When I was a kid, I remember musing over the word "selfish" and thinking how it sounded like "shellfish," but had nothing to do with aquatic life. Apparently my mind has always loved words :). But to the point, being selfish or selfishness is a real issue in our country, society, social circles and most importantly us, the individual (myself most definitely included).
A couple of my friends have married within the year, and the one thing they repeatedly say is "I didn't realize how selfish I was until I got married." (Oh no, I think...am I ever in for it! God bless my future husband...) I know I'm selfish. And I'm not going to deny it. Not having siblings growing up didn't help that, though it's no excuse. To be honest, I can be friendly, kind, giving, and caring occasionally if it's not required of me, but choosing to be self-less (less of self) regularly and not looking to please me first is NOT easy. And I'm learning that through my close relationships. I find that perhaps the main reason relationships are messy and often painful is that they show you yourself and all your inward ugliness, like a mirror. They require you to stretch, grow, rebuild, and rethink. They won't allow stagnation or apathy in order to stay alive.
Too often, with those I love, I forget to look to their needs and how I can serve them, or I convince them to choose something that makes me happy and forget the importance of letting them pick their favorite ______ (fill in the blank). In a close relationship, if you win the battle, no one wins. If you choose to give, and think less of "take," both parties win, and grow.
The key to curing selfishness lies with the cross. As John said about Jesus, "He must become greater. I must become less" (John 3:30). When we learn to give ourselves to Christ, our dreams, our all, we can rest assured and not feel the need to grasp for attention, affection, or "our way." We can understand and share love, not the mushy kind. The kind that is sacrificial, that says "your needs must be put above mine." Paul writes to the Philippians, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). But do we, do I, give in hopes of it coming around? Do I give in expectation or receiving? Yes, as the saying goes, "what goes around, comes around." As Proverbs puts it, "he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (11:25). But that is only a pleasant side-effect, not a motivation.
I think a major break through is reached when you find joy is self-sacrifice and bringing pleasure to others not to get anything in return. And I think I'm on a personal journey of embracing that by first embracing the love and sacrifice of the cross, every day.