What is Selflessness?

If I don’t learn to love by the time the last petal falls, I will be cursed forever (just kidding).

Recently, I have been struggling to define selflessness.

Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He loved every one of us, and washed His disciple’s feet – even Judas’. What does this look like in my life? Do I keep giving of myself until I have nothing left? As a female, what does this look like, especially in friendships with the opposite sex?

The impetus for these questions was a guy I’ve started to hang out with recently. He is blind and a little slow mentally, but he is a nice person and we both like to swing dance. He likes to hug people a lot, and since he is blind, this makes complete sense to me. However, he has also tried to hold my hand as I’m leading him places instead of holding my arm, and even though it made me feel uncomfortable, I let him do it. I think in some ways, I was compensating for my lack of compassion in other areas – not helping the poor as much as I’d like to, not being as loving with my family as I should be, etc.

Also I thought, this is what Jesus would do, right?

Nope, doing good things out of guilt is actually not what Jesus would do. I can be naive sometimes and take one concept in the Bible and apply it to every single situation and take it to an extreme. I am ever so thankful to have Christian friends I can talk to about these things because, as a new Christian, it helps to get different perspectives. Most of the people with whom I’ve shared my situation have cautioned me and mentioned that he might be taking advantage of me. As hard as this is to admit, I can see where they are coming from.

While it might feel cruel not giving him a ride to swing dancing every week, it’s even more cruel to lead him on. I didn’t intend to lead him on, but looking back on the discussions I’ve had with him, I can see that he is lonely and likes girls a lot. But his loneliness was precisely the reason I had so much compassion on him – I know all too well what it’s like to be lonely and rejected by your peers so I figured if I could take him dancing and give him the opportunity to meet people, that might help his loneliness and self esteem.

While it’s true that we are social creatures and relationships are important, it is not the bread of life. If I really wanted to help my friend, I would put more priority on praying for him than simply keeping him company or giving his email address to a girl at Qdoba who promised to write him a poem.

The truth is, not all friendships are healthy, especially if the parties involved are desperate, insecure and filled with selfish motives. I am not accusing my friend of all these faults, but I can see that he is insecure to some extent, and knowing that all humans are essentially the same, I can guess that attention from others boosts his self esteem – A LOT. However, our value does not come from how well-liked we are; it comes from God’s love for us.

I’m sure my friend knows he is valued by God because he is a Christian, but it’s something that’s easy to forget, especially when the mere kind word or friendly hug from a fellow human fills us with incomparable joy.

However, this is not the only joy God wants for us. He can offer us so much more than this, and looking to people for fulfillment is a roller coaster of excitement and disappointment.

So to answer the question, what is selflessness?, I think it’s more than just doing nice things. It’s doing nice things with good motives – not out of guilt and not to fill a hole in someone’s life that should be filled with God. Even if my kindness wasn’t intended to replace God’s love but to demonstrate it, my kindness still may not be the right type he needs, especially if he is misinterpreting it.

Nothing that I nor anybody else can do for my blind friend would fully cure his loneliness because loneliness is a much deeper issue, and it’s something that only God can heal. In my pride, I thought I could solve his problems by giving him the opportunity to meet people and by being there to talk through his problems. Because of my experience with overcoming loneliness, I somehow thought this qualified me to prescribe my chosen solution to others.

The fact is, I have no more value now that I have a million friends than when I had zero. Even though I feel like I have more value, this is simply an emotion, and it is not based on truth.

Selflessness means putting others’ needs before you own. However, true selflessness means doing so in a manner that honors God.

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3 thoughts on “What is Selflessness?

  1. In life, the wisest thing to do isn’t always the easiest. You’ll know that!

    Friendships between the opposite sex have the potential to run aground on natural feelings. In a way the main issue here is what to do at the start, all things considered. It’s not easy though because life is very complicated and we are emotionally complex.

    So stepping up to love appropriately, male with female, may take lots of maturity, (naturally and spiritually). It may need plenty of life experience too. Knowledge and intelligence are always secondary to wisdom, experience and common sense. In my younger years I wish I’d looked for good advice from balanced seniors, especially those in Christ.

    But there’s a big plus here. You care enough in the first place. Many would cross to the other side of the road and walk on. Maybe you can express your sensitivity to God, ask Him to move in the muddle and provide what’s needed most.

  2. It’s so cool that you’re still processing this stuff! I think it’s easy for us to immediately respond to someone else’s need with a solution that will satisfy our sinful motives, which often masquerade as good intentions. Whether that’s our pride, guilt, or something else. The example you give is perfect and I have often struggled to help people for the right reasons and in the right way!

    It’s really courageous and wise of you to say what you’ve said here. To trust in God’s grace to provide for your friend’s needs–his very real and important needs–because you know that God isn’t asking that of you, is HUGE. You’re right–prayer is awesome. And lets God show off when the need is met through a different–and better–avenue.

    I would pray that a guy steps in to be a friend to your blind friend. That guy will still have to set up his own boundaries, but he can probably go further with the friendship than you’re able to as a girl.

    I really love reading your thoughts, Jennifer! Keep them coming! I’m so encouraged by the way you’re wrestling with these important things. It helps me think more deeply about these topics too:-)

  3. Bless you for getting beyond knee-jerk benevolence. Jesus asked people what they wanted, even when it might have been obvious. He even asked people if they wanted to be healed! May the Lord continue to grant you wisdom and insight as you serve Him through serving others for His sake.

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