Most people marry for selfish reasons. “She makes me happy.” “She’s beautiful.” “She treats me well.”
Many marriages fail for selfish reasons. “He didn’t make me happy anymore, so I found someone who did.” “I don’t feel what I used to feel about him.”
For marriages to succeed, we have to move from the selfish to the selfless. Selfishness may lead us to the altar, but the vows we make are vows of selflessness. We promise to love, honor, and cherish in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer until death do us part. Successful couples grow out of selfishness.
We can see the same phenomenon in raising children. We hope our children will bring us joy, but that hope can easily turn into co-dependence or vicarious life that strangles a healthy relationship. Successful parents are selfless parents.
The same pattern can be seen in church. Many guests first attend a congregation and ask, “What can you do for me and my family?” They analyze the programs and preaching and evaluate the church based on what the church does for them. It’s a normal, but selfish, approach.
Many relationships with congregations fail for selfish reasons. “They didn’t do what I wanted.” “They pushed me out of my comfort zone.” “I disagreed with a decision.” Before long—these people have moved on to greener pastures, because the church asks you to be like Jesus, who served, rather than expecting service (see Mark 10:45).
Selfishness is easy in the short-term, but deadly in the long-term.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
To paraphrase J.F.K., ask not what your spouse or child or friend or church can do for you…but what you can do for them.
“You won’t find happiness at the end of a road named selfishness.” (Gary Thomas)