Love Is Not Selfish

Love Is Not Selfish

When I was going through a marriage bump, I started reading a book that proved invaluable. It really sparked my interest, re-oriented my vision and changed my attitude.  I thought I’d share one section of it, in case it helps you. Marriage is a rollercoaster ride that takes us all over the place. We all need to learn how to stomach what we go through and feel the exhilaration of the ride, not just the queasy feelings we sometimes get.  I share this with you in the hopes it resonates.

“Selfishness and love are in constant opposition to one another. While love asks us to deny ourselves for the sake of someone else, selfishness compels us to focus on ourselves at their expense. Selfishness is like a disease that suffocates our capacity to love. When we choose self-centredness, we become higher maintenance – more needy, overly sensitive, demanding.  And then when we don’t get our way, we judge others harshly while being blind to our own faults.

Sadly, we live in a world that is enamored with “self”. The culture around us teaches us to focus on our personal appearance, feelings, and desires as the top priority. We despise this trait in other people but justify it in ourselves. “I deserve…” and “I expect…” and “I want…” are appetizers we use to feed our selfishness.

Regrettably, these selfish tendencies are engrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults use and mistreat one antoher. Almost every sinful action can be traced back to a selfish motive. And its dangers become painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

Marriage exposes our selfishness in living color. When a husband puts his interests, desires, and priorities ahead of his wife, he is flying a flag of his own selfishness. When a wife constantly complains about the time and energy she spends meeting the needs of her husband, she’s revealing her selfishness. Moodiness and complaining are selfishness in disguise. Laziness and irresponsibility are other masks it wears. Boasting and bragging. Being easily angered. Talking too much. Never listening. The list goes on and on. Even generous actions can be selfish if the motive is to gain bragging rights or receive a reward.

In reading this, did you focus just now on your partner’s tendency to do some of these things but ignore your own? Why do we have such low standards for ourselves and yet such high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We all struggle with selfishness.

The bottom line is this: you either make decisions out of love for others or love for yourself.

But love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). It beautifully finds its satisfaction in the welfare of others. Loving couples in loving marriages are bent on humbling themselves and taking good care of the other flawed human with whom they have chosen to share their lives. They understand that by getting married, they are giving themselves away and releasing the right to live the rest of their lives for themsleves. It’s putting the  happiness of their partner before their own.

Choosing to love your mate will cause you to say “no” to what you want, so you can say “yes” to what they need. It doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy any persoal fulfillment, but you don’t negate the happiness of your spouse to enjoy it yourself.

Love also leads to inner freedom. It helps liberate you from the anxiety of unrealistic expectations and unmet demands. By prioritizing the well-being of your mate, you experience a fulfillment that cannot be duplicated by selfish actions.

Unselfish people are a perpetual delight. They make amazing friends and spouses. They are willing to set down their own jealousy and demands aside and lose themselves in the joy of loving, serving, and giving to another. Often this is practiced by simply allowing your mate a few seconds to go first, speak first, or be served before you are. The more you learn to resist your own selfishness daily, the stronger, more lovable and happier you will become.

Nobody knows you as well as your spouse. And that means no one will be quicker to recognize a change when you deliberately start sacrificing your wants and wishes to make sure his or her needs are met. They may welcome it with warmth or be silently suspicious, but they will likely notice it.

If you find this day’s challenge hard to swallow and are frustrated with the idea of sacrificing your own desires to benefit your spouse, then you may have a deeper problem with selfishness than you want to admit.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I truly want what’s best for my husband or wife?
  • Do I want them to feel loved by me?
  • Do they believe I have their best interests in mind?
  • Do they see me as looking out for myself first, or them first?

Remember, your partner also has the challenge of learning to love a selfish person. But don’t wait on them to earn your love.  Determine to be the first to demonstrate real love to them, with your eyes wide open. Show them what it looks like by your unexpected example. And when all is said and done, you’ll both be more fulfilled.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3)

The above quote comes from the book Love Dare  by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, New Revised Edition of 2013. They offer a free Marriage Evaluation for anyone interested. 

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