Because of the Fall, each of us has a “default setting” when we wake up each morning. The default for you and for me is set to “SELF”. And even after we begin a relationship with God through Jesus, we still battle selfishness each and every day.
In my previous post, I shared that the biggest problem in my marriage is ME! Whether I like to admit it or not, my selfishness continually gets in the way in my marriage.
In that post, I also shared three initial steps needed to battle selfishness. In this follow-up, I want to help you and help me to go beyond those initial steps as God gives us more ways to fight our self-centeredness.
Surrender Your Agenda
Pastor Michael Easley says, “To die to self is the hardest part of marriage.” The truth is that I wake up every day with some sort of “agenda” for my day. It may be on my calendar or it may just be in my head, but I have an idea of how I want my day to go.
And guess what, frequently my day does not go as I had expected or planned. Whether those unexpected things happen in my marriage, at work, or with my kids, I can respond to them in one of two ways: 1) I can hold tight to my agenda and try to get my way, or 2) I can surrender my agenda knowing the Lord likely has a better plan for that circumstance.
In those moments, I must ask the Lord for His Wisdom to know which one to choose. If your days are like mine, the Lord frequently asks me to surrender my agenda and follow his. This is a first step to battling selfishness.
Get a Different Perspective
Our family watched a movie recently called “A Walk in My Shoes”. In the movie, a Mom was “switched” from her family to be the Mom of another family (one for which she did not have a high opinion). After a few days of walking in that Mom’s shoes, she had much more compassion and empathy for that Mom and her family.
Too often In my marriage, I don’t try to see things from my bride’s perspective. I come into the discussion with my view of things without giving much thought to how she may see the situation differently. It is only when I intentionally seek out her perspective that I can begin to see things that I cannot see on my own. As I often say, “God gave me a helper in my bride because I need help!”
Follow Christ’s Example
The phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” is a good reminder of who to look to for our our example. I would do well to follow His example more often than leaning on my own understanding. Passages like Mark 10:45 speak to us about Jesus’ example.
In his book, Starting Your Marriage Right, Dennis Rainey shares: “The answer for ending selfishness is found in Jesus and His teachings. He showed us that instead of wanting to be first, we must be willing to be last. Instead of wanting to be served, we must serve. Instead of trying to save our lives, we must lose them. We must love our neighbors (our spouses) as much as we love ourselves. In short, if we want to defeat selfishness, we must give up, give in, and give all. If we live our lives for ourselves, thinking only of our selfish desires and interests, in the end God gives us exactly what we want: ourselves.”
Marriage provides an opportunity to live, not for ourselves, but for the needs of our spouse as we model Jesus’ example of giving all for the sake of another.
Walk in the Spirit, Not in the Flesh
If I could only share one thing about battling selfishness for a Christ-follower, this would be it. We cannot expect to battle our natural bent toward self without a supernatural power that is greater than our own strength and ability.
I had a reminder of the importance of this when my friend, Mike, came to visit a few weeks back. We had a disagreement and, after thinking through it, I realized I needed to apologize to him. But what I did not do was ask God for help in making that apology. I just went to him and began to apologize. The problem was that he didn’t like the way I described the situation, and we began to argue and disagree again. Rather than apologizing and restoring the relationship, I only made matters worse. All because I chose to walk in my own strength and not in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is only when you and I come to the realization that we cannot battle selfishness on our own, that God’s power can help us. In our weakness, He really can be strong.
In marriage, we need that supernatural strength to battle our selfishness. Let’s ask the Lord to help us walk in the Spirit moment-by-moment and not in the flesh. You can read more about how to walk in the Spirit by checking out this great article from Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru.