“Get over yourself.”
You’ve heard the phrase. Those who use it intend to tell someone that he holds too high an opinion of himself: he needs to stop being so arrogant and self-centered. She needs to stop thinking that she’s the center of the universe.
And all of us do need to “get over ourselves.” We need to learn to put others first. We know how destructive self-centeredness can be, and nowhere is its destructiveness greater than in marriage.
In his book The Meaning of Marriage (2011), Timothy Keller writes that “self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. It is the cancer in the center of a marriage when it begins, and it has to be dealt with. . . . In Dana Adam Shapiro’s interviews of divorced couples, it is clear that this was the heart of what led to marital disintegration. Each spouse’s self-centeredness asserted itself (as it always will), but in response, the other spouse got more impatient, resentful, harsh, and cold. In other words, they responded to the self-centeredness of their partner with their own self-centeredness. Why? Self-centeredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended, and angered by that of others. The result is always a downward spiral into self-pity, anger, and despair, as the relationship gets eaten away to nothing” (57).
We know that we need to “get over ourselves.” The problem is that we can’t. Not without supernatural help. Self-centeredness is the product of a sinful heart, and none of us can do heart surgery on ourselves.
Listen, then, to the remarkable words of Paul the Apostle: “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15).
Do you hear that? This is why Christ died: so that we might “get over ourselves” and live for Him. And living for Him always includes living for others.
“But wait!” someone might say. “Didn’t Christ die to pay the penalty of our sin? Isn’t the Cross about freeing us from condemnation?”
Yes. It’s true that the Cross is about freeing us from sin’s penalty. But it’s also about freeing us from sin’s power. And the essence of sin is a desire to serve ourselves rather than God and others. Christ has come to break the power of that self-centeredness, and begin to free us from that attitude.
This has all sorts of applications, but Keller applies it specifically to marriage (and his whole book is worth reading):
“To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the center, to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The Spirit’s work of making the gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness in the soul. It is impossible for us to make major headway against self-centeredness and move into a stance of service without some kind of supernatural help…You only discover your own happiness after each of you has put the happiness of your spouse ahead of your own, in a sustained way, in response to what Jesus has done for you. Some will ask, ‘If I put the happiness of my spouse ahead of my own needs—then what do I get out of it?’ The answer is: happiness. That is what you get, but a happiness through serving others instead of using them, a happiness that won’t be bad for you. It is the joy that comes from giving joy, from loving another person in a costly way” (58).
It is a difficult thing for our culture to grasp, for our culture exalts “my rights,” “my needs,” “my self-esteem,” far above any self-sacrificial attitude. Yet the message of the Bible is consistently clear that the way to true happiness—true joy—is through giving of oneself.
What would it mean for your marriage—for all your relationships—if you daily reminded yourself that Christ has come so that you might no longer live for yourself?
Photo Courtesy of Huffingtonpost.com