Category Archives: Humility

12 Signs Of Selfishness

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.

Strength Through Softness

Romans 15:1 – Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Sometimes it doesn’t massively please us to have to put up with other people’s weaknesses!  We’d rather they just sort it out, or we don’t have to deal with them. 

But I prove myself as a mature believer, and display the strength that I claim to have, by loving others and helping them in their weakness. Not by cutting and running, but by helping and building.  While it may be easier to do what pleases me – it’s not helpful for the building up of the body. 

So if we claim to be strong, mature believers – this will be tested and evidenced by how we deal with the weaknesses of other people.  It takes huge commitment and strength to continue to show mercy and love when it’s taking a toll on us. 

But this is what Jesus demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to us!

God’s Goodness & Grace

Luke 15:17 (NIV)
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the son has an awakening moment when his money has run out and he’s eating pig’s food!  Even the servants in his father’s house have it better than this!

The son is motivated by his own need. He now ponders returning to his father but not because he is motivated to set things right at home, or for restoring relationships or anything. He’s motivated by his hunger. He has nothing to eat – and even the least of the servants have more than enough bread in his father’s house.

This shows us two things:

1) It’s vitally important that we have ‘bread in the house’. Jesus refers to healing as ‘the children’s bread’. When healing and life is prevalent in the house of God, it will make what the prodigals are eating in the world seem very, very second rate.

2) When prodigals return, their motives may be less than noble. They may come back simply because they’re starving. But it’s here that the goodness of God is shown – he doesn’t judge the son, but instead he lavishes even more on him!  Our response needs to be the same.  It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance!

The Cause Of Wickedness

Psalms 36:1 – An oracle is within my heart about the disobedience of the wicked: "There is no fear of God before his eyes."

The reason for the disobedience of the wicked is that they have no fear of God.  They’re not worried or concerned about what God thinks of their actions, nor of His consequences for sin. 

We were never designed to be masters of our own destiny, answerable to no-one.  Instead, we were made to bring glory and worship to God, and to live in humility and reverence toward Him. 

This has a direct practical application too – any area of ongoing sin in our lives is usually an area where we don’t fear the consequences (or don’t care about the consequences).  Having a correct view of both the kindness and sternness of the Lord is the key to walking in righteousness. 

The Place Of Preparation

2 Chronicles 4:17 – In the plain of the Jordan did the king make them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah.

The gold and brass items to be used in the temple were all made in the region of the plain of Jordan – for the sound of no tool was allowed at the building site (1 Kings 6:7). 

They were made in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah.  Succoth means ‘booths’, and was the place where Jacob journeyed and made a house for himself (Genesis 33:17).  Zeredah means ‘to puncture’ and was the place where Jeroboam came from (1 Kings 11:26). 

So the vessels fit for use in the temple were made in the clay between the dwelling place and the piercing place.  So it is with his servants – who are refined and tested in the place between glory and pain. 


Matthew 20:31 – The multitude rebuked them, telling them that they should be quiet, but they cried out even more, "Lord, have mercy on us, you son of David!"

The ‘power of the crowd’ is evident here.  It is not one person who rebukes the blind men, it is the ‘multitude’.

There are times when we feel like we can’t do what we know God is asking us to do – and we fear ‘the multitude’.  What will ‘people’ say?  What will ‘they’ think?  Who is the multitude?  What authority do they have to speak over our life and set the course of our direction? 

There were two authorities here – the multitude and Christ.  In spite of the resistance, the men appealed to the higher authority and walked away healed!

A Bit Too Familiar

Matthew 13:57 – They were offended by him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and in his own house."

Jesus goes to preach in his ‘hometown’, but they couldn’t get over the fact that He had been the little boy who had grown up amongst them.  Because of their unbelief He was unable to do many miracles there. 

So he makes this statement – a prophet is honoured everywhere – except in his own country and amongst his own people.  We’re usually quick to honour people who come from other places, but how quick are we to honour those who live and minister among us? 

We can get so familiar with the gifts and abilities of others that we start to treat them with a second-rate attitude. 

Jesus will often speak to us through those who are closest to us.  If we get a familiar attitude with them, we can miss the voice of God. Let’s not be the kind of people who dishonour that which is close – but who honour the ones that we live with!

The 1812 Overture

Luke 18:12 – I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’

The Pharisees were the uber-spiritual people of their day.  Whatever it was that God wanted, they always wanted to go one further! 

On the outside, it appeared as righteousness – but the issue was that they had replaced the grace of God for their salvation with the efforts of their own hands.  God ‘owed’ them because of all they had done.  Here, in Luke 18:12, we see the ‘Pharisee’ singing the 18:12 overture!  He fasts twice a week and gives tithes of all he gets.  However, in his pursuit of these things – he neglects the more important matters of justice, love and mercy. 

When we get our eyes of how much our heavenly Father loves us and His grace toward us, we can start to try to earn our way to heaven through our own efforts.  We can start singing our own ‘1812 Overture’!! 

Fall once again on the mercy and love of your heavenly Father toward you today!  He’s not looking for repayment – He’s simply looking for you to accept what He has given!

Right Or Left?

Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left.

This verse has a double meaning. 

The first is this: a wise man’s heart is at his right hand.  This means that he applies himself to his strength – he gets on and is active with what God has naturally given him.  He sows the seeds that God has already put into his hand.  But a fool’s heart is at his left – at his weak hand.  He’s continually trying to do something that he’s just not good at.  Maybe he’s trying to prove something or be something that he was never called to be! 

Another meaning can be found in Proverbs 3:16.  It says of Wisdom ‘Length of days is in her right hand.  In her left hand are riches and honour’.  The wise man is looking to the length of his days – ensuring that his life is spent well.  The fool on the other hand is always looking to riches and honour. 

When we look to the length of our days, it helps us to live in a way that honour and riches will be more attracted to!  But if we’re only looking to honour and riches, we can’t guarantee that it will bring us to the place of considering the days we have! 

Make sure your heart is at your right hand, and not at your left! 

The Mark Of The Lord

Genesis 32:31 – The sun rose on him as he passed over Peniel, and he limped because of his thigh.

Jacob is in the process of reconciling with his brother Esau.  He’s sent presents and gifts, and his family on ahead of him across a river, and he’s alone.  Then someone meets him in the darkness and they fight and wrestle together until daybreak.  It turns out to be the angel of the Lord! 

Because of Jacob’s tenacity and perseverance, the angel sees that he’s not going to be able to overpower him – so he touches Jacob’s hip, and puts it out.  Yet even with this handicap, Jacob refuses to let the angel go until he blesses him.  He gets his request answered, but he leaves the scuffle that day with a permanent limp. 

The greatest men and women of God all walked with a limp.  They may have powerful things taking place publicly, but privately there are battles and marks upon them that many will never see.  They have paid a price to walk in the power that they have. 

There are things in life that we have to be prepared to fight for.  We have to learn to hold on, and not let go until they have been released to us!  In the process of us holding on with faith – through thick and thin, through good times and bad – something happens in our hearts.  Our hearts get marked.  A humility comes upon us that we live with for the rest of our lives.  We realise our ultimate dependence upon God for everything.  Like Jacob, we walk with a limp thereafter.