I was a very self-centered person growing up. I didn’t have many friends because I wanted them to be like me, to agree with my every opinion, to understand that I was right about everything. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a terrible person by any means. I still loved people, especially my family, and sometimes I was just too shy to get along with others. There were some people I really liked and wanted to be friends with, but I didn’t have the courage to go talk to them. Still, I was a selfish person. But guess what? So is every human being on the planet.
If you don’t believe me, look at a child. Any child. When you watch children, you observe the sin nature that God talks about in His Word. Children may be innocent in many respects, but they are born sinful. The Bible says it:
“Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.'” Genesis 8:21
That’s just two examples, there are more. Don’t misunderstand me – I am NOT saying that children are born evil. What I’m saying is that we are all born with our sinful nature. And again, I ask you to observe a child, especially playing with another child.
I have worked in church nursery’s and seen this first-hand, though I’m sure parents out there can say even more on this subject, especially when you have more than one child.
Two children play together. They both have plenty of toys. And yet, one child looks enviously at the other child’s toy. “Gimme!” the toddler proclaims and snatches at the toy that is not his.
The other child screams, “It’s mine!” and pulls away. Now ensues a struggle between the two children.
Why is this happening? Bad parenting? If not taken care of through good parenting, it can get worse. But all children do this. It is our sin nature. And selfishness is one of the worst and most prolific parts of our sin nature.
Now it is true that some people are more or less selfish than others because of different personalities. For example, my personality tends to be more selfish, while my husband’s tends to be less selfish. He thinks more of my needs than he does his own – however, he can be selfish at times too.
Selfishness seriously damages relationships. In fact, I believe that the leading cause of divorce is self-centeredness. We just don’t think enough about our spouse. Instead of us always thinking, “Why doesn’t he do this for me? Why doesn’t he think of me? Why won’t he make me happy? Why isn’t he meeting this need?” We should be thinking, “How can I encourage my husband? How can I support him? How can I take care of him? How can I make him happy?”
And for the men reading, I’m talking to you too. You should ask the same questions about your wife. This is not a gender thing. This is a being selfless thing.
The same applies to parents-children, friends, even coworkers. If we want healthy relationships with the people God places in our lives, we need to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about the other person.
You may ask, “If all I focus on are other people’s needs, how will my needs be met? What if my husband (or wife) won’t reciprocate?”
May I be perfectly honest? It isn’t their job to make you happy. God is the only one who can bring true peace, joy, and contentment into your life.
It doesn’t matter if our spouse reciprocates. What matters is what we do and our heart when we do it. God doesn’t look at our actions, He looks at our motives. If we are doing something and expecting something in return, we have wrong motives. But if we do something out of love, He blesses that. I promise you, He will make sure that your needs are met too.
The opposite of selfishness is selflessness. Selflessness doesn’t mean you never think of yourself. It means you put others’ needs ahead of your own, but once you take care of them, you can then take care of yourself.
It is important to know yourself. We should know our strengths and weaknesses. We should know our likes and dislikes. One thing I’ve been learning lately is to figure out what relaxes me when I’m feeling stressed or anxious. We need to be healthy and that does mean that we need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But, we can’t be so focused on ourselves that we refuse to take care of the people God places in our lives.
My husband, Justin, can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me to feed him or do his laundry or clean the house. He’s a big boy and he lived on his own for nearly his entire adult life. But does he appreciate when I take care of him? Of course! Now, thankfully, I am blessed with a husband who is quick to show and tell me of his appreciation. He also helps out around the house, helps me in the kitchen, and basically does whatever I need him to do without complaint. Heck, most of the time he does it without me asking. I am extremely blessed with Justin. However, I have times where I don’t want to be selfless. I want to sulk around the house and make him cheer me up. That isn’t fair to him and it’s something God convicts me of, and I am getting better. But I will admit my faults.
However, I do enjoy taking care of Justin. I like keeping my home clean (except now that it’s cold). I like cooking (most of the time). I enjoy doing laundry because I find it relaxing with its repetitive nature. And living with him is teaching me how to be a lot more selfless, which is good because once we have children, I’ll have to be even more selfless to take care of them.
Wrapping it Up
I don’t want you to think I’m telling you that you are a terrible person. We all struggle with selfishness. It’s human nature. But as children of God, we have to fight our sinful nature. We can’t just give in and be like the rest of the world. We are meant to be better. We are meant to be like Christ, who was the least selfish person to ever walk the earth (just look at how He bled and died for us).
If we want to have healthy relationships, and especially a healthy, godly marriage, we have to let go of ourselves, our own needs and focus on our spouse. Put his (or her) needs before your own. Look at things through his (or her) eyes. How would you feel in his (or her) shoes?
Being selfless makes us feel better in the long run. It may be frustrating at first. It may feel like you are fighting against yourself (you are, your sinful self), but the more selfless you are, the happier you become. Selfishness is like a disease that rots you on the inside. When you are selfless, it is like being filled with light. You feel better, you are happier, and you will have better relationships.
If you liked this, please check out the rest of my series on love!