Examining the relationships we currently have and our own self-centered tendencies.

The most amazing thing happened to me last year. I was given a token of appreciation from my older brother and his wife. That may not seem like a big deal to you. But for me, that small act of kindness transformed my life in a profound way.

Over six years ago, they started a small church in one of the largest cities in North Carolina. I was excited to see them launch out into a new phase of their lives and couldn’t wait to see where it would lead.

If there’s one thing I know about them, it’s that they love God, and they love people. But their journey throughout this time hasn’t been easy. They’ve been through more than I can imagine.

Still, they kept going. And I was there for the hardships.

I was honored when they asked me to be a musician at their church. I’ve always had a passion for music from a very early age. So getting to use my gift with people I love dearly meant a lot to me.

Eventually, though, I started taking things for granted, focusing on myself instead of others. My “problems” became bigger than anyone else, and it showed.

The Problem with Thinking Only About Yourself

Small tasks and requests suddenly turned into an annoyance because pieces of the puzzle weren’t to my liking. My taste, after all, was most important in my mind.

Arguments ensued constantly, going from one area of disapproval to the next. What amazes me today was that those things that bothered me were so minimal in retrospect. They didn’t mean nearly as much as I made them seem.

Unable to convince me otherwise, I continued on in my stubborn way. The funny moments ceased to exist. Normal get-togethers were rare. And even when we did them, it was contaminated with sour attitudes and thick silence.

We drifted farther and farther apart.

To think, these were people I’d spend most of my time with. They were the ones that helped me when no one else could.

But I was throwing it all in their faces because things weren’t the way I—a person who’d been given an opportunity—wanted them.

The problem with thinking only about yourself is that you’re more likely to miss the bigger picture. 

In the grand scheme of things, you’ll miss the overall benefit and ruin what you had in your grasp.

“Why can’t we be like everybody else?” I remember asking. (Such a foolish thing to say.)

“Because we’re not like everybody else,” my brother responded.

Those words hit me, but they did nothing in comparison to what was about to happen. No one could have told me beforehand and I’d believe them.

Selfishness Comes Back to Bite You

On one Sunday morning, my brother walked up to me with grace in his eyes. He told me that he and his wife were grateful for everything I’d done over the past years.

He put out his thick, calloused hands and shook mine. I stood there with my mouth open, confused and light as a feather.

My sister-in-law, listening from afar, walked briskly over with a smile on her face and gave me the biggest hug of my life and said her words of gratitude. It was at that moment that the guilt of my past actions weighed heavy on my heart.

How could they tell me thank you when I was the one being so selfish? 

I felt so stupid for the way I’d treated them, even though they’d done nothing wrong. My only response was a long, overdue apology which they received openly.

They were, before this chain of events occurred, one of the closest people to me. And now they are closer than they’ve ever been.

It’s no question that if that relationship had been damaged for good, my life would have been ruined. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

The course of my life would have lead to a dangerous place, one that I’m glad to have avoided.

Photo by John Forson on Unsplash

Consideration Is Key

Sometimes we don’t realize how selfish we are. Thinking about life in a way that revolves around us hurts people we didn’t expect, especially when they make up a large part of our lives.

There are two sides to this coin, however.

On one extreme end is the belief that if we sustain toxic relationships, they will eventually get better. We assume that the people hurting us will change, so we don’t bother considering our own well-being.

That too is a dangerous thing to do.

It’s okay to show mercy to other people, especially those you’ve known for a considerable time. Their habits have changed. Their characteristics have been altered. But you know who they really are.

In this case, the important thing to do is remind them of who you know them to be versus the person they have become.

Let them know that what they are doing is, in fact, hurting you. Give them an opportunity to change, to consider the relationship they had before their selfish actions began. Then make up your mind based on how they respond.

As I think back, my brother and his wife told me in the middle of my selfishness that something was different about me. I didn’t carry myself the way I used to, and it was revealing itself right in front of them.

Their words opened my eyes a little. After letting those words marinate for a while, I starting to understand what they were saying.

Even though their kind act on that day completely changed my attitude, their words cracked the door and allowed me to see myself more clearly.

Consider the people in your life right now. Are you treating them in a way that enhances their lives? Are you treating yourself well by recognizing when certain friendships have become rotten and need to be addressed?

All these things come to make or break us at some point. Either we make up our minds to live meaningfully, or we break ourselves by trying to do more than we should. The choice is ultimately up to us.

You decide.

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