Single and Selfish

“Singleness is freedom!” the multitudes say! Our individualistic, “all about me” culture encourages us “unhindered” ones to travel, squeeze singleness for everything it’s worth, and do whatever we want whenever we want.

There are certainly good upsides to the unfettered single life and I think I’m taking advantage of many of them.

However, I have to be careful because singleness has a tendency to make me incredibly selfish! After all, without some intentional rearranging of my life, the natural flow of my day does revolve around me.

I cook what I want, I eat when I want, I leave my stuff where I want, I arrange my schedule how I want, I go where I want… You get the idea. The list could go on.

Basically, singleness gives me the chance every day to think only of myself and what I want. And that’s so tempting for a self-centered person like myself!

Regardless of whether the single life is chosen or not, the problem is that it can easily and sneakily reinforce selfishness and self-centeredness.

In general, singleness — as opposed to being married or having kids — puts me in a unique position to have to work a bit harder to turn my heart outward to others instead of inward to myself.

Many of my married friends, old and young alike, tell me that marriage pretty quickly trains the selfishness right out of you. Or at the very least it reveals your selfishness to you left and right. Sounds horrible and like exactly what I want all at the same time.

Sure, if life is about putting myself first, then my singleness is all about me and I should live it up accordingly. But, if it’s not about me and fulfilling my every wish… then what?

What does it mean if my singleness should make me not more self-centered but instead more giving? And if my singleness is meant to, somehow or another, be for the good of other people and make God, not me, look beautiful and desirable?

The great magic of all of this is that we know that when we give joyfully and humbly of ourselves, we are filled more than we could’ve imagined. Living in a giving, selfless way is not a sacrifice or a loss.

I’ve tried to think of some practical ways to be considerate of others on a daily basis and train my selfishness out of me even in singleness.

One way I try to do that is to be intentionally considerate of whoever I live with.

While there are days that I wouldn’t mind living alone, I also know that living with someone is not only fun, it also “forces” me to, at the very minimum, be considerate of another person on a daily basis.

Living with someone is one practical step toward training that selfishness out of me (though I’m sure it’s a fraction of how marriage or kids trains it out of you!).

I bop my selfishness on the head when I pick up my things or wash my dishes. I bop it on the head when I take their plans into account before I invite people over. I bop it on the head when I apologize for something hurtful I blurted out when I get home at the end of a long day. Again, I could go on here.

It’s one small way, but it’s a start.

What other ways can you think of to do away with selfishness and consider others in your daily life?

In the end, the point is that I want to healthily take advantage of the time and freedom that singleness allows me while at the same time using it for personal growth and most of all the good of other people and the glory of God.

From what I’ve seen, this is no easy task and I have a long way to go, but I’m ready to put my hand to the plow!

Coffee Money

I looked up from the work I was doing on my computer and he said to me, “Te lo prometo que no es para drogas.” It’s not for drugs, he said, the money he’s asking for.

I told him no, that I didn’t want to buy his trinkets or give him money. He asked again and I said it more firmly and averted my eyes from the pair of eyes staring back at me; turned away from the human being standing before me.

Steeling myself to stare at my computer until he went away, in the same instant something inside of me turned toward him to ask if I could buy him a cup of coffee. The words just came out of me. Un café solo is what he wanted and I hopped out of my chair to order it. Of course I would buy him a coffee. Why wouldn’t I?

Why didn’t I give him money? Several reasons (were they reasons or excuses or some of both?) ran through my head.

That night at Bible study we read Proverbs 3 and my heart listened: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

I know all the reasons not to give money to panhandlers and beggars. I know them from a social work perspective as well. And they’re not necessarily incorrect. But still, God prompted me to check my heart.

Whether it’s a cup of coffee or cash, do I need to be a bit more reckless with giving my money when people ask me for it?

Throw it around more freely as if I don’t depend on it (I don’t).. as if I’m not the judge of what people do with it (I’m not).. as if it’s not mine in the end (it’s not).. and as if the other humans in front of me are as important, or more important, than me (they are).