I’ve been pondering all week on “giving the advantage” verses “taking the advantage”. Those words speak volumes about a healthy relationship, and I can’t say enough about their importance.
When a marriage is headed for divorce, I believe that “selfishness” is the cause (regardless of the circumstances) by one of the spouses, often times both. “Taking the advantage” is bred by selfishness. Taking the advantage means to manipulate, misuse, abuse, usually to get one’s own way. Hmm. Sounds like a child of selfishness to me.
Selfishness is also the reason for backsliding from your relationship with God and refusing to include God in your life. Self is a four letter word in my personal dictionary, and I see it over and over in couples as the major culprit that will quickly destroy a marriage, not to mention the plan that God has so carefully prepared for you.
Below is a link for an article about selfishness on the website for the Institute of Marital Healing. There is also a test you and your spouse can take to test your levels of selfishness. Realize though, that it is very difficult for most selfish people to recognize this personality flaw in themselves. You need to be very gentle and prayerful about how you handle this if you are married to a selfish person.
From the same article “The Selfish Spouse/Relative” by Richard Fitzgibbons:
" The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish," John Paul II.
Selfishness has been described as one of the major enemies of married love and of love within the family. This description is psychologically correct because selfishness, while falsely appearing to have many benefits, actually turns the person in upon himself/herself, thereby interfering with healthy self-giving which is essence of marital love. Subsequently, this personality weakness creates significant pain and suffering in marriages and families. It is a major cause of marital anger, permissive parenting, addictive behaviors, infidelity, separation and divorce. Unless it is uncovered and addressed, selfishness will lead spouses to treat loved ones as objects and not as gifted persons.
Unfortunately, there is no cure or any action by the selfless spouse that will heal this ailment without willingness from the selfish spouse. Like an addict, a selfish person needs to admit there is a problem. They need to first, realize it in their own personality and then understand the devastation it can have on a family. Only then, when the selfish person is ready to acknowledge the issue and desire to make a change, can God intervene to heal the marriage. Until that point, the selfless spouse can only pray for the selfish spouse and allow God to convict them.
I know I talk frequently about “self”, but it is, without a doubt, the biggest factor that will carry a marriage down the path of destruction. I would love to find a solution to gracefully help selfish people see what they are doing to the people around them before they ruin their relationships. Sadly, it’s not that simple. I know my words won’t cause an alcoholic to stop drinking. He has to make that choice on his own. It’s the same way with selfishness. I suppose I’ll just keep praying about it.