One of the challenges with trying to become more unselfish is that your attitude doesn’t always match up with your actions.
I remember when we first got married, I would be sitting there watching sports, and Marda would ask me to do something, and I would do it, but with these slumped shoulders, and a big sigh. After a while, she said, you know, could you not do that? And I was honestly stunned. I am serving. I would say. And it’s in the middle of a game. I’m not doing that on purpose. It’s just like I am watching the game and it comes out. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for me not to sigh like that.
And I was serious, it felt impossible.
Which is kind of sad, because here’s this huge blessing, serving others and especially my wife, and yet with our attitude, we can turn it into this hard thing.
It should be a joy. We get to serve our wives.
We get to serve our children. This is something we should literally love to do. And yet we can ruin it with our attitude.
It’s kind of like, when I come home from somewhere. I have a really small bladder, and so I am thinking, when I need to go to the bathroom, as soon as I get home, but I have all these children, and they love hugs, and so when I get home, they all run up to the door, and want all these hugs, and here I am getting hugged by my children, and I can be thinking, when is this going to be over?
And the fact is, a lot of times what we are complaining about and acting as if it were so hard, is something we should be rejoicing in.
That’s one of the things about selfishness, and it’s so good to know that. It’s a great liar. And it can fool you into thinking the reason you are complaining and upset is because of the circumstance you are in. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s like when you are with your kids at Disneyland, and it’s this amazing place, and you are standing in line, thinking it is so hot, and there are too many people here, and whatever. Just because you are not enjoying something doesn’t mean it’’s not enjoyable.
As my wife often says some people think they are grumpy because their life is so terrible, when their life seems terrible, because they are so grumpy.
And I guess understanding that is one of the things I think has helped make the impossible possible, for me, is taking a step back and looking at my reaction, and realizing that reaction, isn’t matching up to reality, like the kid complaining in line at Disneyland, me sighing when Marda asked me to do something, isn’t appropriate, I get to be married, I get to do something for my wife, on and on, I really do, big picture think that is amazing, so little picture, that sigh, isn’t matching up with what’s real.
It’s kind of like when your kids are little and you are at the store and they want something badly, and they ask, and you say no, and, I’ve always thought at that moment, it’s not really fair for me to ask them not to be disappointed, but what I do expect, is they learn to express their disappointment in a way that matches up with reality, which is that I love them, we are in the grocery store, they are being fed and on and on, and they have to learn some self-control to do that, and we have to learn some self-control, if we are going to respond with joy, while we are serving unselfishly.
The point is, we have to work at learning to enjoy serving unselfishly, because it should be a joy. And I think one specific helpful step, is learning self- control in the initial moments.
One of the things I’ve really tried to learn over the years, is to grab hold of what I say or show with my body, and some of you are better at this, because you don’t communicate so much non-verbally, but I do, and so it really takes self-control, because what so often happens, is that three or four minutes into the unselfish service, you are enjoying it, you love it, but if you haven’t been careful with how you were talking, you ruined it, with the way you acted at the beginning.
And this is where I love that power of habit.
Because you can have bad habits, when it comes to being unselfish, and that can feel difficult to overcome. And you also can just serve by habit, without heart, and that’s not what we are after, but you can learn to serve, immediately, with a good attitude, as a matter of habit, giving your heart a chance to catch up, so you feel what you want to feel as you are serving.
Which is where you want to get, where the other person not having to do something, brings you more joy than you not having to do it; or the other person experiencing something, brings you more joy than even you experiencing it, and while so you have all these things you enjoy, that’s great, even more fundamentally what you enjoy most, is honoring Jesus, by seeing other people’s experience be more satisfying and enjoyable.