Taking the envelope in my hand, I gently opened it and removed a small laminated notecard along with a separate handwritten note from my mentor-friend. First I read her note. My eyes pored over her sweet, encouraging words, truly like honey to my soul.
Putting her note aside, I held the laminated card before me and saw beautiful hand-lettered words written in black ink. My friend had artistically written out Philippians 2:3-4:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
I read the words and paused. I reread. I paused again, then thought, “She meant this for me?”
I was caught off guard by the verse on selfishness.
After all, I’m a division coordinator for a non-profit, and I’m an Army wife who volunteers to serve the families in our unit. I do so many selfless things that sometimes I feel like all of my days are spent serving others.
My thoughts quickly spiraled to questions covered in insecurity. Does this mean she thinks I’m selfish? What have I done or said that makes her think I’m a selfish person?
I felt a little pit form in my stomach. The verse, intended for encouragement I’m sure, stung.
Over the next few weeks, I repeatedly studied the notecard, wondering why she chose those words for me. Then one day, after fitting the pieces together of thoughts shared by friends and various articles read, I finally saw how the words applied to my life.
I struggle with relationships . . . because I struggle with selfishness.
It was like a secret I didn’t know I held — maybe that’s because I was too busy thinking about myself to realize that thinking about myself is the very essence of being selfish. I started to see the ways in which I elevated myself and my interests above others. Some of my selfish ways were more obvious to me, like feeling entitled to my anger and hurt after an argument with my husband or treating my feelings and needs as more important than his.
Then I discovered the unexpected, more subtle, and more pervasive selfish habits of mine. For instance, when I find myself in new settings with new people, which, in the Army, happens quite often, instead of socializing, I don’t, because I’m not thinking of the other people in the room. My mind is set on me and what they were thinking about me. All of the “I’m not good enoughs” run through my head: I’m not witty enough, funny enough, or pretty enough for them to want to talk to me or for me to talk to them. I question my wardrobe choice or feel embarrassed by the latest acne breakout on my face at age 30.
I become my focus. My insecurity makes it all about me, which means if it’s all about me, it’s not about them. I’m lifting myself above them. My insecurity blinds me from seeing them, serving them, meeting their needs, and so I, unknowingly, act selfishly.
But what if I stopped that line of thinking and placed the people around me and their needs above my own? What if I was vulnerable, took a risk, and approached others to initiate relationships? What if I inquired about their lives with a genuine interest instead of worrying about the frizz in my hair?
My experiences and relationships would drastically change.
Connections could be made. Friendships could form. Love could pour out. Life would be more abundant.
I’ve taped my friend’s hand-lettered Scripture to my bathroom mirror as a continual reminder to humble myself and assist in silencing my insecurities. This is what I’m discovering:
Engage with others by looking to their interests first and watch insecurity and selfishness flee. Put others before myself and watch relationships form. Value relationships over myself and become part of a community defined by love and service. Humble myself, elevate others, and witness Jesus at work.