Our families need many things to be healthy and strong, but the one ingredient our families can’t live and thrive without is LOVE.
Love is strong and beautiful. It was created to take root and bloom right in the middle of all the craziness and ever-evolving seasons of a typical family. We simply can’t survive without nourishing, life-sustaining love. It never gives up, never quits, or stops believing the best.
When a home’s functioning without it; it’s no longer living. It’s a “Walking Dead” family. And I don’t know about you but I didn’t start out with the vision of me and my family walking around like a bunch of zombies.
The Enemy of Love
A sure-fire enemy of love is selfishness because it’s so subtle and dangerous at the same time; sneaking up on each of us. And if we’re not careful and watchful over the garden of our hearts; the weeds of selfishness can shoot up quickly – choking out the love we so desperately need.
And no matter what age, station, or season of life we find ourselves in; we all have to do constant battle with selfishness. I’ve struggled with it my whole life and too often was totally oblivious to it.
That’s because selfishness doesn’t always manifest itself in major things like spending a large chunk of the family budget on myself for things I didn’t need, or constantly going out with friends and neglecting my family.
No, it was not calling my parents for weeks or months on end because I was tired and just didn’t want to be on the phone for more than 5 minutes. Or choosing to say no to my girls who were begging to play a game so I can catch up on my shows waiting for me on my DVR. Or refusing to admit I was wrong in an “discussion” with my husband even when I knew I was.
It’s small, everyday stuff that honestly feels like no big deal, but if different choices were made, deeper relationships would be formed.
It’s not that we have to be constantly available for everyone at every waking moment. That would be crazy and impossible. But I’ve learned to take a moment before making a decision and evaluate if this moment is worth it.
Our children will only be little for a few years. Our parents won’t be with us forever. Our marriages can only remain strong with invested time.
Can my shows wait a little longer? Can I take a few minutes on the phone to hear the voices of those I love? Can I stop whatever I’m doing to check in with my husband to see what he might need?
It’s love that drives the right choices and selfishness that kills relationships. The leading cause of failed marriages isn’t money or communication. It’s selfishness at it’s root. Plain and simple.
And the leading cause of healthy marriages is LOVE.
Love is a Decision
The fact is, the love we all so desperately need isn’t an emotion that soothes us into doing the right thing by others. Nope. It’s a decision.
The love you have for your spouse, children, parents, and friends is a decision you made and haven’t given up on. For example, the love a mother or father has for their child doesn’t come automatically after a baby’s born. That love was decided long before the baby ever showed up. My husband and I prayed for our first child for 4 1/2 years before we ever got pregnant. She was loved and adored by us long before she was ever even conceived.
But look around us. There’s story after story of parents who have committed unspeakable acts to the children they brought into this world and the ones that never had the chance. How do you explain that? The decision of love was never made.
Love is a decision. And everyone hasn’t made it for themselves.
But not so fast! Selfishness is just as much a decision as love is. Every time a thought of selfishness springs up; it’s our responsibility to reach in our hearts and root it up.
We have to remove the root of selfishness before the roots go too deep and take hold of our hearts.
I was riding in the car one day and my girls were in the back playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. I suddenly heard what I thought was my younger daughter shout out, “God is one of the weapons!”
I spoke up, “Did you say God?”
They said this was something they heard others kids saying at church one Sunday. Hmm. That’s some advantage. I said, “isn’t that like cheating? I mean, nothing beats God, right?”
Using God in a game of rock, paper, scissors may be a little unfair but using God’s weapon of love to defeat selfishness isn’t. It’s our right and responsibility.
If we choose love over our natural instinct of self-preservation; we win the battle every time.
But neither selfishness nor love operate independent of us. Whether we come to admit it or not; we’re in control of our thoughts, words, and actions.
It’s funny how we can take ownership when we do or say something really great. But somehow when we behave badly we step back and claim the devil made me do it.
So our ability to stand by our good actions proves we’re in control of ourselves. Therefore, we’re either surrendering ourselves over to the will of our Creator or to our own will. Here are 3 Keys to help you overcome selfishness and cultivate more love in your family.
Key #1: Put on the other person’s shoes
This is old-school advice, but is no less effective in its power. It also requires more effort that a fleeting thought. We really need to make a true attempt to see situations through the eyes and heart of the other person.
If if there’s something they need from us; we should make a personal connection to that need. We may not always be able to fulfill it, but at least we can understand it and communicate that understanding. Sometimes that’s all that’s really needed anyways.
Key #2: Practice the sacrifice
A sacrifice is giving up something of personal value, for something you see as more valuable. In order to defeat selfishness and grow love, we must be willing to give up some things for something greater.
For example, we practice (or at least try to) give up always trying to be right in order to preserve the peace in our home. This one needs constant reminding, though.
Love also grows unhindered when we take an interest in the interests of those in our family. My husband LOVES sports of all kinds, and I … don’t. But I will take “shop” with him and watch games. I rarely complain when he turns on a game. I’m not perfect with this but I’m a whole lot better. 🙂
Key #3: Know how deeply we impact those we love
When we act selfishly, our actions quickly come and go; but for the other person it can go much deeper and linger longer. When we say no to our children who want to spend time with us; they can feel rejected if it happens too often. Those wounds can go deep and stay for a lifetime. The same goes for our marriages.
Our ability to turn off the TV and put down the i-phone to truly connect with those in our home is how to have lifetime bonds in a family. Our smart phones should be used to connect us when we’re apart; not disconnect us when we’re together.
The Power of Staying Full
I do want to add balance, however, to the issue of selfishness. I don’t want to send anyone, especially those struggling with people-pleasing syndrome (you know who you are), into a total tail-spin.
Selfishness is unnecessarily and repeatedly neglecting the needs of others so your needs can be fulfilled. Regular selfishness is also a symptom of not taking care of yourself.
As women, wives, friends, and mothers; we must learn to put ourselves first – first. That means I must intentionally and regularly take care of myself so that I stay full – BEFORE everyone else comes calling.
We are like beautiful vases that hold all the good stuff our family needs; which are poured out on a daily – moment by moment – basis. But sadly, so many of us are trying to pour out of an empty vase. When we’re empty; selfishness has no choice but to take over because we have nothing left to give out.
We must be sure we love ourselves and our families by staying FULL.
Find what fills you up on the inside and carve out some time – first – so you can do that everyday. A little intentional self-ishness first will lead to a whole lot of self-lessness the rest of your day for everyone else
My heart is that you take some of this wisdom and use it as weed-killer to spray on your weeds of selfishness; so that your beautiful and strong love can finally bloom big in the garden of your home.
Leave a comment and share how you’ve battled with selfishness and how your family grows love.