“Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless.” –Edward Albert
My wife and I are approaching the ten year mark together. That’s a big deal! For any of you who have been courageous enough to attempt marriage, regardless of how long you have been together, I commend you and I encourage you to keep investing. A committed relationship is one of the most complicated, yet rewarding, things we will do in life.
Earlier this week I felt this frustration in my relationship. I felt unsatisfied, insecure even. For some reason, my go-to response to this feeling is to think about what ways my wife is not meeting my needs. What am I not seeing from her? What am I wanting that I am not getting? I know, it’s awful. But for the sake of moving forward, let’s all be honest with ourselves. This week was different, though. I felt the spirit of wisdom stop me and tell me “it is time to reflect on yourself instead.” So I took myself upstairs before anyone in the house woke up with my pencil and paper and locked the door.
I wrote out the problem I was having, what I was seeing through my current emotional state, and then what I should see based on the good I know is in her. I shared things like selfishness, irresponsibility, and volatility. As I wrote these things down, it was like looking in a mirror. I realized how selfish, arrogant, and proud I must be to even feel this way. No wonder I was feeling frustrated. You can’t expect to feel love when you focus on the things you hate about a person. In this moment, I felt God remind me of my own brokenness. Matthew 7:5 came to mind where Jesus said I must remove the log in my own eye to help get the speck out of my brother’s eye. Galatians 6:4 also came to mind reminding me I should pay attention to my own contribution rather than spin my wheels seeking satisfaction through topping someone else. I started seeing these bad things in myself.
The quote above says, “Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless.” In this case, I agree with it in the sense that to get a place of being selfless, we must focus on ourselves byevaluating ourselves against Jesus and be humbled. We have to come away from asking “Where are you missing the mark?” and instead ask “Where am I missing the mark?” In turn, we find ourselves back in the rightful place of being poor in spirit, the place where we connect back with the vine. (John 15:5) This is the place where we realize and become secure in the fact that apart from God, we are not satisfied and therefore cannot satisfy anyone.
As I connected the dots between my unhappiness with my wife and myself, what I found was a deep insecurity. I was insecure about whether or not I fulfilled my wife and that I wanted to feel as wanted by her as I wanted her. I viewed her lack and missed marks through the lens of my own. I puffed myself up with pride, assumingly thinking if I could just always be on point, always be sharp, always be on point, then I might be more desired. In turn, I would point out where I was unhappy and where she was falling short. In this position, there is no eye-level partnership, only downward looking disappointment. A wag of the finger and a step on the hand.
The word tells us that God handles those that are poor in spirit with gentleness and care, but the proud do not get that same care. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” In Luke 18:13-14, we read about two approaches to God. One, as depicted by the Pharisee, is to demonstrate ourselves to God. This is where we look at our accomplishments and how we stand out from others. The other, as depicted by the tax collector, is to leave all that behind and realize our own deep needs for God and others. In verse 14, after the tax collector couldn’t even look up at heaven but beat his chest saying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” we read that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I had been living proud wondering why we didn’t have a better connection. This can be basically summarized like this:
Poor in Spirit=Rich in Connection
Rich in Pride=Poor in Connection
Earlier this week, the popular page Intelligence is Sexy shared this picture:
It resonated with me because I noticed something different in her this week. As I realized my own insecurities and shared them openly with her, it brought me to a place of deep admiration. She handled me with care. I found myself just enjoying her more, texting her throughout the day when I hadn’t done that in some time, complimenting her and looking forward to just being around her for no reason. She had a glow to her that made her infinitely more attractive than I had realized even the week before.
Men, I hope this serves as a reminder that when you feel like it’s all on her, you think of yourself first. You are loved.