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?
“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.
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.