Don’t Toot Your Own Horn (Putting Off Self), Peacemaking Part 2B
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Selflessness Turned Selfishness
A young woman was down on her hands and knees scrubbing out the refrigerator for her mother-in-law as an gesture of kindness. It had needed to be cleaned out for a long time and she was glad to do it. She had requested that her husband take out the trash after she had filled it with leftovers-turned-bad and scraps of food. He had agreed, and requested the help of his brother. But then things didn’t go quite right. She tried to gently intercede, but finally got frustrated, blew her top, snatched the trash bag from her husband, ripping the tie, and went outside to dispose of it. Inside, she was seething with anger and frustration. Why can’t they just get along? Why do I have to do everything around here? Why am I the only one who is mature? Whoa! Wait a second! Mature? She had just snapped at the two of them, taken over her husband’s job, and did it herself. How is that mature?
This young woman was me, and I cringe to admit it. This was an unfortunate scene in our household last week. Here I am supposed to be a loving, respectful wife and a kind sister-in-law and I retreated into selfishness into selflessness. I could have lovingly assisted my husband instead of snapping and jerking the bag away. I could have hugged him, hoping to alleviate some of the tension. I could have waited for my husband to come back from taking out the trash and lovingly and privately confronted him. But no! I was selfish and I assumed a role that was not mine to take. I thought only of my own desire – for respect and for peace. That’s an oxymoron! In order to promote peace, I disrupted the peace more to get the two arguing siblings to stop. Don’t we do this often? We like to toot our own horn, and the #1 person who listens to this self-promotion is you. I hear the words “Why am I the only one who is mature?” translating to myself as “I am SO mature and THEY are SO not!”
The Bible calls you to get the log out of your own eye before you go look at the speck in the other person’s. Peacemaker Ministries in the Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships with Tara Barthel writes, “Our tendency is to be hypocritical and minimize our contribution to our conflicts while we maximize the other person’s faults.”
Selfishness – Passion Killer!
This is obviously not the Christ-centered response God calls us to – a selfless, loving, gentle, kind, respectful response. We are not perfect; I am not perfect. We are prone to lean toward our sinful nature, but the more we recognize the depth of our own sin and the depth of God’s gracious mercy toward us, the more we can be forgiving and merciful toward others; the more we will pursue the peaceful Christ-centered response!
I had recently been reading a poll on a frequently visited website and it asked, “What is the biggest passion killer in your marriage?” Hands-down? Selfishness. I was reading elsewhere that selfishness is the opposite of love, not hatred or apathy, and I tend to agree. Gina Parris from Winning at Romance writes, “It’s been said that you can give without loving, but it’s impossible to love without giving. Sometimes you simply have to love by FORgiving.”
Selfishness breeds disaster in my love life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It disrupts our communion with God, and our joint devotional and worship time spent with Him. It hinders our emotional closeness and intimacy. It corrupts our physical expressions of our love through sexual intimacy. I am convinced the farther away from God I am, the more I’ll pursue my own selfish ambition, and in turn, the farther away from my husband I’ll be.
Life Lessons on Selfishness in Marriage
#1 Selfishness Breeds Distraction
The first thing you hear is that little voice in your head that says, “It’s ok to take ME time.” Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing because husbands and wives do need their own personal time, but, and this is a BIG BUT, taking ME time when YOU shouldn’t be is the first step into selfishness.
My husband has been working 3-4 12-hr shifts a week. It’s been hard getting used to not having him in bed when I go to sleep and to adjust to the weird swing-cycle of our mixed up days and nights. Every time he leaves for work, I miss him like crazy. I’d wish I had spent more time with him, and wonder why I never have enough time with him when he is home. But often I’d get distracted by things – my novel, chores, being with other people, running errands, spending time online, even sleeping and spending time with God. I was determined that this HAD to stop. So on Friday night we spent the entire evening together – we intentionally sought to serve, pleasure, and enjoy each other all night. Actually, we stayed up all night to do so and then crashed together Saturday morning. It was a wonderful night.
Now I’m not suggesting staying up all night often (especially if you work, have kids, or other obligations), but when was the last time you spent more than 6 hours together? more than 4? more than 2? If you both have the time, you should be making time for each other. Selfishness says “it’s okay to be distracted; what I’m doing is MORE important.” Selflessness says, “I don’t want to be distracted; I want to spend time with you because that is MOST important.” See the difference?
1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “(love) is not self-seeking.” Love doesn’t put off your husband because what you’re doing is MORE important. Love allows itself to be inconvenienced.
