Parenting gives you many opportunities to train up and instruct kids towards adolescence and adulthood. As the dad of four boys, I have many opportunities to instruct, encourage and help grow my kids. One lesson I never had to teach my boys was how to be selfish. I never had to sit down with Duncan and teach him how to fight and argue with his brother over Legos. I never once had to teach Carson how to throw a temper tantrum. Likewise… my mom and dad never had to teach me to be selfish. I learned it all on my own. I have a selfishness problem.
I wrote about selfishness in the past as one of the top 5 reasons why couples struggle in marriage and in relationships. I think selfishness deserves its own post, much more than just one paragraph in a list.
James 4:1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
In other words, we quarrel and fight in relationships because we are selfish. We all have ‘passions’ within us that lead us to quarrel and fight. We want what we want, when we want it, for all the wrong reasons.
My Selfishness Shining Moment
In 2004, Kristen gave birth to our twin boys, Duncan and Drew. During this season of our marriage, I was a full time graduate student at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Kristen was the breadwinner of the family. When we had the twins, we lost our primary source of income and I began working part-time physical therapy along with full-time seminary and part-time work as an intern at Watermark. This was an extremely challenging season for our family.
To make things worse, one of our twins was a colicky baby. This meant he cried all.The.Time. It didn’t matter what you did, Drew would cry. We joke that we don’t know how Duncan survived this season, because Drew demanded all of our time and attention. This made a challenging season even more stressful.
One day, when the twins were around three months old, Kristen and I got into an argument. To this day, neither of us has any clue what we were arguing about. It started with a little bickering, but before you know it, we were yelling back and forth at each other. The level and intensity of the jabs became louder and more personal. The yelling culminated with me banging my hands on the counter, repeatedly screaming “MY LIFE IS OVER! MY LIFE IS OVER!! MY LIFE IS OVER!!!”.
See what I did there? This argument, over who knows what, soon became an example of how everything was ruined in MY life. It didn’t matter that my three-month old baby was clearly in constant pain and agony. It didn’t matter that Kristen hadn’t slept in 3 months, always had one or two babies literally attached to her, or that she had real fears and cares about our kids and the mess of our lives. It became all about me.
We fought because I was selfish. I am selfish. I am the most selfish person I know. And you’re selfish too. You may not think you are, but you are. Just ask your spouse, your friends, your kids, your coworkers, your girlfriend or your parents.
While we don’t deal with crying infants in the Kedersha home anymore, my selfishness still screams out every day. The cause is now food, lust, anger, impatience, pride, insecurity and much more. In marriage and relationships, selfishness swoops in and tries to break down the marriage and destroy God’s picture of intimacy and oneness.
Here are a few other examples of how your selfishness might play out:
- Your baby is crying and you act like you’re asleep so that your spouse has the “privilege” of tending to the the cries at 2:30am.
- You don’t want to pursue your spouse sexually, so instead you choose to look at pornography and masturbate.
- Your pride or the “big game” keeps you from praying with your spouse.
- You’re in financial crisis, but you really want that new dress or new set of clubs.
- Premarital sex is selfish (and sinful), as you put your selfish, sexual desires in front of God’s desire and will for your life and the life of your sexual partner (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, among many others).
See, no one ever had to teach you to be selfish in your relationships. I am sure you can think of many more examples of how you or your significant other are selfish. Our culture has a very low threshold for pain, and when the going gets rough, we want out.
Getting out is not the solution. Fortunately, God provides the solution in James 4:6-10 and Philippians 2:1-11. Act like Jesus. Humble yourself vertically with the Lord and horizontally towards the other person. Put the needs of the other before yourself. This is definitely easier said than done, but the only way to overcome our selfish desires is to humble ourselves and become more like Jesus.
The conclusion to my shining star selfish moment? Kristen came running across the room and jumped on my back. For those of you who know me and Kristen, you realize that she is a whole lot smaller than me. The scene probably looked like a fly trying to knock over a gorilla. I did what any godly husband would do in that moment: laughed at my wife. In retrospect, this might not have been the best decision. But, looking back, we laugh now at our classic selfish fight.
- While I am sure you can think of ways your spouse is selfish, your job today is to examine where you are selfish. No throwing elbows or forwarding this post and highlighting sections for your significant other. Where are you selfish?
- If you want to take it to the next level, and I hope you will, ask your significant other, your children, and your community. I will do the same.