self·ish lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure
Can we all just agree that people are selfish? You’re selfish. I’m selfish. Our spouses, co-workers, friends, kids are all selfish. The thing about it, though, is that we can avoid dealing with selfishness in relationships outside of our family. I’m not saying it’s right or without its consequences, but we can avoid people. We can cut people out of our lives and go find other, more agreeable people.
However, dealing with selfishness in that way in our families can have long lasting negative consequences. Not dealing with selfishness in marriage can lead to divorce, or arguably just as bad, joylessness. We don’t want that for you, so today I’m going to share 4 ways to fight against selfishness in marriage.
Before we get into it…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
This is going to be the basis of our chat today. It could be argued that this passage doesn’t pertain to relationships in general, but only to relationships between Christians. The reason for that is because of the verses that come right before it where Paul is addressing unity among Christians.
The issue with that thought is that right after these verses on humility and selfishness Paul says we should “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” He then goes on to explain how in humility Christ made himself nothing and became obedient to death on the cross.
Jesus didn’t die for Christians. He died for his enemies so they could become Christians.
Therefore, I think a better application of Philippians 2:3-4 is that we should be humble in ALL relationships. We should be self-less instead of self-ish, especially in relationships where the other person feels like (or is) an actual enemy.
I think the question, though, is, “How?” How do we do that? What does it actually look like? And with that we have these…
4 Ways to Fight Against Selfishness in Marriage
1. Communication is key.
Selfishness is an obsession with your own wants and needs. Sometimes selfishness grows when wants and needs are uncommunicated, and thus, unmet. It’s really important to remember that your spouse isn’t a mind reader. If they don’t know what you want they can’t give it to you.
Now, communicating wants and needs doesn’t mean selfishness will evaporate. Sometimes you explain yourself in the clearest way possible, and the other person ignores the request.
It’s important to look inside and consider why you’re so obsessed with your own wants and needs (and why the other person doesn’t seem to care). Is it pride? Childhood trauma? Something else? A careful examination and request for Holy Spirit revelation of the root cause will go a long way in winning the war on selfishness.
2. Remember that unity is more important than winning.
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh[.]' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:5-6
A loss for one of you is a loss for both of you. Lemme repeat that, because it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been married or how great your marriage is. You’ll still run into situations where you’ll want one thing, your spouse will want another, and you’ll be willing to throw down to get your way.
But a loss for one of you is a loss for both of you.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” A third person can weasel their way in and separate spouse from spouse. But spouses can do this to one another. Don’t be the reason there’s a divide between you and your spouse. Unity is more important than winning.
3. Keep an eternal perspective.
Here’s a great question to ask yourself on the regular: Is this even going to matter once I’ve been worshiping God in heaven for a thousand years?
As Christians, we know that our eventual destination is heaven, which means eternal joy. God will wipe away every tear from every eye. That means the sting from every let down on earth will be gone. I can imagine (though the Bible doesn’t explicitly say this) that at some point our time on earth will be all but forgotten. I can barely remember last year, let alone 30 years ago. What will I truly remember after 1,000?
Even the longest life lived on earth is a blip in eternity. In the words of the great theologian, Elsa, you may just need to “Let it go.”
4. Serve your spouse.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant[.] Philippians 2:5-7
My favorite passage in the Bible regarding marriage is Ephesians 5:21-33. I love that Paul explains how marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church. I feel very strongly that Christians have the responsibility of emulating Christ in their marriages, so the outside world can have a picture of how much Jesus loves them. What an honor!
The way we do that is by serving one another.
When we serve one another we consider the other person’s wants, needs, and well-being before our own. Wives serve their husbands as the church serves Jesus. And husbands serve their wives as Jesus served the church.
If you can’t figure out how to orient your heart towards serving your spouse just remember this. Jesus left heaven to come and die in your place for your sins. He could have been the most ‘selfish’ person in the world, stayed in heaven, and left us to die in our sins. And it wouldn’t have even been wrong for him to do it.
But he didn’t. He was self-less, and by the power of the Holy Spirit you can be too.
Because there’s a better way,
ps. This blog is the second in a 4-part series. If you’d like to see an overview of the series just click here: How to Improve Your Marriage and Make it Stronger.