I drive quite a bit for my job. As I navigate from point A to point B, I often see people switching lanes without checking their blind spots. And I’ve definitely done the same thing. No matter how alert you are on the road, there are always subtle areas outside of your immediate vision you have to check from time to time.
We all have our blind spots, and sometimes not checking those blind spots can cause serious damage. When it comes to selfishness, you can’t always see it, and it will slowly ruin your life.
Blind spots are killers.
Fortunately, I’ve grown more aware of my own selfish blind spots over the years. However, I still have a long way to go. I’ve learned that a person can be selfish in some areas life and unselfish in others, and I’ve learned that getting rid of selfishness is a slow, piece-by-piece process. I’ve also learned that some forms of selfishness can be so subtle that you might never notice it until serious damage has been done.
Here are a few examples of ways selfishness can ruin your life.
1. Selfishness Makes You Fight More
When we act in selfishness, we often stir up controversy or disagreements in all sorts of areas. You’ve seen this in other people: the type of people who not only stumble across online articles they disagree with but actively look for them. They seem to enjoy spending a great deal of their waking hours angry at something. They don’t just disagree with some things; they want to disagree with almost everything. People generally don’t enjoy being around these types.
Ultimately, a person like this loves being offended because it makes them feel self-righteous and puts the attention on them. It’s a subtle form of selfishness because it makes it more about the person complaining than about the issue itself. And I’ve been this guy. I made it seem like I was participating in the noble task of defending the truth, but I was really just burning with selfishness and looking for wood for the fire. But that fire only burned bridges.
2. Selfishness Kills Your Joy
Selfishness often squelches the ability to simply enjoy things because it finds something wrong with everything.
An example of this is the type of person who becomes a perpetual Sherlock Holmes whenever he/she is around others. They have the uncanny ability to find flaws in anything. Your church is growing and developing in its ministry to the community? They’ll find a flaw in the way the people talk and dress. You’re watching TV and notice a beautiful or handsome character? They’ll go on a tirade about makeup and eating disorders or how immoral the beautiful/handsome character probably is.
This can be a subtle form of selfishness because it makes a critical person feel in control. It makes them feel above others in a self-proclaimed position of authority because they’ve identified a mistake somewhere. I’ve been this guy, too. People slowly started hanging around me less. My love for pointing out problems eventually turned me into one.
3. Selfishness Sets Unrealistic Expectations
It’s often pretty obvious when selfishness makes us expect too much of others, but it’s more subtle when it makes us expect too much of ourselves.
A person with too high expectations for him/herself never accepts a compliment, never feels like they’ve succeeded even when they clearly have, and expects nothing but perfection of themselves. They might seem humble because they’re hard on themselves, but inside they hold themselves to an insane standard for human achievement.
This can be a subtle form of selfishness because it ignores one’s own natural limitations and assumes one should be able to do anything at any time. While positive thinking is a good thing, the reality is, most of us aren’t able to do whatever we want to do even if we put our minds to it. We all have limitations and should learn to embrace them as part of our humanity.
Sure, some of us are underachieving and aren’t living up to our potential. But many of us are working hard and investing our time and gifts well. It’s entirely possible to fulfill God’s design for your life through doing something the world wouldn’t call incredible. You can completely fulfill your potential even if you don’t become an astronaut or the next president.
I’ve definitely been the guy who expected too much from himself, and it caused all kinds of strain and damage. I couldn’t take a compliment. I felt like I was too good for certain people. As I sought to fulfill an unending standard for myself, I lost people around me.
4. Selfishness Rejects Getting Better
Most of us have a hard time with criticism, but at the same time, we know somewhere deep down that some criticism is necessary for improvement.
But selfishness rejects any sort of criticism. This is the person who completely flips out when someone criticizes them, for anything. They assume a true friend of theirs is a person who focuses only on their positives and ignores their negatives. So, when someone offers helpful critique with the full intention of helping them, they interpret it as scorn and disrespect.
This is a subtle form of selfishness for obvious reasons. People who are hyper-sensitive to criticism are quick to defend themselves and rationalize their issues because they feel like they’re not supposed to make mistakes. The irony is, most of us would be better than we are if we willfully allowed people to speak into our lives and help us grow!
I’ve been this guy, and it damaged my life because I wouldn’t let people speak truth to me about problems I had. So, I lived for months and years oblivious to my issues, and hurt myself and others in the process.
But thankfully, God didn’t allow me to stay there. He humbled me and put some incredible people in my life, and I’ve grown. Selfishness can ruin your life if you let it take over, but it doesn’t have to.
Jared Lafitte is a life and leadership coach who serves individuals, businesses and ministries. Check out his website at lafittecoaching.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredlafitte