When I was a child, I thought I was a pretty nice person. People complemented me for being polite. When kids were being picked on during recess, I took up for the underdog. There was even a time I was voted a “natural helper” in middle school because my classmates felt comfortable coming to me with their problems. Yes, I thought I was truly a selfless person. When I reached my teens, I had people come to me for advice, which I loved! Some of those people were my parents’ age, which made me feel so mature. It seemed that I was always giving of myself to others. Then, I got married….
Nothing in this world will ever make you realize how selfish you really are like marriage. When you live in a house day in and day out with a person who does not have a biologically-produced affection for you, it becomes clear that you are a selfish creature by nature. Before marriage, I thought I would be the ideal wife, always giving my time, emotions and listening ear to my future husband. In my daydreams, I pictured him coming home from work, tired and stressed, and there I would be, completely put together with a cold drink and a backrub waiting. This daydream didn’t even come true on the honeymoon. Before I realized it, I was banking every nice thing I did for him. After a few nice gestures, I started waiting for him to return the love. When he didn’t, I became ill! “Did he not notice the three nice things I did for him today? Perhaps he will appreciate me more if I just don’t do anything for him. That’ll teach him!” In a few short months, I realized I was struggling with all the things I used to judge in other women. It became clear that I was a selfish person, and that I did not do things out of selflessness, but for the reward. When I was a kid, I was praised when I took up for the underdog. When I was a teenager, I was treated like an adult when I listened to other people’s problems. It gave me a sense of pride about myself. But this was an eye-opening experience about my sin nature.
Be prepared: no matter how much you love your future spouse, and no matter how sweet and loving you are now, you will discover areas of selfishness in your heart when you get married. That man who you thought could never hurt your or make you angry will prove you wrong, and you will think things about him that will leave you in shock. That woman who is sweeter than a Disney princess will have a bad mood from time to time and you will be surprised at the hurtful words you will be tempted to say to her. Marriage is a transition – and one of the most difficult ones. You start from thinking of only yourself (or yourself and your kids, if you have children), to having to think of this other person in every decision you make. If you want to hang around and socialize for hours after church, and your husband is tired and needs to get up early the next day, there is a potential conflict. You know in your heart he needs to sleep, but your desire to stay is so strong that you find your three year old inside you that wants to kick and scream until you get your way.
Selfishness is no respecter of persons. Everyone will deal with it in varying degrees. Some people are openly selfish and consider themselves princes or princesses – take extreme caution in dating these people. Negative traits a person possesses before marriage only magnify after marriage. As you are preparing for engagement, take notes on yourself. When you don’t get your way, what do you feel? How do you react to people who keep you from getting what you want? What do you do and feel when plans change? Be prepared. Don’t go into marriage uninformed about yourself and your tendencies. You won’t be able to completely rid yourself of selfishness, but you can know what to expect and you can practice positive ways of dealing with disappointments and frustrations.