What does it mean to be selfless? Like, to not consider yourself in the equation and to truly do things for the good of others and the glory of God? I don’t know what exactly that looks like if I’m being honest. It’s like that episode of “Friends” where Phoebe tries to prove to Joey that people can do good things without receiving anything in return, but she fails because even when she doesn’t “get” anything she still “gets” to feel super great about what she’s done.
I have a similar problem, I do good things and I serve other people, but I worry way too much about the benefits of serving others and doing good things. I worry about what people are thinking of me, and if they’re noticing my good deeds, or if my hard work and talents are being recognized. This isn’t a fun thing for me to admit to all of you, but it’s the truth. I can’t say that most of the things I do are done from a place of selflessness.
Recently, this problem has been brought more to the forefront of my attention because I was put in a situation where I couldn’t do the good things that make me feel good, worthy, or loved. I was a guest and therefore I could not host, I didn’t know how to help, and it wasn’t my job to welcome and make people feel comfortable. However, that need for approval and recognition of “good works” was still so deep in me. So, I talked. A lot. In general, I am a talker. People like to say that I have this gift for saying everything I think so confidently that I just sound authoritative, like I just really know what I’m talking about. I don’t consider myself an expert in just about anything, but I do like to use my words to impress people and create the version of myself I want them to see me as. So, during this time where my “works” were taken away I instead brought in an abundance of words.
This behavior switch really forced me to reflect later on why I did what I did, what my motivations were, and what this meant about the motivations behind what I normally do in my day-to-day life. I used to think I had learned to be selfless because I went through a season where I did a whole lot of “playing the background” and behind the scenes work in ministry. Keeping the wheels running without being seen or recognized for it very often, you know? Since this most recent experience I have realized though that even during that season of “background work” I still wasn’t getting it because I was so focused-in on whether or not people were noticing me or caring about me all the time.
So, it is now, in the year of our Lord, 2020, that I think I’m finally starting to get a handle on the whole “selfless” thing. Being selfless doesn’t mean serving, it doesn’t mean not being recognized, it doesn’t mean not getting anything in return. You can do and have all of those things and still not be selfless. Instead, selflessness is doing things for the good of others and the glory of God. Period. Selflessness is not thinking about where I come into the equation. Selflessness is thinking about myself….less.
I think of myself so much, because I am thinking of all the things I feel like I need and somehow doubt God will provide. I worry that unless I do or say everything right no one will love me and I will have no love. I worry that unless people recognize what I do, no one will think that I’m worthy and I will have no value. I worry that if I don’t think about myself, no one else will either. These are lies though. These things hold no truth and they can’t stand in the light of God.
Philippians 2:3-4 says:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)
Being selfless looks like considering myself and desires less. It looks like looking beyond my own needs and interests to the interests of others. Paul in Philippians goes on to say in verses 5-8:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV)
Jesus, who in his time on earth literally was God, did not consider himself equal, but rather emptied himself. That’s my new prayer now too. I want to empty myself like Christ did. I want to make myself a servant like Christ, serve in obedience, and not consider myself in the equation. Instead, I will trust God to give and provide my needs and desires of my heart, because if I trust Him as the provider it then frees me to think about the needs of my neighbor.
I know I have talked about myself a lot for a blog post that is supposed to be about selflessness, but maybe you relate to my struggle. Maybe you’ve read about my recent epiphanies and you’ve had a few of your own too. If my own story has sparked an awakening in your own heart and mind to commit to the discipline of selflessness in a new way then GREAT if it’s made you realize you’re already pretty dang selfless that’s still SUPER COOL. No matter which group you belong to though here is my challenge and final words I want to leave you all with this week:
When we are fully trusting God to take care of us and our whole being in its entirety, it allows us to be truly selfless. When we free our mind and empty ourselves of our own ambitions and interests, it makes room for us to think about the people around us instead. We’re able to work and speak in the interest of our fellow humankind because we’re not busy worrying about ourselves and what we deserve or don’t deserve. So, I challenge you this week to examine yourself and the areas you haven’t allowed yourself to fully trust God’s provision and then intentionally reach out to take care of the need of someone else. It doesn’t have to be a huge need, maybe it’s just an encouraging word you knew someone needed to hear, all that matters is that we’re looking beyond our own interests to the interests of others. Because the truth is, when we’re thinking less of ourselves that’s when we’re getting to be more like the self God created us to be. We don’t have to think less of ourselves to think less of ourselves.
Brianna Little- Communications