How to Avoid Self-centeredness
Over the years, my husband John and I have worked with a lot of people experiencing relationship pain in their lives. Sometimes people recognize that they have a problem and they want help overcoming their pain, which is great! There’s tremendous hope for those who recognize they need someone to speak God’s truth and wisdom and direction into their lives.
Sometimes, and sadly more often than not, people come to us who want help with someone who doesn’t want help. This is perhaps the most painful of all situations.
Occasionally, people don’t want help because they don’t recognize they have a problem in the first place. (Let’s be honest: We’re all half-blind when it comes to our own issues.) Unless we open our hearts to God for Him to speak plainly to us through His Word, His people and our circumstances, we may not ever come out of the cycle of sin (and pain) in which we’re trapped, relationship after relationship.
And then there’s those who recognize they need help but have no intention of ever getting it because they’re not emotionally invested in anyone (ironically, including themselves), much less the person who says they’re hurting because of their behavior.
This is a tough one. And its root cause is the sin of self-centeredness.
For the person who doesn’t want help even though they know they’re hurting others, their self-centeredness may be a result of being deeply emotionally wounded (whether real or perceived) at some point in time in their lives. To manage the resulting pain, they build massive walls to keep others out — which on the surface seems like an easy enough fix to correct relationship pain: If we’re not close to anyone, no one can hurt us.
We must always remember, though, that any walls we build to keep others out always serve a dual purpose. When we build walls to protect us from others, we also forgo true intimacy with those who should genuinely know us for who we really are — warts and all.
Sometimes a person’s self-centeredness may be flat out rebellion or a generational curse that’s been handed off from one generation to the next that manifests itself in a form of really poor relationship skills. The point is that the sin of self-centeredness is incredibly devastating to all involved.
I’ve had a few relationships in my life where this was the case – where walls had been built so high that it was impossible to reach them, even with God’s Truth. When I’ve come to the place where I felt like I’ve done everything that I know to do to be in a healthy, non-codependent relationship with them, and it’s still not in a godly place, I’ve found that I must surrender it to the only One Who can work it out.
It can be excruciating to watch people unravel, but we must believe that God loves and cares for that person even more than we do. When we entrust them to the Lord, he or she is in good hands, regardless of how messy it gets.
So the question becomes how do WE guard against the slippery slope of the kind of self-centeredness that leaves a path of destruction with others? After all, any one of us can fall prey to the enemy’s tactics and do the very thing we see others doing to destroy important relationships.
Scripture has some great advice about that:
“Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.” 1 Peter 5:8
Even as believers, we are vulnerable to falling into a life of pain if we do not stay aware of how we’re thinking and responding to others in our lives. While I’m far from the perfect in this area, the following are some biblical guardrails that I’ve found very helpful for staying out of the jaws of self-centeredness:
1. Take responsibility for your life. It’s no one’s job but yours “to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ has taken hold of you.” (Philippians 3).
2. Say you’re sorry when you should — and mean it. It doesn’t matter if others apologize in return. You’re free to get on with your life even if they never do their part in the relationship.
3. Put others first by acknowledging and meeting the emotional, physical and relational needs of significant people in your life, as much as it depends on you.
4. Refuse to enter into codependency with anyone who wants you to do all the work to maintain the relationship.
5. Submit to God’s authority in your life and be correctable.
6. Don’t cherry-pick Scripture to advance a personal agenda.
7. Be genuine. Be genuinely thankful. Be genuinely gracious. Be genuinely merciful. Be genuinely nice.
8. God’s job is taken. Stop judging others. You don’t know what’s really in another person’s heart. Assume the best until proven otherwise!
9. If at all possible, be honest when someone hurts you and tell them so. The worst that can happen is you ’ve acknowledged you’re vulnerable and half human.
10. Never, ever use social media for overt or thinly veiled shaming. It’s the worst form of cowardice. Be brave and be the better person!
11. Get on with your life after a rejection. Talking about it months and years later keeps you in prison.
12. Recognize that seasons come and go in relationships. Not everyone in your life now will be in it ten years from now. No harm, no foul!
Self-centeredness is a terrible thing. It keeps us trapped in a cycle of victim mentality and hopelessness and living for nothing but ourselves. Yet as believers, we must embrace the idea that God sent His Son to redeem us for more than “just” salvation and a Sunday morning social club. He sent His Son to redeem us for Himself and the purpose of growing a spiritually and emotionally healthy family. In that, we all have a part!
I invite you today to do a heart-check. If any of the items I’ve listed above seem impossible to apply in your life, you may want to see your pastor or a trusted spiritual leader in your life. Life is too short to live like your life doesn’t make a difference in the lives of others around you.
Sarah co-pastors with her husband John an amazing little church named Faith Center of Paducah. She and John are a blended family of seven (three married children) and have two grandchildren, Addison and Jack, who hung the moon. Besides Jesus, John and all her crazy kids and church family, Sarah loves to write and teach and encourage others to hope again. If you’d like to contact her directly, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Faith Center exists to awaken people to a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ and membership in the church family and equip them to fulfill their God-given purpose of maturity in Christ, ministry in the church body and missional living in the world.