Who’s the Selfish One Now?
—My March Update on Uncertainty

I was on both sides of being offended last week. I offended and I was offended.

Neither were intentional. Both were uncomfortable.

It was a week of misunderstandings and humanness.

Who is the selfish one now?

Selfish Hurts

When I was doing the offense, I didn’t realize it. It wasn’t offensive to me. I had no awareness of causing harm. When it was brought to my attention, I tried to clear it up. I can’t guarantee my attempt was truly successful.

In the other situation, when I was being offended, there was no personal vendetta to cause me harm, but more of a “let the chips fall where they may” attitude. And if I was in the way? Well, so be it.

My feelings were hurt in both scenarios. In the first, I didn’t like someone thinking I was intentionally selfish to get my way.

It hurts to be misunderstood. I don’t want anyone to think I have bad motives, that I would intentionally mislead them, that I am self-centered.

But it also hurts to misunderstand others. In the second scenario, I was hurt that someone would be selfish enough to have no regard for my feelings.

I don’t like feeling angry. Or even confused. It’s uncomfortable to judge a friend as selfish when I prefer to think of them as otherwise. 

But even more disturbing? Seeing selfishness in myself.

Selfish or Selfless?

Selfishness is an insult. Nobody wants to be accused of selfishness.

As believers, we’re called to be above it, to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit.” We’re to be like Jesus, who emptied himself out for others. In humility, we’re to “honor others better than yourself.”

But as humans, we’re not above selfishness. Even when we think we are. Maybe especially when we think we are.

I saw last week I am still selfish. Maybe not in the direct way that I was accused of (I still claim innocence), but in plenty of other ways. Such as, it’s selfish to avoid uncomfortable situations instead of entering a conversation to clear the air.

I also saw what I need to conquer selfishness. Grace. Always grace.

Grace asks this of me:

• To acknowledge my selfishness.
I crave God’s grace when I’m selfish in loving the “other” selfish people.

• To acknowledge the selfishness of my friends.
And love them anyway. I want to give grace when their selfish nature is uncovered.

• To acknowledge Jesus’s selflessness (the opposite of selfishness).
I give credit to him for setting the example of how to do it right, and for calling me out when I don’t.

Prepare to See It Again

Who’s the selfish one now?

Me. You. All of us down here are guilty.

We try to tamp it down. We are not each other’s enemies; we give each other the benefit of the doubt when we can (my life agreement #1).

But as long as we have flesh, we never entirely kill off selfishness.

At the end of the week, some of the misunderstandings in my situations were resolved. Some weren’t. I have to live with that.

I also have to live with the uncertainty that I can’t predict when our selfishness will pop up again. Eventually I’ll offend someone with my selfishness and I’ll be offended by theirs.

I can only be certain that God’s grace will show up again, too. When I’m ready to receive it. And when I’m ready to give it.

May I live ready for both, to receive grace and to give it, for our mutual selfishness.

And when grace arrives in the form of selflessness (as it often does), may I see and receive that miracle, too.

May I never be selfish with grace.

Is it easier for you to recognize your own selfishness or others? Share your thoughts in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Who’s the Selfish One Now?
—My March Update on Uncertainty

  1. Pam Ecrement

    How truly you speak of the predicament we all face – selfishness does not seem to stay defeated within us or others. We have two major places it shows us how it operates in us – marriage is the first and parenting is the second. Both roles expose places we had not seen in us before. We can also be duped into believing selflessness means we cease to exist as persons and that is not helpful to us or anyone else either since it enables everyone around us to be selfish. Thankfully we have grace and a Holy Spirit who keeps sending us little signals when selfishness is at play and how He would have us respond.

  2. Linda Stoll

    Lisa, love those 3 acknowledgements you’ve lined up for us. It’s so easy to see the speck in another’s eye while we’ve got a big ol’ log or two hanging out of our own.

    A good caution for us today.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Excellent and difficult post, Lisa, when it comes to applying it to moi! Your nuanced versions of selfishness don’t let me off the hook. It’s painful, because I think what you are really talking about is crucifying our flesh/self. Painful, but possible through His indwelling Spirit.

    Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.–Mt. 16:24

    I heard someone say once that the only person who had a right to be offended was Jesus. That gives me pause, especially since He did not seek retribution for those real, undeserved offences, but died for them!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Laurie

    Great comment on selfishness, Lisa! Selfishness is one of those traits no one likes to be accused of. Just like hate. People don’t readily admit to feeling hate either. I guess we are ashamed to feel such negative emotions.

    I love the three things grace demands we acknowledge. We are all selfish, Jesus is selfless. A good reminder!

  5. Lois Flowers

    Grace is such a wonderful response to selfishness, Lisa. People might not always extend grace to us when we offend them (either on purpose or inadvertently), but we always have the choice to choose grace over being offended. (Yikes!)

  6. Barbara Harper

    I’m smitten by my selfishness regularly. It helps to know I won’t be perfect til heaven, though that’s not an excuse to give way. It doesn’t always show (though maybe it does more often than I know), but often, inwardly, I discover selfish motives. How I need God’s grace, both in my own life and to extend to others. I love the three things grace asks of us.

  7. Rebecca Hastings

    “May I never be selfish with grace.” This is the heart of it, isn’t it?

    Yes, recognizing my selfishness is definitely the first step. And accepting God’s grace for that.

    But giving that grace to others is where I stumble sometimes. Thank you for reminding me to give grace selflessly.

  8. ~ linda

    That picture of fingers fighting over a coin drew me right into this conversation. I know we are all…ALL…guilty of selfishness. I wish it were not true, but it ’tis. I am ever grateful to our God of grace and mercy always but especially when I fall so short of where I am to be. He covers me and rules in my heart. He teaches me what and how I need to learn.

  9. Trudy

    Thank you, Lisa, for this wise insight and humble acknowledgments. It can be hard sometimes, but so good to remember. I love your ending prayer/statement – “May I never be selfish with grace.” Amen! Love and blessings to you!

  10. Donna

    Lisa, selfishness is something no one likes to own, but sadly we are all afflicted. I thank you for sharing sides of both of these incidents and how related they are to selfishness. Your acknowledgements speak good, practical truth. And yes, “grace” is the antidote to selfishness, because as you graciously illustrated, whether we offend or are offended, we still experience selfishness. I can only plead for mercy, for I am more selfish than I ever am selfless.

  11. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, this was a timely read so thank you! Selfishness can be so offensive and I always want to be considerate towards others, thinking of their best interests. May God deposit a daily dose of grace into each of our hearts each day.

  12. Sharon Hazel

    So good Lisa, and such an honest reflection. In my Lent journey, I rather thought I would have a ‘special time of blessing’ but I have had some uncomfortable moments as God has revealed areas that I need to deal with – but that is the grace of our Heavenly Father to encourage us to grow! Thank you for your encouragement today.

  13. Jean Wise

    well said. Love the contrast between being on both side. so often we only see the side of being hurt and don’t acknowledge when we are the doer.

  14. Lisa Blair

    Lisa, I appreciate the encouragement to ask for the grace to receive selflessness and to ask for the grace to ‘believe the best’ and forgive someone else when they are selfish.

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