We’ve been doing a series at The River called ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ – dealing with attitudes and issues that put walls between people and work against friendships and relationships.
So on Sunday I dealt with a particularly nasty wall-maker in our lives – one that makes others put up walls against us to protect themselves, and an area that can be particularly difficult for us to see in our own character… the wall of ‘Selfishness’.
Most people don’t think of themselves as particularly selfish, it’s usually an attribute that we’re quicker to label others with! But it’s something that we need to root out of our lives if we’re going to have good friendships and relationships.
So is selfishness at work in your life? I’ve compiled a quick 12-point checklist…
1) You have high expectations of what other people should do for you, and you feel angry or irritated when they don’t meet your expectations
Selfish people generally have high expectations of others and a clear idea of what others should be doing for them.
2) You think a lot about what you’re entitled to, and you feel angry or irritated when you don’t get what you feel you deserve
Selfish people are all about their rights, and they take full advantage of them. It’s not that it’s bad to know and use our rights, but truly selfish people would sooner end or endure a difficult relationship than have to budge on what they feel they’re entitled to.
3) You spend a lot of time thinking about why more people aren’t helping you
Everyone has problems going on in their life, but selfish people are consumed with why everyone else isn’t ‘doing what they should’ to help them.
4) You move people in and out of your life based on how useful they are to get you to where you want to go
It’s great to have a vision for life, but selfish people use others to get to their vision and dispense with them quickly once they lose their usefulness. This one can be a tough area for leaders – but in leadership it’s important that we remember that the vision is there to serve the people… not the other way around!
5) You often find yourself surrounded by selfish people
If the majority of people around your life seem to be quite selfish to you… the problem may not actually be with them!
6) If you’re asked to help with a need your primary concern is how helping out will affect you
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into consideration our own time and energy levels – it’s good to think through what a commitment means to us before we make it. But there’s times when we just have to jump in and help someone… maybe it’s incovenient for us, but it’s the right thing to do at the time. Selfish people can’t see past their own priorities to the needs of others.
7) You find yourself on the end of conflict often, but it’s never your fault, and you don’t say sorry easily
Selfish people often find themselves in conflict, because the people around their life get tired of having to put up with their selfishness. But because of #1, #2, #3 and #5 – selfish people often don’t see that they’re the cause of the conflict! So they usually won’t apologise because they don’t feel like they’re the problem!
8) You find it hard to rejoice when others get blessed, or get the spotlight
Selfish people see the limelight and accolades as just rewards for their effort. They struggle when the spotlight is on someone else, because then people aren’t noticing the important contribution they feel like they’ve made which is connected to…
9) You want to make sure that you receive proper recognition for the things you do, and you get miffed if you don’t
Selfish people want to be noticed and want to receive what they believe is their ‘due entitlement’ (#2). So recognition by others (and especially by important people) is vital for them. Everyone finds it hard if they’re contribution is overlooked, but for a selfish person – they just can’t let it go… it eats away at them.
10) You like being in control of things and you find it very hard to compromise on what you want
Selfish people are usually uncompromising and have a very clear idea of what they want and how everyone needs to behave so that they can get it!
11) You keep a personal tally of what you’ve done for other people
Selfish people don’t GIVE… they TRADE. Even if they look like they’re giving, they’re still trading. They keep a personal tally of when and how they’ve served, given, blessed and done things for others. They want to make sure that the ‘balance’ of giving and serving and them receiving their rewards stacks up. Selfless people on the other hand, just give… because it’s all for God anyway.
12) You are the star or the centre in most of the stories, experiences and events that you share in conversation with other people
Selfish people don’t have conversations – they have monologues and soliloquies with an audience. Selfless people understand that conversations need to be two way, and endeavour to include others and bring out what’s inside them. Selfish people just want everyone to focus on them.
Naturally we’ve all got a bit of selfishness on the inside of us. If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!
If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!
3 Quick Tips For Becoming More Self-Less
1) Have a huge view of the super-abundance of God
Selfish people generally have a scarcity mentality – they don’t believe there’s enough to go around, so they make sure that they get ‘their share’. The more we see that in God there’s an abundance for all that we need and more – the easier it is to hold lightly to stuff. We can rejoice in the blessing of others, because we know that it’s not taking away from our blessing! There’s more than enough!
2) Have a mindset of humility
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3
To ‘regard one another as more important than ourselves’ means that we treat every person we come across the same way that we would treat someone that we highly esteem. We take into consideration their needs and do our best to serve in every situation.
3) Give generously
Give. Not trade!
Giving our time, energy and money to others with no desire or expectation for return is a great way for us to keep selfishness far from us. Maybe this is why Jesus said that when we give we should do it in secret. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ‘payback’ when no-one knows that it was you who gave!
Finally, a very simple way for us to embrace a selfless life is to simply live ‘self…less’. Jesus didn’t call us to be ‘self-none’, just ‘self-less’. In every situation we find ourselves in, there’s an opportunity for us to take a little less for ourseves, so that others can have a little more. Ask one more question about the other person in conversation. Leave something on the buffet table for the one who’s coming after you. Take 5 minutes out of your day to do something that will really be a blessing to someone else.