Saturday, May 23, 2009

Selfish Little Bugger

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” - C.S. Lewis

Our small group for church is listening to a CD series on marriage by Tim Keller. The very first session we listened to was about selfishness within relationships. Keller proposed an interesting concept that has totally thrown me for a loop. He states, "The root of all problems in relationships is selfishness." And damn it all if the man isn't right!

I didn't want to admit it at first. I came up with a bunch of different scenarios in my head that created "problems" that selfishness had nothing to do with. Hurrah! I didn't have to re-evaluate myself now. Yeah, except that as I thought it over every one of my scenarios, I could dig deeper, find deeper issues at work....and at the very bottom of every one, the problem was selfishness. Snarky little bugger! It made me mad to be honest. I'm a Christian so my answer up until this point has always been, "Sin! Sin is the cause of problems in relationships."

Sin is an easy generalization. When you want to really get (or I at this point) realized that the "sin" was either Jake being selfish or me being selfish. And our problems..our communication problems, sex problems, money problems, emotional problems...whatever...stem from the fact that I need, want, desire things one way and Jake needs, wants, desires them another way. And our sinful "selfish" nature's are constantly at war with one another.

Crap! Now I had to figure out how I was being selfish. You know the funny thing about figuring out the ways you are never want to change any of them. Take, for instance, my example:

I realized one of my selfish tendencies was loving Jake by giving him what I wanted, lots of quality time together. But what he needs from me are verbal affirmations...alot of them. And I realized I was being selfish by giving him time, which is what I want, and not encouragement, which is what he wants.

Any of you that know me, know that I am sarcastic and blunt. I must be missing a woman gene or something because the idea of saying, "Great job honey for paying those bills!" is as stupid to me as saying, "Great job for breathing!" The bills need to be pay em'. Why do you need a pat on the back and two thumbs up for doing something that has to be done? I don't get it, I don't want to get it, I really think it's stupid.....but Jake doesn't. He feels loved when I encourage him or thank him for doing things. So Tim Keller (and God too) has won. I am really trying to find things to encourage Jake about.

Why does this help? Because I am not being selfish when I encourage Jake. I am giving of myself, I am doing something I don't want to do...for the good and benefit of another person. I'm not doing great at this yet...but I am trying. C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller and God (with God being obviously more important) are right...if we don't recognize that our nature is to be selfish we are in danger of hurting ourselves and our relationships. A selfish person has no love to give...they can't be hurt or vulnerable....but they won't be able to be in relationship with other people. Relationships of any kind. It's super hard to realize how selfish we are...but worth it to recognize and make efforts to give, when we'd all much rather receive.



  1. Melissa, good stuff. But I would go farther than C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller (both my heroes) and say that the real cause is control. We NEED to control like we need to breathe. Even when I am learning to give up selfish desires, it is still usually aimed at control (bringing peace, etc) in one form or another. Sin in its origination was man choosing to take control of things God had planned to control for him. Ever since, we've been like crack babies, addicted from day one.
    Jesus wasn't sweating blood because of the physcial abuse he was about to go through, plenty of martyrs followed him singing hymns. It was the final act of powerlessness, giving up eternity and the last shred of control over himself. That's the Gospel. That's how we become like him, choosing daily to give up control. As Tim teaches, marriage is Gospel reinactment. We do for one another what Jesus has modeled for us all. Its brutal, but it leads to resurrection too.
    p.s. Ironically, the spiritual disciplines & other religious activities we often pursue fervently are still aimed at controlling things...

  2. When I was younger, I was happy to let others control what happened in my life (to an extent), but as I get older I feel much more afraid of not being in control of where I'm going, what I'm doing, my future etc. The horrible thing about trying to control someone else is that it is useless. Someone is less likely to do what you want them to when they feel forced. This makes the situation more frustrating for both sides. For example, I and my husband are vegetarians and I was very much a health nut when I was single. Now that I am married, I find myself eating JUNK! I hate it, but my solution before was to avoid buying it. If it's in front of me, I eat it. If not, I'm fine. When my husband comes home with the candy bars, soda and Dorritos, I feel like going crazy because I feel he's not helping me. However, my trying to control what he buys is not realistic and it frustrates him. The issue, of course, is not whether or not he buys junk food. The issue is, whether I can learn self control. What I realize is that when I let the Lord control me and my desire to eat everything in sight, then my husband accepts eating healthier. However, if I make him change without changing myself, he just gets defensive and we get nowhere...=)


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The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.