Flipping the Script on Selflessness

In the If-We-Were-Honest-About-Words Dictionary, “selflessness” seems to be up there with “boring” and “doormat.” It may be a characteristic we hope describes us, yet we seldom think about what selflessness actually is or how to build it into our lives. There seems to be a formula for it in Scripture:

high view of God + high view of self = selflessness

God’s Word is peppered with both sorts of love. Jesus commanded people to love God with all of their heart and to love others as they love themselves. Paul understood the necessity for a high view of self as well. Look how it plays out in marriage:

Ephesians 5:28-29

“Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…”

It is possible, however, to think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:13). This formula gets lopsided and breeds arrogance. When this happens, we tend to…

  • Obsesses about our status or reputation
  • Find it difficult to empathize with others
  • Be easily offended
  • Judge others quickly
  • Extend grace slowly
  • See mistakes as the fault of everyone else

It’s just as easy, on the other hand, to slip into a low view of self. This too is pride but in a different sort of way. We still see ourselves as the center of the universe. Only this time we tend to…

  • Have a pessimistic or cynical view of our lives
  • Cling to one discouraging comment over one hundred encouraging ones
  • Believe everything wrong is our fault
  • Try to earn our way back to God
  • Be slow to accept forgiveness and receive grace

Both try to pull our eyes away from the goodness and greatness of God. So, how do we balance a love for God and love for self? I believe it begins with understanding something Tim Keller wrote,

The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time.

The Reason for God

You have infinite value. Not because of your abilities or talents, but because you are stamped in the image of a God who is Infinitely Valuable. If my sense of worth comes from this, I don’t need to be overly concerned with the opinion of others or my own accomplishments. It allows me to think on better things.

“True humility is not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less.”
CS Lewis
Mere Christianity


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