“Selfish people are, by definition, those whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness. Yet, at least as judged by others, these selfish people are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.” – Dr. Bernard Rimland, Ph.D.
What does it mean to be self-giving? I (Les) like to think of it as selfishness in reverse. It’s a quality we must have if we want to love like Jesus did. Selflessness gives without the expectation of repayment or appreciation. It’s something we extend out of kindness and compassion.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in self-interest. If we’re honest, most of us struggle with being selfish. But self-giving can bring us tremendous joy–more than we ever thought possible. The key is learning how to break our habit of putting our interests first and shed the fear of missing out on our own wants.
How can we learn to put others’ needs first and practice self-giving in our everyday lives?
When we practice empathy, we put ourselves in another person’s shoes in order to imagine how they feel and think. If we’re not used to relating to people this way, it can take a little time to develop empathy into a habit.
As we begin to pay closer attention to the people around us, empathizing with them tends to have a snowball effect:
- We gain new perspectives on their lives and struggles that we never had before
- Then, we begin learning how to treat them the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes
- We’re able to learn how to turn our full focus on the people who need us, becoming more attentive as we do so
- Then, we can grow more comfortable playing second fiddle while we help meet those needs
- We learn generosity–and how to love others as we love ourselves
- Finally, we begin to put other people’s needs before our own
When empathy becomes a habit, it changes every aspect of how we approach our lives and the people in them.
Do Small Things with Great Love
Self-giving isn’t necessarily about doing a complete 180 and giving up ourselves entirely. It’s not about self-denial or giving up our own goals, rights, and dreams. Instead, it’s all about being willing to put others first–even in small ways.
We might think every act of self-giving should be earth-shaking. But it can be as simple as:
- Encouraging your friend who didn’t land the job she wanted
- Generously tipping a server who appears to be having a rough time
- Offering to unload an elderly person’s groceries in the rain
Self-giving means living our lives in a way that promotes service over status. Take Jesus, for example. He tells us in scripture that He came to serve–not be served. One of my favorite examples of Jesus’s self-giving is the story of how He washed His disciples’ feet himself. It was a premeditated act of service–and a beautiful one. It was a small thing done with great love.
Go the Extra Mile
In Jesus’s time, Roman law required young boys to help carry the packs of Roman soldiers one mile from where they lived. This gave soldiers a rest from carrying their gear, but it was hard work for the boys who helped them. In order to only fulfill the law’s minimum requirements, boys would often place a stake one mile from their house so that they’d know when to stop carrying the pack.
But Jesus referenced this mile in one of His sermons, encouraging followers to go an extra mile if they were forced to carry a soldier’s pack (Matthew 5:41). In other words, do more than is expected of you. This is a guaranteed way to give of yourself every day.
Don’t Keep Score
We’re not truly selfless if we keep a tally of all the things we’ve done for people–and the things we expect from them in return for said favors. Keeping score is a surefire way to ruin a relationship. It means you’re keeping your self-interest front-and-center, while acting in ways that suggest otherwise.
If you really want to be self-giving, don’t pay attention to how much you’ve done. Don’t keep track. And don’t expect anything in return.
Want to learn more about how to love like Jesus?
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When we stop fighting to get our own way all the time, and when we learn to reverse our selfishness, we find our life. How have you found yours? Share your examples of self-giving (or the people in your lives who have made an impression through giving) in the comments section.