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Unselfishness ... 2

Self sufficency

A selfish mindset forgets that the blessings of God are to be shared, and that others should be helped. An unselfish lifestyle avoids the delusion that we don’t need to thank or give back to God.
Needing God is a lesson that is very easy to learn when one is faced with catastrophic circumstances or overwhelming odds, but it is a much tougher sell when things are going well. Somehow we forget that a fruitful, low stress existence is cause for reflective individuals to thank their Maker for such blessings. Instead, those who are self-centered get lulled into the dangerous belief that good fortune is a result of their own efforts alone; and that they are simply reaping what they deserve apart from any involvement from God’s grace.
Jesus shows us the danger of the entrapment of materialism and selfishness when He converses with a very wealthy man who claims to want to know how to gain eternal life. The man tells Jesus what he has accomplished . . . that he has followed all the commandments since he was a child. But knowing the man’s heart, Jesus cuts right to the issue when he says: “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22 NIV)  The same story is repeated in Matthew. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21 NIV) Jesus showed the man the condition of his heart, and the remedy, how to be perfect by becoming unselfish. Being perfect is not the same as being righteous. If the man kept the law as he said he had, then the man was righteous under that covenant, which may have included tithing; yet being selfless is something that runs deeper with God than upholding the laws of religion. In the new covenant, the letter of the law is superseded by its intent. (Therefore, when discussing the state of our heart and the condition of our character, unselfishness and generosity is meant to be viewed in a personal charitable sense, an individual's desire to give; not as a socio-political construct or coercion of everyone for the sake of the collective, such as proposed in "The Great Reset of Capitalism".)
The next verse tells us that the man becomes very sad. Did he become sad because he realized he was personally lacking empathy and generosity, or that his understanding of priorities had been way off course and needed changing? Like most of us, was he affected by his own unwillingness to abandon what he perceived as the fruit of his efforts? Was the grip of materialism controlling him? Was it the sin of greed that he still harbored in his heart? Greed will impact a person to consider himself and his needs over and above others, and above God’s will for sharing wealth with the needy.
The significance that our possessions represent to us is also a product of our culture. And culture is something that changes based on many influences. A secular culture is influenced by secular values. A Christian culture is influenced by Christian values. The significance that our possessions represent to us will be different in a secular culture, a socialist culture and a Christian culture. Which do we really prefer to belong to? 
Jesus wouldn’t ask anyone to do what He Himself would not do. To become unselfish requires us to eradicate the materialistic desires that cause us to cling to our possessions, or that wants to surround ourselves with possessions. So let’s ask ourselves a tough Jesus-type of question, Would we be able to give away all our possessions to the poor in order to “crucify” our selfishness? Is unselfishness more important to us than materialism? And more generally, are we being adulterous if we choose to live by an unwise mix of secular, Christian or alternative values?
Since we believe Jesus was perfect and lived a perfect life, we can assume He was often willing to give His possessions, His time, His energy to those who needed them. Being poor is not necessarily a sign of imperfection, nor is being rich, however being selfish and greedy is. Even though Christ was poor, He was still able to give His incredible gift of love. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV) Our lives were made rich through the death of Christ and by receiving His promise to give everlasting life. This is something we can never achieve for ourselves, or provide to anyone else – only God can. The extent that we see ourselves indebted to God, will influence how much we "buy-in" to God's Kingdom, and all it represents.
We should not be selfish with our time or resources, but give it unselfishly to others which is God’s will, lest we be labelled hypocrite for only taking from God, and not giving. If we hope to become like Him, we must imitate Him by reciprocating His freely given generosity. Our generosity is born from thanksgiving, trust, admiration and respect; and developed through unselfishly offering favor and help to others. Those who serve God can only do so in gratitude for the unearned favor they have received. They appreciate the enormous benefit of what Jesus has done in dying for all sin, and restoring us to the Father who makes everything else possible. God's ability to provide, sustain, and to meet our future needs is unlimited. Therefore to be grateful and unselfish also requires us to trust God to supply our needs in ways that we can only hope for. The unselfish will avoid putting emphasis on things of their own doing as prideful, for they are quick to realize that none of their own efforts will ever replace or surpass God’s many acts of love for them.
Ultimately, we have very limited control over our lives. Our location impacts us, our family and friends impact us, our culture impacts us, world events impact us, leaders around us impact us, even a random incident can impact us. This is why we are always in need of God to intervene in our best interests, otherwise we can easily be swept away by it all. Death will certainly impact us, but not if we are anchored to God's promises and His will, for He is faithful and our hope in Him will not be in vain.
Jill's self talk
"Being united with God, puts me in the enviable position of being cared for by Him. As I am unselfish, so is He generous. As I  am insufficient, so is He my strength and my portion. I am living by His grace, and for His pleasure I respond in kind to others, with grace."