Remember the story of Martha and Mary? Jesus came to their house and Martha spent the entire time in the kitchen and was angry that Mary was not helping her, and questioned Jesus about it. Mary had been sitting at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word. Now what Martha was doing wasn’t in that of itself selfish, but she made TASKS more important than RELATIONSHIP. Jesus responds in Luke 10:41-42, “Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
If you’re married, take time to spend quality time with your spouse. Don’t be distracted so much by tasks (good things like chores, work, taking care of the kids, etc) that you neglect the relationship with your spouse, and with your Lord. Start each day with prayer, praying that God would keep you focused on each other, that you wouldn’t neglect your spouse’s needs, and that God would take away negative distractions.
#2 Selfishness Breeds Deception
Selfishness makes you think that YOU are the most important person in your marriage (and in your life). Selfishness gives YOU a hall pass to do whatever YOU think is best for YOU. Selfishness encourages YOU to set unrealistic expectations for yourself, your marriage, and especially your spouse, and when your spouse doesn’t live up to these expectations, selfishness lets YOU off the hook with however YOU react. Selfishness allows YOU to think everything’s going ok in your marriage.
It’s illusion. Notice the number of times I typed YOU. 7 times and that doesn’t count “yours.” YOU are not the center of your marriage. God is and should always be. And then you need to put your husband first.
Selfishness disconnects you from reality and causes to believe unrealistic, false, and misleading views of yourself, your spouse, and God. Titus 3:3, 4-5 says, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures…But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” It’s not what we do; it’s what God does. But selfishness blinds us to this reality. Verse 8 calls us to devote ourselves to what is good – loving and serving God and our husbands.
First and foremost, you need to confess your sin of selfishness and sacrifice the idol of self on His altar. Jesus was crucified with our sins on the cross. You have forgiveness. Secondly, write down what your expectations of your marriage and your spouse are and update that frequently. Discuss these regularly with your spouse. Communication is key to any relationship, especially marriage. It acts as the bridge between a husband and a wife and it’s important to keep these bridges built so you don’t deceive yourself into thinking it’s okay never to cross them.
#3 Selfishness Breeds Dissatisfaction
Dictionary.com defines dissatisfaction as “a particular cause or feeling of displeasure or disappointment.”
Next time you’re dissatisfied with your spouse, ask yourself why. Is it really because he’s not doing this or he’s been doing that? Or is it because you’ve been focusing too much on your own needs or desires? Have you been thinking about serving him? Have you been thinking about what his needs and desires are?
Dissatisfaction is a two way street. But arguing with your spouse is NOT going to fix the problem. Remember what I mentioned above? Getting the log out of your own eye first before attacking the speck in his? Selflessness – the Christlike response – calls you to go above and beyond the call of duty. It calls you to reach out and love and respect your husband even when he is unlovable. Selfishness says turn your back on your spouse. Selflessness says turn toward your spouse and love him anyway.
Do something extravagant to surprise him! Cook him a candlelight dinner, dress up, and serve it to him. Or take him out to dinner and treat him for a change. Or less extravagant, and invite him on a walk in the park or the woods for a picnic.
Acknowledge your own selfishness and apologize. Tell him why you’ve been feeling dissatisfied, but remind him you still love him.
Why are you doing this? Well you attract a lot more flies with honey! Love your honey and he will want to love you. I can’t tell you the number of times I wonder why I let my own self-centeredness get in the way of my love for Adam. When I do love him well, when I cast off selfishness and I embrace selflessness through the strength Christ Jesus gives me, Adam is on top of his game and I’m incredibly satisfied.
But don’t do something just to get something in return. Love without expecting anything in return. Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Put off selfishness. Consider the root of the problem – what desires are behind your selfish tendencies? Ask God to make you new, to give you the right attitude, and pursue peace, righteousness, and holiness for the sake of pleasing God, not getting something from your husband. If you are content in the Lord, you can work toward contentment in your marriage.
Bottom Line: Selfishness breeds disaster in marriage. Selfishness sends you both fast in opposite directions, leading to one or both of you careening off the train tracks of love. Strive toward righteous and holy selflessness. Confront and deal with your own sin first, then love and serve one another.
1. Jump on the Peace Train An introduction to the Peacemaking in Marriage Series – “Sometimes conflict is a good thing, but it’s never a God thing.”
2. When You’re Flying Downhill: Running Headfirst into Discord When desires quickly become idols and lead to discord
3. Don’t Toot Your Own Horn (Putting off Self) Part 2A “Idols are anything we’d toot our own horn for – things we desperately want other people to notice and praise.”