his role as a pastor and a leader of his church.

And since they were moving towards building a new church, he felt that he needed to do all these things as well. But what he had not realized was these were not the tasks that God had actually designed him for. All right, so, imagine – if let's say you were talking about an instrument, let's say you were a ping pong paddle.

Okay, maybe I picked that because I used to be in the table tennis team in school. Maybe you were ping pong paddle. And you could be the best ping pong pedal, okay – with competition grade. You know, like rubber on the side. And that wouldn't matter if someone picked you up and decided to play badminton with you, or tennis.

How good a job would you do? If you were a ping-pong bat, right, and someone used it to play badminton or tennis. Not very good. Does it say anything about your quality? Does it say anything about how well you are fashioned? No, right? It says something about you not being utilized. Or not being in the place that you were designed to be.

If you were instead put in the hands of a skilled ping pong player, a skilled table tennis player, oh, you know, you could play an incredibly beautiful game of table tennis, right?

So, this argument that I was talking about, where if is it selfish to seek fulfilment. Not if the sense of self-fulfilment is a clue – is an important clue, I would say – that we are aligned to the purpose for which God created us. So, if we deliberately want to ignore that sense of self-fulfilment because we feel that it's selfish, if we feel that it is, you know, it makes us feel guilty to feel pleasure in doing certain things and doing certain things well, we would be ignoring.

In fact, we would not be actually obeying God. Obedience to God includes learning to listen attentively to the design that He has given us in our aptitudes, in our strengths, in our gifts, in our motivation – in our motivational design. And including the temperament and a personality that He has given us.

Now, the craft of being able to listen well to what is the design that God has given us is not something that's easy that can be done very quickly. It takes a lifetime of mastery. Right, and that is why in a sense, the earlier we begin this process, the better. Because the longer time or the longer the runway we will have in learning how to listen well to the design that God has given us.

In the process, we will find out that there are things that impede our ability to listen well to the design that God has given us. Right, and that would include the scripts that we have, which I often talk about – you know, narratives in our head, including this narrative that this objection comes from; this objection that you know, it's a little self-centred or selfish to focus so much on self-fulfilment.

That itself is a script. Right, and that is a script that can become an obstacle to you and I discerning what our true calling is and taking the steps to live out the calling. So, we have to get that out of the way.

In a sense, we have to realize that this narrative that self-fulfilment is selfish, probably comes from a kind of a distortion that we have about who God is. Because really, what is it saying if we believe that self-fulfilment is selfish. Are we saying that we believe that God created us not to be fulfilled.

You know, could not God be generous enough to make us in such a way that that for which we were meant to do for Him is also that, which gives us great joy, life and pleasure? Yes, it's not just about our pleasure and our fulfilment, but it doesn't mean that it's not part of the picture. I think that's what I want to really emphasize in today's episode. Right, because this is an objection that I hear so often.

So, continuing with the quote I started on earlier – right, and this is a quote on the development of peoples written by Pope Paul VI. He says that endowed with intellect and freewill – which we all have – each person is responsible for his self-fulfilment or her self-fulfilment, even as he or she is for our salvation, for his salvation. Okay, so this is 1967. So, it's non-inclusive language. I'm just inserting the "he" or "she" in there. He is helped – right, the person is helped.

And sometimes hindered by his or her teachers and those around them. So, this is interesting. Pope Paul VI acknowledges that in our pursuit of self-fulfilment, which he says is natural and good because God created us to seek self-fulfilment, that we can at times be helped and at times be hindered by our teachers and by those around us. And that would include our parents, our society, our communities, the scripts that run through our families of origin, our schools, you know, et cetera, et cetera. Some of these scripts may help us, but a lot of times, these narratives such as the one that we are addressing today – that seeking self-fulfilment is selfish – these can actually impede us in finding out who we are, and in being that person.

But Pope Paul VI continuous, whatever yet, whatever the outside influences exerted on the person, he or she is the chief architect of their own success or failure. Okay, so, he acknowledges that there are outside influences that could be hostile to us becoming who we are. And yet we are the chief architects of our own success or failure.