Exhibitionism

A selfless attitude promotes self-esteem without self-promotion. You don’t have to show or tell anyone how learned and praiseworthy you are.
Part of being unselfish in behavior, thought, and speech; is trying not to draw undue attention to yourself. But those with self-promoting tendencies like to draw attention and receive personal adoration, often loving not only the stage, but the spotlight and the approval it provides them. For instance, Jesus called the Pharisees out for being “professional prayers”. Some Pharisees would speak loudly enough in their prayers so that those around could hear their articulate and knowledgeable prayer, and try to impress others that they must be holier than most. But Jesus was far from impressed with their grandstanding approach because He could see right into their hearts. (Matthew 6:5-7 & Luke 11:43 NIV) Jesus said we should pray in secret if we want God to hear. We are mistaken to think our standing with God, or our self-esteem, is based on what other people may think.
These days it is "success" that people want to be known for, and teaching people how to become successful has become big business. Bragging and showing off are the common ways to sell yourself to others as a successful person. Social media has become a new outlet for all who are interested in self-adoration, self-promotion, and narcissism. Of course, social media can be used for good, like keeping in contact with others and sharing news, but it is also used as a tool for showing off how good our life appears to be. Christians are not immune to pride and conceit. Some self-righteous folk substitute prayer with other things intended for showing off. They want others to know how much money they donate, how many Bible studies they attend, how many people they have led to Christ, or how large their church attendance has grown. These are all good, but publicizing them probably doesn't impress God. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. He had to intervene in the Apostle Paul circumstances, as Paul was becoming conceited over the greatness of the revelations he had received.
Smart people know that God is not interested in hearing about their bragging rights. He would probably prefer we were quick to acknowledge and honor the kind acts of others, so that other people’s selfless deeds may be recognized, admired and imitated. But when it comes to ourselves, to be unselfish requires us to go about our business modestly and unpretentiously. Would  you prefer to be honored by God, or become a person who has self-promotion at the root of their intentions. When we seek the praise of men, that will be our reward, but when we secretly and quietly honour God in all we do, He will reward us in ways that only God can. 
Jill's self talk
"The value of Christian service is the helpful benefit it provides to others. The best form of reward I could hope for is the self-esteem that comes from achievement and contribution. That's why self-promotion, boasting and seeking recognition are unnecessary."

