Tag Archives: selfish

Am I being frugal or being selfish??

979583-scroogeI am an interesting mix of selfishness and selflessness.  I have alternately been called both a cheapskate and extremely generous.  I have been known to go to great lengths to get the lowest price when buying something.  I try to never make eye contact when I see a beggar with a jar on the street or a girl scout with cookies outside of Kroger.  The majority of my clothes come from the clearance section of Old Navy.  As if Old Navy isn’t cheap enough…the CLEARANCE section…yeah…I know!  But, I also love paying for someone else’s groceries at the store, supporting someone going on a mission’s trip, or giving away something from our house to someone who can use it more.  I try to justify this dichotomy by calling it “being frugal” which enables me to have the finances to be more generous at other times.  But, I would simply be lying to myself…I am being selectively selfish plain and simple.  I earned MY money and I want to keep as much of it as I can.

I’m not sure exactly why I am selfless only half of the time, but I want it to be all of the time.  I feel this is an area God has really been challenging me in.  I’m trying to see opportunities to BLESS other people…through my time and money.  In the past, I’ve generally looked for ways to donate money, give a gift, or pay for a bill for someone.  But, I’ve been challenged to be giving to others in a new way recently…the way I buy things.  

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • If I need a new roof for my house, it would seem prudent to get 10 different quotes, then pit them all against each other and get my favorite company to beat whatever the cheapest other price was.  This would result in hopefully good work at the cheapest bare bones price I could get.  Frugal…right???
  • If I need a new car, shop around…find what I want…and get a bunch of different quotes on it.  Then, come up with some strategies of demanding an even lower price and act like I’m going to go down the street instead…hoping that they take the bait and give me the price I want.
  • If I find a piece of furniture on Craigslist that I want, I usually try to offer them a little less than what they are asking.  Because…they usually will take it and then I don’t have to pay as much!
  • Or, if I have something I don’t need and could possibly get $200 for it, I will try to sell it in a way that maximizes the profit.

I have felt God challenging me to change my perspective in areas like this.  If I can be generous with my spending, I’m not wasting money…I’m getting something at a great price and blessing someone on top of it!  So, here’s what I’m trying to do in these scenarios now…

  • Get a few roof quotes to determine a good company, then pay them what they ask as long as it is reasonable.
  • If I know what car I want, let the salesman tell me the price…giving them a chance to lower it some from the original listed price (as they always do), and pay it without further haggling.
  • If someone is selling something on Craigslist that I want…buy it.  If it is a super-good deal already, possibly pay them more than they’re asking just to bless them.
  • If I have something to sell, go ahead and sell it, but err on the side of asking less than it is worth.  This way, it is much easier on me to get rid of it…PLUS…I’m able to bless someone else by giving them a great deal!  Or even better…just give it away!! :-)

Sure, sometimes I think…”what if I could have saved another $500 by doing some aggressive car haggling??  The CEO and stockholders at Ford don’t need another $500 from me!”  But, that’s the selfish way of justifying it.  In reality…sure SOME of that profit will go to corporate higher-ups…but most of it will go to the salesman who is working hard to try and support his family and the support staff around him that helps manage the business of selling cars.  These are real people with real families to support.  Real people that I have been trying my best to keep from earning a living by trying to get a car at the absolute lowest price possible.

I am a Christian, which means I want to model my life after Jesus Christ.  My hope is that people will see me and see the actions of Jesus through what I do.  Jesus’s life was about sacrificing himself, giving to others, and loving others.  So, how does that look when I spend my efforts trying to selfishly keep more for me?  What will cause a non-believer to see my life and want to follow Jesus?  Being a stingy and excessively frugal person?  Or being a generous and excessively giving one?

Could I have “overspent” on getting a new roof?  NO…not if my perspective is that I paid a great price and then generously donated to bless someone above and beyond that.  If I can adopt this attitude, then I every time I buy ANYTHING, I’m getting the best deal possible.

Being wasteful vs being generous:

All this being said…there is a big difference between wasteful spending and generous spending.  I DO feel we have a duty to be responsible with the money God has given us.  Spending more money than necessary is not always being generous…sometimes it is just wasteful.  Using utilities (water, electric, gas) that you don’t need is not “blessing the water supply company”…it is wasting a resource.  Buying a new set of dishes and throwing away the old ones is a waste.  However…buying a new set of dishes and GIVING away the old ones can be generous.  I’m not advising boycotting amazon.com and instead trying to find the most expensive store when you need to buy something.  And I’m not advising buying things you don’t need just to stimulate the economy.  That’s just silly.  But, if you’re going to get something, there is a difference between…buying at the lowest price available…and going to significant lengths to get the ABSOLUTE lowest price that borders on the company or person providing that product or service receiving little or nothing in return.  Remember…whoever has made that product or is providing that service is a person too.  If God has blessed you, don’t be hesitant to bless them in turn.

This is something I feel God challenging me in.  My purpose in writing this is not to make anyone feel guilty about the way they are.  This is something I STRUGGLE with and merely want to pass along my thoughts.

**Disclaimer** – I used “I” a lot here.  This is not a reflection of thinking that I do what I want in terms of spending.  Julia and I are both responsible for making financial decisions. I say “I” because I don’t want to lump her in with my selfish struggles.  I just wanted to make sure that was clear.  :-)

My challenge to you:

Anytime you buy something, try to have the perspective of…you ARE buying it at a great price, and anything you spend above that price is you being generous in blessing someone else.  Put less effort and time into seeking a deal and more time into loving and blessing others.

