Selfishness is in our DNA
God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. – Philippians 2:13
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Over the years Alcoholics Anonymous has brought relief and recovery to untold numbers. “Selfishness, Self-Centeredness that we think is the root of our troubles! Fear, self-delusion, self-pity, and self-seeking! My basic problem, as I see it now, was that I was full of SELF, full of Me, Me, Me, Me. How is everything going to affect me, how will I feel, what will I get, what will happen to me if X-Y-Z happens… I am self-obsessed and deluded, and that is what I see as my alcoholism. This chronic self-centeredness . . .! It is still SELF that defeats me, and always will be” (AA member).
A simple test for selfishness. Several roommates share the same apartment. But they have only one bathroom. In the morning when everybody must get ready to leave, who gets to use it first? Too often our attitude is, you can go first, right after me.
Paul encourages us to put the needs of others before our own. Yet selfishness is in our DNA. In most cases, it is natural for us not to put the needs of others first. Most of the time we would not even want to consider doing so. Is it possible for us to change?
The simple answer is yes.
It begins with the recognition that we would not be children of the King if the Lord Jesus Christ would not have put our needs before His own desires. He revealed, with great agony, His distaste for and His strong desire not to drink the cup of self-sacrifice. But the Lord Jesus Christ willingly chose to do it anyway.
Luke 22:42 “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
But as our good Shepherd, He was willing to lay down his life for us, His sheep.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Because He loved us, it is possible for us to love others in the same way. Love begins when someone else’s needs are more important than my own (Gordon Fee). When we choose to do what is right when we would rather not, we take small steps down the road away from selfishness.
The Father motivates children of the King to change. Yet ironically, only The Father can change us. The Scriptures provide an overview, an outline of how He wants the children of the King to live. He provided numerous examples, along with encouragement to do what is right.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
The Father works in each of us to give us the desire, and then the power to do what pleases Him. When we come to understand this, we simply cooperate. We purpose to lay aside our selfish interests. It is not easy, but it is possible.
REFLECT & PRAY
The Scriptures demonstrate that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. To diminish and begin to overcome selfishness is truly extraordinary.
Father there is no doubt that selfishness is in my DNA through and through. But You have put in me the desire to live differently. Lead me and transform me so that Your desires become my desires.
What is the greatest example that the Father has provided to show us how to live to overcome the selfishness of human DNA? The humility of the Lord Jesus Christ. He modeled for us how to overcome the great challenge of selfishness. He chose to empty Himself of any personal ambition and put the interest of others before Himself. He chose to serve humbly without regard for reward or benefit. He willingly sacrificed His life for us.
The why, because we serve someone greater than ourselves.
The how, because we choose to serve others before ourselves.
J. F. Kennedy inspired a generation when he said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept . . .” Making the continuous choice to overcome the selfishness of our DNA is not easy, but hard. But it is a choice that any child of the King can make.
How can we transition from being totally selfish and self-centered begin to become more thoughtful about other people’s feelings? Elinor Greenberg offers a 6-step process. Each step may well provide a small improvement.
Step 1 – Admit what they are doing is not working. This is often the most difficult. It requires admitting the need to change.
Step 2 – Target an area to improve. Start with an issue that is relatively easy to recognize and does not require any emotional empathy.
Step 3 – Pick a new behavior to practice. It is important to decide on the behavior ahead of time and then stick to it.
Step 4 – Practice the new behavior while inhibiting the old one.
Step 5 – Keep at it until you can do the new behavior easily and automatically.
Step 6 – Add a second new behavior to practice (psychologytoday.com).
Choosing to become less selfish and more like the Lord Jesus Christ is the place to start Determine to become the Father’s willing servant. He will do the rest.
2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.