Written by Ulla Mia

As a child, I learned very quickly the value of self-preservation. I learned to look out for myself first because who else would? In a world that operates on survival of the strongest—where the gentle-hearted get walked on by the more aggressive opportunists—it seemed only natural to look out for my own interests before someone else’s.

It even seemed like that’s how you get ahead in this world, how you get to be successful in this world. Or, at least, that’s what I concluded.

However, the Bible paints us a different image. Jesus told us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:31). So, instead of prioritizing myself above others, Christ tells me to prioritize others’ needs as well! He even demonstrated this Himself when He went to the cross and died for our sins. He chose to redeem us even when the road He had to walk led to death upon a cross. That is love.

It says in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” This is the call of the Christian walk. Humility and knowing that self-satisfaction is not the most important thing in this life.

That doesn’t mean we each don’t matter. If everyone seeks the good of others, every individual in that community is valued and cared for. This is God’s intent because He loves each and every one of us.

And God loving us also means He’s looking out for what is best for us. Selfishness creates bitterness and resentment, sapping our joy. On the other hand, while denying our interests for the sake of others isn’t always fun or convenient, it brings life to others and rewards us with contentment.

Caring about the struggles of others and being there when they’re in need teaches us patience and kindness. Loving them through the bad times helps us not to do things only for our benefit.

Of course, we must take time for ourselves when needed—an empty cup cannot pour water. But there comes a time when following God means being there for others when it’s an inconvenience to us. And it’s those times that often prove to be the best times in our lives.

Proverbs also has something to say on this matter. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1, ESV). Relationships are important! I truly believe we are put on this earth for relationships with God and each other.

So, when we choose to seek our own desires above the needs of others, we’re actually swimming against the current that God set us in. More often than not, choosing ourselves above others leads to isolation. And that can cause internal strife and erode trust. But love—real love—means putting the needs of others as high as our own needs, and sometimes even higher. When you can do that, you earn the trust of those around you. “Be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” (1 Peter 3:8).

I still find it hard to always put others above myself. So many times, all I want is for others to hear my needs, my desires, my story, or my struggles. But the beautiful thing is, God is already listening to me and He knows my story and desires. He just wants me to pay that forward to a world that needs love. And when I find it hard or even fail, He gives me the grace to grow in selflessness and spread His love wherever I go.

For me, that’s reassuring to think about because I know I don’t have to get it right every time. I can hand my struggles to Him and He’ll cultivate in me a love for others I can’t grow on my own. I just have to be a willing recipient.

Just as our parents taught us right and wrong when we were younger, God slowly helps us learn the value of humility and selflessness so we can reach others. And through our love, we affirm their infinite worth, just as God affirms it in us. What a loving work of art we get to be part of!