We tend to think the best of ourselves. I’m a pretty negative person and am very hard on myself and yet, I tend to judge myself by my motives or justify the reasons why my decision is indeed the right one. I like to think of myself as this kind, gracious, generous person, yet I am not always that way. Many of the things that I do are conditional: do you deserve this? Are you gracious to me? Will you use this thing I’m giving you wisely?
There are times when you realize that you’re not as great as you’d like to think you are. Have you experienced this? It’s one of those moments when you see yourself for who you are, warts and all, and have a choice to make a change.
I am a selfish person. This trait will often make an appearance when I’m doing something that I don’t want to do. Most of the time, if I’m doing something I find distasteful you’re going to know about it. I can only keep up a “happy face” for so long before I seek to make my displeasure known.
Recently the selfishness in my heart was exposed. In that moment I was forced to decide if I wanted to change my behaviors or not. While I desired nothing more than to just sit in my selfish state like a two year old throwing a tantrum, I knew that would be less than beneficial. Then I was reminded of my core values:
If you want to read more about my core values and how I arrived at these, read Value Driven 2017.
Is selfishness freeing? No, it’s restricting.
Is selfishness healthy? No, it’s crippling.
Is selfishness generous? No, it only takes.
Is selfishness honoring? No, it undermines.
Is selfishness life-giving? No, it only hurts.
Here’s the thing: this is great to talk about, especially in the abstract, but it’s much, much harder to put into practice. Being selfless was not something I wanted to do in this situation. I didn’t want to confront the ugly truth about the state of my heart, but it was necessary, is necessary, as I continue to grow. I want to do so many things in my life and I want to bless people and make the world a better place, but I can’t do that if I have this black vein running through my heart. If my motives are mixed or if I’m only selectively living by my virtues, that’s a problem.
The Bible talks again and again about how it’s impossible to have two masters and that’s how I felt when having to choose between selfishness and selflessness. In fact, I’m still struggling with this concept. I can either let selfishness rule my heart or I can let God rule my heart. I can serve myself or I can serve others. Granted, I’m aware that I’ll never be fully selfless, that only describes God, but I don’t have to be stifled by my selfishness. I can, instead, choose to rise above my selfish nature.
This is not easy and not something that can be done by muscling through or being more disciplined or telling yourself to not be so selfish, believe me, I’ve tried. It’s through a daily reliance on God. It’s a consistent remembering of his selflessness and asking him to invade my heart. It’s a constant repentance and turning away from the selfishness that so easily attaches to me.
Selfishness is something we’re all born with, but have a choice to rise above. Selfishness has a way of stifling us, but God has called us to a better way. Though dying to yourself is by no means an easy task, it’s a much better way to live.