Utilizing only their talent and willpower, each person can grow in humanity, enhance his personal worth and perfect himself, or herself.

So, I think this is very important in terms of our discussion – our discussion about discerning personal vocation. To acknowledge 1. Self-fulfilment is part of it. And there is no shame in it and it's not selfish to desire self-fulfilment. And then 2. To recognize that this sense of – this desire to seek self-fulfilment is also given to us because in our path, there will be often obstacles and outside influences that may not be helpful to us finding our path.

But they cannot ultimately stop us if we choose not to let them. Right, because we have intellect and freewill, right. I mean, of course also considering specific circumstances that we have.

But by and large, a lot of us, we actually have the ability to push forward and to seek, to continue to listen to the design that God has given us, even if the external influences are hostile to us. But this is where – so, I'll say, this is where the work of interior integration is very important, right? Because sometimes we just focus on oh, let's just figure out what our design is, what our motivations are – you know, what our personality, temperament, what our strengths are. And then we think that by doing that, it will be sufficient for us to figure out our calling.

Not exactly because we need to build up the interior strength and resilience to also work against the external influences that are hostile to us, to be able to move around that, perhaps. To learn flexibility and to grow in emotional and spiritual maturity, right. For us to be able to live out in fullness, the tasks that we were created to do, or the mission that we were given.

And the last, well – it's not the only point to make after talking about why this is not selfish to seek self-fulfilment. But the other point I wanted to really stress in this episode is I want you to think of an orchestra. Okay, I don't know if you know – not all of us are very classical music fans and love maybe listening to the orchestra.

But we all kind of know what an orchestra looks like. Right, it is not just made up of one person. It is made up of a large group of people playing different kinds of instruments. So, there are different sections in an orchestra. Or in different sections, there are different instruments being played. There are the strings, there's percussion, there are the winds instruments.

And when there is a piece that is being played, there's a score for the whole piece, but different sections or different instruments have slightly different variations that they're playing. And they all look to the conductor to know when to come in, right – when to play.

And it is so imperative that they play their part and not try and play some other person's part – or some other section's part. That would ruin the whole experience, that would ruin the whole piece. What's instructive about this is – so, we need to know what kind of instrument we are in order for us to know how we fit into that larger picture of God's orchestra, okay.

If the kingdom of God is like one large orchestra, for example, our conductor, God, you know, He has designed us and gifted us and equipped us to play our part very well. But it doesn't mean that he is equipped us to play somebody else's part very well. So, it's a very important part of the journey to learn to focus, to learn to realize who we are, to accept who we are.

To ultimately embrace who we are and to have the desire to learn to master our part – right, to trust that I may not know exactly how I fit into the larger picture. But that if I play my part, I be who I am, I am contributing to that glorious melody that God is weaving throughout human history, somehow.

Right, instead of being envious about somebody else's part or being preoccupied about how our scripts or maybe our parents' scripts keep telling us that, oh, doing this other thing is somehow better and more respectable, more important. And also, this debunks the argument, the objection that I started this episode with; about how we should just be focused on where the needs are rather than where we are gifted, how we are gifted.

The needs of the world are many – way too many for any one person to fulfil. But God, in His providence, would have created enough and provided enough to meet the needs of the world. But what would obedience mean? Listening, right? I said listening to God. What would obedience mean? It would mean listening to how He has created me and called me specifically to address the needs of the world. And that would usually be just in one rather narrow way.

Right, but back to that analogy I talked about earlier. If He made me a ping pong bat, my hope would be that, you know, I am being used by a person who is a master player. Actually, that person could be Christ himself. We believe – those of us who have faith – that when we live the life we're created to live, it is Christ who lives in us. When we allow Him to use us in the way that we are created to be – you know, to be in a sense used – you know, with the gifts and the talents and the motivations and desires of our heart, we can live at the highest effectiveness for his kingdom.

