I grew up entitled and with the expectation that everything should be handed to me on a silver platter. I thought that the world revolved around me; if something didn’t include me, it didn’t matter. It took God and honest friends to wake me up to the fact that I wasn’t the only person in the world.

Now, as I’ve graduated high school and am helping other teens get to know God, I see this same issue all over again. They get frustrated that there is something standing in the way between them and God, but they’re too selfish to realize that it’s themselves. If you’re not a teen, don’t worry, this applies to you as well.

Forms of Selfishness

1) Blind Pride

They think too much of themselves
so they don’t see their sin and hate it.

Psalm 36:2 (NCV)

  • If you are having a hard time confessing your sin or feeling broken about it, this is you
  • When you uphold an image of yourself as being good or perfect, you’re never able to change the sin that holds you captive, because you don’t even see it
  • What is the image you have of yourself?
  • What is the sin in your life that you don’t want to see because it will break that image?

2) Destructive Appetite

Evil people never lack an appetite, and nothing escapes their selfishness.

Job 20:20 (NCV)

  • When we try to satisfy ourselves, there’s a hole inside that we can’t fill on our own
  • We use people and God to fill our appetite and to get what we want, and it’s destructive
  • Who have you used to get what you want?
  • How has your selfishness been destructive?

3) People-Pleaser

“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back. Then you’ll stand tall before me. Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining. Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me. Let your words change them. Don’t change your words to suit them.

Jeremiah 15:19 (MSG)

  • When we are consumed with people, we change our interactions with people to suit them instead of actually loving them.
  • Insecurity of wanting people to like us is just another form of selfishness—we would rather get a person’s approval than care about them and help them.
  • How do you change yourself to suit people?
  • How does this prevent you from caring about them?

4) Guilty Self-Pity

So why all this self-pity, licking your wounds? You deserve all this, and more. Because of the enormity of your guilt, the endless list of your sins, I’ve done all this to you.

Jeremiah 30:15 (MSG)

  • This form of selfishness stems from keeping an enormous amount of guilt in our heart.
  • When we’re guilty, we turn to self-pity and victimize ourselves, pointing the finger at someone else.
  • What guilt causes you to be self-piteous?
  • Who have you blamed for your own guilt?

We Can Change

1) United Humility

Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.

Philippians 2:1-3 (CEV)

  • The way we overcome our blind pride is seeing our need for others.
  • When we acknowledge areas in which people are better than us, we realize how much we need them and work together to change and help others.
  • Who in your life are you proud with and think you are better than?
  • Write out all the ways they are better than you and express to them your need for their friendship.

2) Satisfied Faith

Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.

Habakkuk 2:4 (MSG)

  • A destructive appetite often occurs in our hearts when we don’t believe we can be filled with God
  • When we have faith that God can take care of us, we no longer feel the need to use God or people to get what we want
  • What is a misconception you have about God that prevents you from believing he can take care of you?
  • Find Scriptures that talk about God meeting your needs, and fight through prayer to believe them

3) God-Pleaser

I expect and hope that I will not fail Christ in anything but that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth, whether I live or die. To me the only important thing about living is Christ, and dying would be profit for me.

Philippians 1:20-21 (NCV)

  • To change our consumption with people’s approval, we need a purpose that comes from God, in which we view him as greater than people or ourselves
  • When we believe that God has chosen us to show his greatness to others, we develop a love for people in which we want them to see God, instead of getting approval
  • What has God specifically chosen you to do?
  • Pray through the purpose God has for you, and figure out practical ways you can love those around you

4) Take Responsibility

Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me…
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.

Psalm 51:9-10, 13 (NLT)

  • Overcoming self-pity takes acknowledging the guilt that is in our hearts, and taking responsibility for the fact that it has hurt God and people
  • Only when we take responsibility and admit our guilt are we freed up enough to love and help others!
  • What guilt do you need to take responsibility for?
  • Who in your life needs you that you can help once you admit your guilt?

Who We Can Learn Love From

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Mark 8:34-37 (MSG)

  • To change any kind of selfishness, we must first look to Jesus as the best example of what love looks like.
  • To let Jesus show us how to sacrifice our self, we need to search the Bible for his example and fight to obey the Scriptures.
  • Read your Bible every day to learn how to love and let God be in the driver’s seat.

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

  • When we pray, we can be honest with God and express all the insecurities and other reasons why we turn to our selfishness
  • Once we are willing to simply be honest with God and stop trying to be perfect, the focus shifts from ourselves to God
  • When the focus is on God, even though we see our sin and how messed up we are, we have confidence because we see God’s grace and how he loves us anyway!
  • What do you need to be honest about with God?
  • Pray with the focus on God instead of yourself, and develop the confidence that comes from being loved by God