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8 Ways to Be Selfless in a Selfish World

8 Ways to Be Selfless in a Selfish World

Admit it. It feels good to be all about us. Especially when everyone else is, too.

But when Jesus told His followers to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (Luke 9:23), He wasn’t just implying that we push aside our desires for a while. He was telling us to put to death our insistence on living for ourselves and start living for Him by serving others.

How do we follow the instructions in Philippians 2:3 and “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” in this “all about me” world? Here are eight ways to be less selfish and more focused on others:

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  •  1. Learn to overlook an offense.

    1. Learn to overlook an offense.

    When someone bad-mouths you or misunderstands you, Scripture says “it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).

    When we are all about ourselves, we tend to think we have to defend ourselves, set others straight on their misconceptions about us, and stay in prime image-management mode so no one ever thinks less of us than we think of ourselves.

    But, if we are children of our heavenly Father, God’s got our backs. His name is our name, and He can protect His own.

    To overlook an offense is to show meekness and humility that says “I am not as important as I think I am, so I’ll let God take care of me—reputation and all.” 

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  •  2. Compliment instead of criticize.

    2. Compliment instead of criticize.

    Do you have a critical spirit that notices what’s wrong with others and wants to make sure they know it, too? Or worse, do you ever cut someone down to make yourself feel a little bit taller?

    When you focus on how you can build up others and give them words that encourage and empower them, you are applying Ephesians 4:29, which instructs, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

    Unwholesome talk isn’t just gossip or saying bad words. It can also be talk that is boastful instead of praising God and others.

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  • 3. Let others go first.

    3. Let others go first.

    Jesus taught many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30). This is contrary to our culture’s priority of seeking the first place in line, the best place at the table, and the most note-worthy title.

    We are instructed in Romans 12:2 to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  

    A renewed mind will put others first like Jesus did. Philippians 2:3-4 instructs us to humbly value others above ourselves by “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

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  • 4. Be okay with not being noticed.

    4. Be okay with not being noticed.

    Are you okay with not being recognized, applauded, or even appreciated? This non-entitlement attitude is rare today, especially when you are among people who feel entitled, demand respect, and are used to getting awards and applause for simply doing what is expected.

    Jesus encouraged obscurity when He taught: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4).

    In other words, don’t be impressed with yourself, boast about your generosity, or look for paybacks for your kindness. Don’t do anything that smacks of “look at me!”

    We is always better than me, so seek to be part of a team that serves others so you won’t be tempted to want the glory for yourself.

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  • 5. Serve, don’t soak.

    5. Serve, don’t soak.

    Who doesn’t want to be pampered? Our flesh, naturally, wants to experience the best of luxuries with the least amount of work. But that usually means someone else is doing the work.

    This is seen not just in posh administrative jobs but in churches across the country. Many of us believe we’ve put in our time and it’s our season to be served. Yet Galatians 6:9 tells us not to “become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” 

    The moment any of us adopts an “I deserve this” attitude or an “I’ve put in my time, now it’s someone else’s turn” mentality, we have succumbed to the temptation to soak up someone else’s efforts instead of serving until the day we die.

    Those great men and women of the faith that we read about in Hebrews 11 never retired, professionally or spiritually. They continued to answer the call and serve their Lord until their dying breath.

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  • 6. Slow down long enough to extend a hand to others.

    6. Slow down long enough to extend a hand to others.

    What is so important about our busy lives? Do we even know why we run so fast and work so hard and run over people in the process? The psalmist prayed, Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). To number our days means to realize life is short and to live intentionally by focusing on the few things that matter most.

    My husband—a pastor who refuses to run the rat race, but instead prefers to live life more slowly and intentionally—often reminds me of the importance of “simple acts of love”—especially when they are unexpected and undeserved.

    Hold open a door for someone (even if it takes a while for them to get there), pay for the order behind you in the drive-through, let another person in front of you.

    When you slow down to “prefer one another in love” you will find there are more opportunities than you realized to extend a hand toward others with simple acts of love. 

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  • 7. Don’t dominate the conversation.

    7. Don’t dominate the conversation.

    Do you ever find yourself doing all the talking to the point that you never get around to asking someone else what is going on in their life? It comes natural to our flesh to be self-absorbed, but Romans 12:10 exhorts us to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

    You can do that by deferring to someone else in the group, pausing in the conversation to let someone else in, or simply focusing on another person and determining in your heart and mind that what they have to say is just as important (if not more) than what you have to say.

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  • 8. Shine the spotlight on others, not yourself.

    8. Shine the spotlight on others, not yourself.

    Are you one who craves the spotlight, desiring kudos and applause for what you feel is praiseworthy? Or would you rather not be on stage because you are self-conscious about how you look or what others will think of you? In either case, the temptation is to focus on self.

    Look around. Who do you see that you can “push into the spotlight” by praising their strengths, recommending them over yourself, and casting them in a good light?

    James 4:10 says Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” If you’re okay with remaining behind the scenes and focusing on promoting others, your day will come—in God’s timing, not yours.

    Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mother, and national speaker with more than 30 years’ experience helping women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone(more than 130,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, and When Couples Walk Together, co-authored with her husband, Hugh. Her newest books include, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, and 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband: More Trust, More Passion, More Communication.  For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com

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