Selfishness: Is just a little okay?

By Sarah Logan, Contributing Writer

Probably we all enter marriage with the ambition of being selfless. Overwhelming joy at the prospect of belonging to each other inspires hopes of yielding to each other, harmonious service and smooth sailing in decision making and lifestyle choices. Somewhere along the way (in general) reality sets in and we go back to our original model of operation: ME first, all else second.

And selfishness does tend to be secretly applauded by our society. I mean, how is progress made unless selfishness drives us to improve life? So, isn’t just a little selfishness okay? I mean, just a tad? A wee bit for me, myself and I? All this talk of being selfless in marriage…isn’t it asking a bit too much? It’s our nature to be selfish. So, can’t we just ‘live and let live’ – acknowledge our weakness and merely let it be - just a little?

Sorry to have to break the news to you, but NO.

I often like to picture marriage like a garden.  Gardens are always moving in a direction – towards fruitful production (of beauty or a crop) or towards weeds and disarray.  In marriage we might ask ourselves, “How does your garden grow?  Is it nourished?  Is it fruitful?  Is it fertilized?  Or is it growing weeds, withering and dying from the heat and lack of care?”  Selfishness parches the soil of marriage – it yields wilted leaves and a poor crop.  How would you like your marriage garden to grow?

 

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Is your marriage withering under the heat and malnourishment of selfishness?

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgement starts quarrels.” Proverbs 18:1

Don’t know how to put it gently, but selfishness really is a destroyer of marital bliss and harmony. Here are 3 ways selfishness is dangerous to marriage:

1. Selfishness is dangerous when it is UNRECOGNIZED.

I think of myself and so nobly UNselfish. Certainly, all I do is for the good of others – isn’t it? Oh, for sure, others may be selfish…but not me – right? Wrong. It is easy to spot selfishness in others – but honest examination of my own heart comes at a painful cost. The realization that all too often, all I do, think and say revolves around me and my interest is simply painful.

To realize that I am selfish at my core and do not love as I ought – sometimes it is just too much. If my selfishness goes UNrecognized by my lack of introspection and Holy Spirit-inspired conviction, it will wreak havoc on my marriage.
Don’t let your selfishness go UNRECOGNIZED.

 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” ~ Philippians 2:3

2. Selfishness is dangerous when it is UNRESOLVED.

Where does selfishness spring from? Sometimes it comes from unresolved issues in my heart. At the core of my selfishness is my lack of trust in the goodness of God and of the goodwill of my spouse. Fear fuels selfishness. If I have unresolved trust issues, struggle with fearfulness and despair I will naturally seek to be self-protective in a way that focuses on ME to the exclusion of giving of myself to my spouse and others.

Don’t let selfishness spring from a heart of UNRESOLVED issues.

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord,  have never forsaken those who seek you.” ~ Psalm 9:1

3. Selfishness is dangerous when it is UNREPENTED of.

This last point is the hardest to write. I don’t want to be harsh, but the truth remains that selfishness will do the most damage if I don’t see it as wrong or as needing to change. If my heart is unwilling to yield to the call to selfless, sacrificial love, this sin of selfishness will bear its painful fruit in my life and the life of those around me. Selfishness will wound my spouse, harm the fellowship of believers I associate with and will waste years of fruitful service of my life – if it is left untreated, UNREPENTED of and undealt with.

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Don’t let selfishness ruin your life, your spouse’s life or your Church’s life. Repent of it. Deal with it. Resolve the issues that fuel it.

 

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Growing in selflessness nurtures marriage – bringing beauty, healthy growth and joy. Are you producing beauty and fruit in the garden of your marriage?

These are not easy tasks – nor have I conquered them myself. I don’t claim to have figured it all out. I am just speaking from the reality I see in my own life – that where selfishness is allowed to flourish, relationships around me wither and flounder – gasping for the life-breath of love that is so needed in our marriages.

Nourish your marriage with selfless love and thank the God of love for His sustaining grace in the gardening of your relationships.

 

Comments

  1. Valerie B says:

    Oh my. I am always so amazed when God places a message I need, right in front of my face! Thank you for this post. Perfect timing and just the right words. :)

  2. Wow! Point 2 really hits home for me. God has really been trying to teach me this and I keep failing. How did you figure out how to trust? I have the hardest time believing that my husband can make decisions while keeping my well being in mind as well as our sons. I know it has hurt him and I want to learn how to trust him and God. Any advice?

  3. Hi Mandy! Thanks for chiming in here.
    Your honest questions bring joy to my heart! How refreshing! Without knowing all the details I’ll take a stab at what you’re asking!

    Yes, I do have some advice! Figuring out how to trust isn’t the answer – the answer lies in *doing* – and ultimately, who you are trusting. You said you have a hard time believing your husband ‘can’ make decisions… My guess is that he is quite capable of leading your family well (and of course, this is a guess, since I don’t know him or you). At the root of your uneasiness is a sense of your own abilities/wisdom/goodwill as being greater than his. The trick is to quit comparing – at all. Maybe you can’t trust his judgement – you may not need to. Your trust needs to be in God – He in His sovereign gracious goodness towards you, will see to your and your children’s needs. You need much wisdom and grace when navigating the course – for sure. I have experience in this department! I was sure my husband was making a huge mistake when he quit his full-time job, enrolled in graduate school (fulltime) without savings and with a mortgage and two kids (and one that was born during his grad-school). (It’s a long story!) Ultimately it was my job to a) pray b) speak my mind, discuss at length c) allow God to work. At the time I did not trust his judgement, but I didn’t doubt God’s wisdom in putting Sam in my life, enabling him to lead and giving me the joy of being his wife and mother of our kids. (I also had to ask hard questions of myself: Do I believe God is going to let us fall flat on our faces just so my husband can learn what I think he needs to? Am I going to have to suffer through hard lessons because of a bad decision? Is God going to let me down? Does God see and know all my fears, concerns, worries? Does He care? Will He intervene? etc.) Sometimes his (Sam’s) decisions have caused me to question and wonder if he’s choosing the best course. My questions must first be put to God, then to Sam if that is how God directs. Men are fallible, human and selfish (as are women, mind you!) It is certainly difficult to watch as someone makes decisions you disagree with or you feel are less than ideal. But this gives us a platform to grow in grace and trust. It is okay to address these concerns with your husband – but does he feel put down by the discussion? Does he sense your vote of ‘no-confidence’? These will erode trust and even stability in your marriage. It is so hard to let go of control – especially when I (for one) feel so much more capable in certain areas. But God has not (in my opinion) given us as wives the place of head of our households. Maybe God intended to draw us to greater dependence and trust in Him in these things.

    Didn’t mean to be so long – there’s a lot more where this came from, but those are my initial thoughts.

    And by the way, reading stuff like this blog means you are really on the right track. God will bless you as you continue to grow in understanding Him and what He wants for your marriage, family and life. Thanks so much for your honesty!

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