To become truly selfless, we must first have the right attitude towards ourselves and then others. After all, we cannot truly love and think about others in the right way until we do so for ourselves. We are in fact commanded to love others as we love ourselves (Galatians 5:14). Once we have the right attitude towards ourselves and our talents, we then can learn to look at others and their needs in an appropriate light.
So once we have gotten our relationship with ourselves right, how can we begin to look at others in the right way? Let’s evaluate our attitudes towards others and their needs.
What Do I See When I Look at Others?
Do I see a burden, or an opportunity?
Unfortunately it is all too easy look at others and their needs and simply see another chore. One more mouth to provide food for. One more afternoon wasted in listening. One more problem to deal with. Often our lives become so full that we can lose sight of what is truly important—and so it happens that while going around busily taking care of “me and mine” that we forget that others have needs that we both can and must fill.
What we often miss as we go about the business of life is that we are supposed to take every opportunity as it arises to brighten the lives of those around us (Galatians 6:10). We are meant to care for more than ourselves and those in our immediate family. People need real contact with real people, and so every person is an opportunity for us to give, love, and be a blessing.
It can become a burden to keep giving to people when we are focused on how much we are giving out or not getting back. I totally understand, it can be difficult. There are some who do not understand how busy we are, are unpleasant to be with, or take a lot of our time and energy—but we must understand that one wrong attitude should not beget another. It is only when we have the wrong attitude that these people seem like a burden and a chore. Often these are the people who need our help the most. Helping people who really need us only becomes a burden when our attitude is wrong and we lose sight of what our priorities are. People are not burdens—no matter how difficult they are. They are opportunities.
The one who has learnt selflessness will ask, “How can I help?” without complaining or considering what is returned—seeing others as opportunities and not as burdens. This is the attitude that Christ wanted us to copy from Him (Philippians 2:3-5).
Do I see a way to give, or a way to receive?
There are many who I hear complaining about others, whether it is about their lack of social skills, their need for transport, their emotional nature, or their long and tedious conversations. While it is true that there are some people whose company may seem tedious and burdensome, or whose needs may seem above and beyond what we should fill—the heart that has grown to maturity and selflessness will look for ways to give to others rather than take. It is an immature and selfish person who wants to take all they can from others as children do (cf. Hebrews 5:12).
Rather than looking for ways to be built up, we need to look for ways to build others up. There have been times in our lives where someone has given to us when we needed it, and it was a sacrifice for them. Return the favor. Decide today that if it is at all possible for you to meet someone’s needs emotionally, spiritually, or physically that you will do it—even if it costs you something!
How Do I Treat Others’ Needs?
Do I share burdens, or pass the buck?
Most of us are aware that we are told that we must bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). This means that our sister’s problems are our business. You are your sister’s keeper. This means that if you see a sister in sin or struggling, you are the one who needs to help them out (Galatians 6:1, 2). You cannot wait for someone else to fill her needs, as there may never be anyone else to do it.
Unfortunately the apathetic activity of not warning or assisting someone who is struggling with a burden is often touted as the “most loving way to deal with a problem.” As a result, struggling marriages collapse, struggling minds destroy themselves and struggling souls fall away and the ones who could help them stand by and say, “It is best if we don’t interfere, let’s pray it works out for them.” It is easy to simply not care about others’ problems, but it is definitely not right or even helpful. Selfishness keeps its knowledge and resources to itself —maturity gives whatever is needed (Romans 15:14).
A woman who is unselfish will want to make her sister right with God and help her to bear the burdens she is struggling with. Sure, it takes time and effort to build the kind of relationships that allow others to feel comfortable enough to bring their burdens to us—but aren’t their souls worth it (Matthew 16:26)? Wouldn’t I want somebody to do the same for me?
Do I run right over them, or stop and pick them up?
It is easy to run over weaker sisters and dismiss their concerns and cares as “getting in the way of progress,” but even if I do not feel like someone’s cares are important and feel as though their input is trivial and petty, I must be patient and concerned with what they have to say as the “stronger” person (cf. Romans 14).
I cannot be so keen on an idea of mine that I push and shove and stomp on my sisters to get it done. Who cares if the walls are pink and blue? If a sister leaves the church because I have insisted on my way, what have I really achieved? Can I glory in the fact that I have succeeded in having my way?
An unselfish heart will give way to others—even if it feels it’s idea may be a good one—for the sake of peace (Ephesians 5:21).
Patiently assist others along their way by offering words and deeds of kindness and listening to and meeting their needs and concerns—rather than storming past those whose needs seem too great. We need to remember that it is possible to do something right (or neutral) and become wrong in doing it. Learn to find the balance and see what a difference it makes in your relationships with others.
I need to view and respect others as God does.
- God sees opportunities, not burdens (Romans 5:8). While we were yet sinners—hurting one another and God Himself—He saw our needs and died for us. No one has hurt us personally as much as we ourselves have hurt God, and so we have no reason to feel that anyone is a burden.
- God gives, often without receiving (Matthew 5:45). He gives to those who give back and those who don’t with no discrimination. To be like Him, we must do the same.
- God allows us to cast our burdens on Him (1 Peter 5:7). No matter how heavy our burden, God wants to make it lighter for us. His burden is easy and light (Matthew 11:28-30). We can cast our cares upon Him, trust in His promises and have peace—what if we were to allow others to do that with us?
- God does not run right over us, but deals with us tenderly (Matthew 12:20). Jesus said that He would not crush a bruised reed or a smoking flax until the time of judgment came. He deals gently and patiently with His creation for as long as He possibly can (2 Peter 3:9), and so must we. We are not to condemn (cf. James 4:11, 12), but to watch for one another’s souls (cf. Ezekiel 3:17ff). It is our job to warn others while treading as softly as is possible in the situation (cf. James 3:17) in order to save the souls around us. While there is life there is hope, and while there is a soft and ready heart we must not make the soil hard by our trampling all over it (cf. Luke 8:11ff).
We cannot get past the fact that Christians were meant to be identified by the way they cared for others (John 13:35). In fact, it is essential that we develop a heart of selflessness when it comes to others, because our very getting to Heaven depends on what we do for others (Matthew 25:33ff). That thought should motivate us beyond any other!
If we are to become like Christ (which we are commanded to do), we must be humble and unselfish, as He was (Philippians 2:1-8). Jesus thought of others’ needs as being above His own, and we must do the same.
In the next part of the series, we will be looking at specific examples of how to give and applying them to our own situations.
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Others in the Selfless Series:
Looking at Others