What Our Children Can Teach Us about Selfishness
There’s nothing like having a four-year-old to remind you that deep down, we’re all still preschoolers at heart.
My daughter is going through a stage right now where she really, really wants to win—at everything. She could beat me at Princess Dominos six times in a row, but the one time I win, she’s nearly in tears of disappointment. She also struggles with wanting to go first—every time. She still gets frustrated when she has to share toys or attention with her younger cousin, and I won’t even mention how her classroom full of kids at school have to have everything done fairly. Which means the same, in color, size and texture, or it’s flat out chaos.
It’s human nature. That’s how we’re born, and as a preschooler, she’s just now able to understand how those instinctual feelings are wrong—are, essentially, sin—and is just now being taught how to deal with them.
I’m not a preschooler. But I still struggle with the same lessons. Don’t we all feel that way deep down inside, even as grown women?
We want to go first. I want my schedule to happen on my terms or not at all.
We want to win. I deserve that promotion the most.
We want to be seen. Everyone at church is going to love my new dress.
We want everything to be fair. I totally do more housework than my husband and he doesn’t even care or notice!
Does that sound familiar? Sounds sort of like the same cries from my preschooler. That’s mine! I wanna go first! That’s not fair, her cookie is bigger! No, I wanted the pink one!
I’m pretty sure our adult versions aren’t any less frustrating to God than our preschooler’s cries are to us as parents. (Though thankfully, His love, mercy and patience endures a lot further than mine!)
Sometimes, we just need to put ourselves in a time out, and get a glimpse of the bigger picture.
Selfishness is sin. We understand that, yet we still struggle to tame it. Here’s what the Bible says about selfishness.
James 3:14-16- But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Selfishness is clearly not from God. It’s demonic. Uh-oh. This verse actually explains that where selfishness is found, there will be disorder and vile practices.
In which area of your life are you the most selfish? At work? At home? With your spouse? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the cause of disorder and vile practices in my bedroom, in my home, or in my cubicle at work!
Philippians 2:3-4- Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
We’re supposed to love others more than ourselves? That’s…not…easy. But with the Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—our Heavenly Father provides for us a way to slay this stubborn enemy.
Matthew 20:28- Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
If anyone ever deserved to be recognized and adored and honored, it was Jesus. Yet He washed the feet of the disciples. He served. And He didn’t even complain about it.
(Okay - if you feel about 2 inches tall like I do right now, keep reading! There’s hope.)
We can’t accomplish the act of selflessness by ourselves. It’s not just hard, it’s impossible! It goes against every fleshly instinct we were born with. But thankfully, we worship a God who can accomplish the impossible.
And the only way to get rid of selfishness is, quite frankly, to die.
Galatians 2:20- I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 5:24- And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
2 Corinthians 5:17- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Slaying the beast of selfishness requires death. Sacrifice. Power from the Spirit. We can’t do this alone. We need the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. We need to take selfish thoughts captive, as the Bible instructs, and be offensive in killing the enemy—not just defensive.
Unfortunately, this process doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow death, one that requires time, effort, and a desire that is consistently seeking after God’s heart.
I believe the root of selfishness often springs from a lack of control. When we feel helpless, being selfish—demanding our way, aggressively speaking up for ourselves, running over someone else before they can run over us—gives us a sense of control and confidence. If we can be strong enough or loud enough and get what we want, then we aren’t helpless after all. Women are especially prone to this because as a whole, women crave security. When we feel ignored, passed over, or threatened, we get insecure. And the selfish beast roars.
So how do we do kill the beast? Well, dying to self means swallowing back the protests when your husband takes time off work to hunt instead of help you with the housework. It means clenching your teeth when your child needs you to run an errand for them or help them with a project during your much-needed alone time. It means cutting the throat on the Green Monster of envy the next time your friend gets a new SUV or designer shoes while you’re still driving a clunker in flip-flops.
But the rewards are well worth it. Because with death comes life—abundant life from the Lord. God always blesses obedience, and laying down our selfishness at the foot of the cross to not only follow Him, but to show Christ’s servant-hood to our spouses, children, co-workers, bosses and friends, is a gigantic step of obedience.
One that will not be wasted or ignored by our Father.
So the next time you hear yourself speaking “preschooler-ese,” pull out the Sword of the Spirit and start swinging. Cut off selfishness at it’s root, and ask God to grow inside you a servant’s heart—a heart like Jesus.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com.