“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 more....in 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 real...you (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 selfish....you 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 paid...so 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.