St. Francis of Assisi embodied dying to self. Antony of Egypt and the desert monks also embodied this self-sacrifice. Monks considered themselves white martyrs because they were dead to the world and its pleasures. Whereas red martyrs were those killed for their beliefs in Christ.
What is dying to self? First let’s look at what it’s not.
It is not self-flagellation. It is not despair. It is not isolation from the world and its problems. It is not uncaring, self-righteous or condemning. Though the practices of self-denial–dying to self can lead to all of these–its greatest sin–pride.
Dying to self is walking/living the life of Jesus Christ himself. We walk in obedience to Christ following him, ministering to the sick, the lost, the lonely, those we do not like. We walk the road of suffering. This life is not without suffering. We do not hide from the fact, but count it as joy, as Paul said.
Suffering is not joy. But there is a beauty and building of character from suffering. The temptation is fleeing, complaining, hiding like Adam and Eve, falling into despair. But we must remember suffering is not caused by God. He allows it because He will make a beautiful pearl out of us–refined like gold in many fires.
We come to the end of ourselves and give all to God. The purpose is brokenness, full trust in the all-powerful, infinite, immutable, beautiful, holy, good, awesome God of the cosmos who communes with this world and His people.
We learn to care for others more than ourselves (not counting ourselves as chaff or worthless). Yes, we fall on this journey of truth, beauty, and trial, but because of Christ, the result is victory.
Through dying to self, our heart is transformed–we are made more like Christ–seeing His creation more through the eyes of God. Quite frankly, the self gets in the way. We want what we want. But God has better things for us.