Love is not self-seeking (I Corinthians 13:5). I have been chewing on this one for a while now. I thought that this year would be easy to dissect love as it is shown I Corinthians. It is not easy. Not. One. Bit. This is painful, looking at what God says is love. It’s like pulling out multiple splinters out of the bottom of your foot, painful and necessary. Some of those splinters are deep and they need digging out. This whole not being self-seeking business is one of those deeply embedded splinters.
I always think in terms of relationships. Really, how else would you think about love? When I think about not being self-seeking, I go straight to thinking about marriage. The relationship of marriage is so often looked upon, by women at least, in terms of how we feel about what our husband does or does not do to make us feel loved. Wow, if that isn’t self-seeking I don’t know what is. But let me tell you, I have had many conversations with many different women, through different phases of their marriage and it is very much how we look at marriage. I am no different. I judge love in my marriage by what I get, not by what I give. This reality has come to the surface of my self-knowledge and it needs to change.
Yes, there are times that I think of my husband and what I can do for him or how to make him happy, or feel loved. Yet in my heart of hearts I know the truth, the truth that I really want to be more on the receiving end rather than on the giving end. How can this be turned around? Oh, it is like trying to change the course of a huge ship going 25 knots! The turn must be wide and will take time and a lot of resistance! It’s time to move the rudder! Read along as I think of what to do to express love in a way that is not self-seeking and remember that I’m preaching to the choir.
The first step to loving in a way that isn’t self-seeking is to allow the other person to be who they are. As I wrote those words, pictures of people come to mind, reminding me that I do not accept them just how they are. I want others to fit into my script, they should play the part I want them to play in my life. In the real world, life just doesn’t play out that way. We all are different and at different stages. I would want someone to love me for the real me, at whatever stage of life I am at. I need to do the same. This is especially true of my husband. He and I are very opposite in our personalities and I find myself wanting him to be more like me. I have a high need for people and activities of life, he on the other hand is more to himself and happy to be home when not a work. We are in agreeance with our values and lifestyle, but the difference comes in our approach of life and what we need socially. This is an area that I’m always working on, acceptance of him, just the way he is, without trying to change him. It is strange how women always want to change and improve their man, but we don’t feel we need any of that turned around on us! My goal is to have more patience and acceptance. You can ask me how I’m doing.
The next step in loving in a non-self-seeking way is to ask questions. When you ask questions, and do not assume that you know something about another person, you are showing that what they prefer or feel is important. Good questions to ask are, “How would you like this done, what would you like, when would you like to do this or that?” This shows that one person is interested in the other person’s preference and feelings about something in their life. I have always been a take charge and get the job done kind of person, believing that my way of getting things done was good enough for everyone. Over the past two months I have been involved in different things with a lot of different people. What has really come to the forefront of my awareness is how different people like things done, and how different all of our taste are (food and everything else under the sun). Asking what the other person in your life wants and trying to get things right for them is such a loving task.
Learning the other person is so important to loving without being self-seeking. When Jeff and I were just newly married I learned that when I get him a drink he likes it in a big cup filled to the brim. When I get him something to drink I do my best to do it the way he likes it. It has taking him years to learn how I like my drinks, but he has finally got it! If I am drinking a soda I want a lot of ice and for the soda to be poured very slowly so that it won’t lose too much fizz. Not doing things your way for the other person, but doing it their way is a very simple, yet powerful way to show unselfish love.
Hear ye, Hear ye! This is a big-y! Listen up, I’m going to tell you a tip that will speak volumes. Listen. Really listen. Try and not focus on what you will say in return and listen to what the other person is saying. Listening to the one you love says so many things without saying a word. My husband is amazing at listening to me (it’s a good thing because I must process everything in my head by talking and I really need someone I can trust too listen to me). He has given me the gift of freedom to say whatever I need to say and he listens so that I can get out of my head my thoughts that get trapped unless I give a true voice to them. You know what that says to me? He loves me enough to let me share my very deepest soul. He gives me a safe place to let the raw me come out, without judgement or correction. He is the soft pillow for my truest self to land on. He has modeled non-self-seeking love by listening. He doesn’t need to match my every story with one of his own, he doesn’t take over and make the conversation all about him, he doesn’t tell me that what I feel or what I’m going through really isn’t all that bad. Nope. He listens. That is a gift of unselfish love. I want to be increasingly like that.
This was not an easy thing to ponder over the last few weeks, this topic of love not being self-seeking. If non-self-seeking love were a contest in my marriage, my husband would win. God has been showing me that although I think of myself as a giving person, one who isn’t selfish, I need to work on loving in a non-self-seeking way, more and more, with my husband. What relationship needs your attention in this area too?