Yes, I am Selfish (part 2)

Last week I wrote about my selfish tendencies here.   I hate that I have them, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not alone in feeling that way.  In the 10 years that I’ve been married, something I’ve come to believe very strongly is that the majority of issues that come up between us (or any couple) have selfishness as a major contributor to them.

  • The man who hurts his marriage by drinking too much
  • The man who gets upset at his wife over her spending habits
  • The man who cheats on his wife
  • The man who has trouble listening to his wife when he is doing other things.
  • The man who doesn’t see his family much because he’s too involved in other activities

At the root of all these issues is a desire for a man to do what he wants, not considering the feelings of or impact it will have on his wife.

So, why is this behavior a big deal?  Let’s see what the Bible says about it.  Here are just a few of the MANY references calling us to live selfless lives…

Philippians 2:4 – “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
1 Corinthians 10:24 – “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
James 3:16 – “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Romans 2:8 – “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

dsc_00361Picture for a moment what the reverse of this looks like.  Your wife enjoys the last piece of cake that you left for her.  She is able to relax instead of doing the dishes because you decided you would.  She is able to go shopping with extra money you wanted her to have.  She goes to fold the laundry and is surprised to find it’s already done.  She gets to watch a movie with you that she wanted to see.  She enjoys listening to her favorite music when you’re in the car.  Date night is at her favorite restaurant.  These are all small things that only take a small amount of effort and sacrifice.  If you can get in the habit of giving up your desires, it will go a long way towards making your wife feel loved.

So here’s my challenge to you.  Realizing that selfishness is something we ALL have issues with, try to attack it two ways.

  1. Identify opportunities to be selfless and take them.  When neither you nor your wife is feeling up to it, and it is HER turn to … (pick your favorite chore) … put the kids to bed / make dinner / take the kids to activities / whatever … don’t relax and take it easy.  Identify it as an opportunity to put your wife’s needs before yours.  Man up and tell her to lie down and rest while you take care of it.  Try to identify the feeling … “man, I want to do this so much”, and when you realize that you’re feeling it, act on it FOR HER.  Give up YOUR desire and put your wife first letting HER experience whatever it is that YOU wanted to do so much.
  2. Pray about it.  Like Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Jesus modeled this behavior in how he GAVE HIMSELF UP for us.  Not much selfishness going on there.  Now it’s true that we can’t be perfect like Jesus, but there lies our calling as husbands. The goal is to work towards it.  Don’t try to do it on your own though.  Ask God to reveal to you where you are selfish and to help you make changes that will put your wife’s needs above yours.

Yes, I am Selfish (part 1)

LoveSelfishness

When I got married in 2003, there was a significant statement missing in my vows.  When I made my promises to Julia, I told her how I would take care of her in sickness and in health and in good times and bad.  And I let her know I would love her and cherish her as long as we were alive.  But, what I failed to promise was that I would not be selfish.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t either, because I don’t think I would have kept it for long.  And what good is a promise you can’t keep…right?

It’s a tough subject for me to talk about because…I’m a selfish person!  I want to spend money the way I think it should be spent.  I want to spend my free time doing what I want to do.  I want someone else to cook meals for me, clean the house, and give Eli a bath at night.  I want to eat at the restaurant I like.  I want to watch the TV shows and movies that I enjoy.  I want to prop my feet up and read a book when I’m done with a full day at the office.  I want to go to bed when I want and sleep as late as I want.  Oh, it would be so glorious!  I’d be living like a king…doing whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to do it.  HOWEVER… that in itself would not be a complete picture of my life.  In order to truly understand what was going on, you’d have to see my wife and son, who were picking up the slack to provide my kingly lifestyle.

Selfishness-e-cardSomething I have realized, is that anytime I “do what I want,” I am putting MY desires ahead of the other people in my life.  For example, I love eating at Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth.  It’s probably my favorite restaurant.  But spicy food as well seafood are two of Julia’s LEAST favorite types of food.  So, if I decide that we should go to Henry’s for dinner, I am saying that we’re going to do what I want to do and I don’t care how it makes her feel.  Or another example is the dishwasher.  If I see that the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, it would be very easy for me to walk away knowing that Julia will get to it eventually.  But, if I do that, I am telling Julia that I value my time more than I value hers.    Or, if I have a night planned out with the guys, but Julia is feeling really sick and needs help.  If I decide to still go out, I am putting my desire ahead of fulfilling a need she may have to be taken care of.

I don’t always get to it, but I try (whenever I have the time) to unload the dishwasher first.  Not because I love to do it…but so that Julia doesn’t have to, and it’s a way I can show her love.  If she is sick, I want her to know that her welfare comes first and I will cancel anything I have going on in a heartbeat if it will help her.  And…as much as I like Henry’s, my wife deserves to know that I love her WAY more than I love crawfish!

Now realistically…if I decide that we should go out to eat at a spicy restaurant…and take the remote control so we have to watch a TV show that I like…and relax on the sofa while Julia  cooks and cleans…that is not necessarily going to cause problems in our marriage.  Sometimes you just need a break…or to watch some explosions…or to eat some cajun food.  HOWEVER, if these types of decisions are the norm, it tells Julia that I feel MY interests are more important than HERS.  And that she exists to serve me and meet my needs, and that if she has a problem with it, she needs to suck it up.  To put it mildly, that is the LAST thing I want to communicate to her.

Stay tuned next week for the gripping conclusion to this topic…