Vanity, entitlement and arrogance

The fruits of selfishness are a ugly blight on anyone, but only unselfish people can radiate true inner beauty.
When self-importance comes to full embodiment, people feel a sense of “entitlement”. Somehow rules and laws don’t apply to them; and every benefit, shortcut, and reward is theirs simply because of who they are or the position they hold. This is not what Christianity embodies. Jesus’ teachings point to the admiration of the fair, the meek, the humble, and the unselfish.
Notably, people of high ego and self-importance need to thrust themselves into the limelight. Things like: trumpeting accomplishments, stealing glory and denigrating people of real character; have no impact whatsoever on their consciences. Selfish thinking results in indifference to the plight of others, a pre-occupation and intention to serve ourself first and foremost, and to judge things only in terms of what we stand to gain from a situation. Selfish people can still forgive, if it’s in their own interests to, or give gifts to their own. However, they shirk at the opportunity of sharing justly with others more needy when there is nothing to be gained from it. The clues that point to people who choose selflessness are far less obvious. They may include: willingness to submit to authority, to serve humbly, to contently rely on the grace of God, to give credit and thanks to others, to participate without expecting preferential treatment, and to not complain in less than ideal situations.
Thinking of others before oneself takes on many forms. One of these is the skill of empathy, having the ability to not only consider the feelings about the predicament of another, but attempt to feel what another is experiencing and do something about it. In order to fulfil the Lord’s commandment to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we try to put ourselves “in their shoes” and respond to them as we would like to be treated, if we were them. Along with being empathetic, unselfish people are willing to accept delayed gratification; putting one’s own benefit on hold for the sake of higher values or principles. People who problem-solve and prioritize this way, are people that think beyond themselves with the good of others in mind. Arrogant people cannot be empathetic in thought and deed. They consider themselves as detached and distant the problems of others, so they will be unable to fulfill the Lord’s commandment. To be unselfish requires being empathetic, and empathy must move us to act for it to mean anything at all.
Some more examples of unselfish thinking include: finding ways to provide for another person’s need, making efforts to assist with another person’s problem, taking on another’s burden, being prepared to sacrifice something of personal value that will fill the need of another, being considerate, kind and helpful without expecting rewards. Letting an opportunity of benefit fall to another who needs it more, rather than grabbing it for oneself, can be a purposeful act of selfless generosity and thoughtfulness. The unselfish know first-hand, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
The purpose of unselfishness is not to be a slave that pampers to someone else’s selfish desires, but to be willing and able to step in to assist someone when they are down and need a helping hand. Unselfish people understand that instead of buying things for themselves, there is a greater feeling of gratification to be had in spending money on others. Catering for the welfare of another individual benefits not only the individual directly, but indirectly benefits the whole community they are a part of. Another consequence of helping someone, is that they are then more empowered to help others.
Jill's self talk
"It's my goal in life to be concerned for the plight and interests of others. Everyone else is as important as I am. Putting others first, and being empathetic and considerate, will help me achieve my goal; but arrogance, pride and entitlement will block me.

The demographics of selfishness

Unfortunately, we are born selfish; and all the kindness, comfort and love we receive as children does not adequately teach us to appreciate selflessness, but sometimes to crave more attention. Even as children, we can become demanding, stubborn and cranky when we don't get what we want.
As teenagers and adolescents, we exhibit classic signs of selfishness in the disguise of becoming more independent. We come to believe we know more than our parents, and start to deny our parent’s concerns, opinions and instructions. We take for granted everything our parents have done for us, and have little sense of lasting gratitude. Having received a decade or more of gifts from others we start to go about finding gifts for ourselves. We feel it is our right to be the master of our own destiny, and our new found levels of independence frees us to basically do as we please, or nothing at all. We can become self-indulgent, self-opinionated, rebellious, combative and emotionally volatile, resentful, belligerent, lazy and undisciplined. This can be the most dangerous period of our lives, as the western culture encourages us to indulge our cravings with little concern for the consequences.
Another group of selfish individuals we hear about often belong to the criminal element. With a lack of respect for authority and little concern for the welfare of others, criminals believe that laws are for breaking whenever they feel like it. In their pursuit of personal agendas, they avoid the responsibilities and disciplines that apply to normal citizens. Their distorted sense of entitlement fails to recognize common sense boundaries. They can recklessly unleash anti-social mayhem through offensive verbal attacks and felonies; ranging from cheating, fraud, theft, extortion, rape, revenge, violence, murder, etc.
The non-criminal element of selfish individuals may cause no harm, but will actually cause no good, because selfishness will block their compassion and prevent them from growing in love. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17 NIV)
It follows that people who exhibit resistance to authority, who indulge themselves with notions of self-sufficiency, who convey a manner of superiority, exhibitionism or entitlement; all suffer from an ugly manifestation of selfishness. They are more likely to be empty of true love and devoid of empathy.
Jill's self talk
"Learning to grow out of being a selfish child, and avoiding selfish responses to needful issues, is a necessity for me. I aspire to none of these selfish pitfalls, like lust, greed, envy, revenge, bitterness, pride, laziness or anger.
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