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Overcoming Selfishness

To be “selfish” is to be overly focused on one’s own wants, needs, feelings, and desires, regardless of how such actions or attitudes may harm or effect another. To be selfish is to do what we feel like doing and not doing what we don’t feel like doing—without consideration for other people taken into account. Therefore, it is no surprise that selfishness erodes and can eventually destroy relationships and marriages.

President Gordon B. Hinkley has emphasized fidelity in marriage and well as a giving orientation as opposed to selfish choices. That the marriage should be the priority over everything else. He stated that: “When the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving.…The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.… Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity. Each spouse takes the partner with the understanding that he or she gives totally to the spouse all the heart, strength, loyalty, honor, and affection, with all dignity. Any divergence is sin; any sharing of the heart is transgression. As we should have ‘an eye single to the glory of God,’ so should we have an eye, an ear, a heart single to the marriage and the spouse and family” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 142–43).

Furthermore, President Hinckley also taught: “When you are married, be fiercely loyal one to another. Selfishness is the great destroyer of happy family life. If you will make your first concern the comfort, the well-being, and the happiness of your companion, sublimating any personal concern to that loftier goal, you will be happy, and your marriage will go on throughout eternity” (Ensign, Dec. 1995, 67). In sum, President Hinkley has clarified that a marriage should be the main priority and emphasis, and that a (hopefully mutual) giving, others orientation in relationships instead of selfishness gives a marriage the best chance for success.

Ideas to Help Overcome Selfishness:

  • Change your self-talk. Practice changing and improving how you talk to yourself. Include many more others-oriented statements and questions inside yourself. You can think these ideas in your mind, write them out, or talk to others about them. Examples may include things like:

    • “I wonder what ____ (person) would think about this?”

    • “How will this effect____ (another person)?”

    • “Is _____ (choice/decision) a win-win scenario for the both of us?”

    • “How would I feel if the other person did_____to me (a decision I was considering making)?”

    • “If I were in the other person’s shoes, how would I feel/react to this?”

    • “What would this be like for the other person?”

    • “How can I make _____’s (another person) life easier or better?”

  • Ask the Other Questions. Regularly practice asking other person how they feel, what they would like, what their opinions/suggestions/recommendations would be, etc. When they answer, listen with patience and interest. This is a direct example of showing empathy and being others-oriented.


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