Right, not by trying to be some other kind of instrument. So, the good news is, moving towards greater alignment with the mission that God has created us always includes a greater sense of self-fulfilment.

And to close this off, I'm going to address another objection that usually comes with this thing about self-fulfilment, being selfish. Christians often ask me; what about the cross? What about Jesus saying, you know, we have to pick up the cross and follow Him? If we're just picking and choosing what we're gifted to do, you know, isn't that – how is that related to the cross? It's like, we just want to do what we want to do.

Here's the thing. The cross is always going to be with us. And if you think for a moment that this entire process that I've been talking about, not only in today's episode, but like on the Becoming Me episode and all my content – if you think that this process of discerning your personal vocation is a journey without the cross, think again.

There is nothing more challenging than confronting your own soul, than really looking at yourself truthfully, than acknowledging the areas in which we are unable to accept ourselves – all the scripts that bind us, the ways that trauma has affected us. These are all things we need to address on the way of becoming more fully who we are – that takes guts. That takes courage. That is carrying the cross.

And in the process of fulfilling the call that Christ has given us, in the process of pursuing obedience to the design that He has given us, we will face objections. There will be hostility levelled at us. There will be people criticizing us for whatever it is that we're doing or not doing.

To be able to still proceed, to move past these objections, and to still find peace and joy in it, that demands discipleship. That demands an ability to pick up our cross and follow Him. The difference is – the difference is that when we obey the Lord and listen to the design that He has given us and align our lives, our choices, our decisions with the clues that He continues to give us about what were created for.

The crosses that we bear, the sacrifices that we make – they are also aligned towards us fulfilling our mission. When we are not listening well, when we're not practicing that kind of obedience, what happens is a lot of the suffering, a lot of the crosses that were bearing may not be aligned or helpful to its us fulfilling our mission.

Right, so, the cross is always going to be with us. Suffering is always going to be with us. Choosing to align ourselves with the design that God has given us is not only not selfish. I think that takes courage and obedience of another level.

Okay, so, that's me addressing the objection, that trying to descend a personal vocation by discerning where we are gifted in and moving and aligning in the areas of our motivation or giftedness – that it is selfish. If you have ever had that thought before, and if it's been holding you back from really going all in, and trying to listen and figure out how you are unique and the ways you're gifted in, because maybe a part of you is afraid that that is for the selfish and that's not what a disciple or apostle would do.

I hope that this episode may have given you something to think about and maybe started changing your mind. The don't take just my word for it. There's plenty of literature out there. If you choose to read up on discerning your personal vocation, you'll find that there are a lot of other more erudite and experienced authors and, you know, coaches and spiritual directors who actually see the same thing as I just have. And if you'd like to know what some of those titles are, please feel free to drop me a message and I'll be happy to send a couple of titles that may be helpful for you.

All right, so, as for the praxis prompts for this episode, I invite you to really think what I said earlier – all the things I've shared about how there are objections to seeking self-fulfilment, being selfish. Like what part of that resonates with you? Is there anything in particular from what you've heard today that really hits home?

And Two: Ponder – I invite you to ponder how maybe that fear of being self-serving or selfish may have prevented you from taking action that would actually move you forward in becoming the person that God created you to be.

 And finally, Three: An invitation for you to Act – I invite you to take a moment to list down just three things – three things that you've done in the past, okay? Three stories. The three incidents that you've done, where you felt really fulfilled, really alive, okay – that you felt strong, capable, you were moving into areas of a giftedness.

And you can tell from the result; that someone was really helped by you. Okay, so that is three things. Three things of what you may have done in the past, activities that you've done in the past, where you really felt capable, strong, empowered, you were moving the areas of your giftedness, and you really saw how someone was helped by you being you, moving in the area of your giftedness.

I hope that lays your fear, if you have any – that really going down this path is selfish. May you become who God created you to be and feel the joy that He has when you live the design that He has given you. So, thank you for watching for listening. Until the next time, have a blessed week!

[00:37:46] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. The most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction, no matter how small those steps might be. And no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter, as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, happy becoming.