Unselfishness vs Charity – A Lesson Learned in Marriage

As a young married couple (we’re both 22), this article could’ve tackled a number of lessons we’ve learned. Whether it’s budgeting, struggling in the professional world together, or figuring out how to set up our living room – there have been a number of conflicts and resolutions in our short marriage. We’re figuring it out!

A difficult lesson I’ve learned is the difference between unselfishness and charity. In my experience, I’ve heard these words used almost interchangeably. Unselfishness is the act of putting another’s wishes before mine. On the other hand, charity is defined as a love for others, for humankind. Do you see the difference?

Unselfishness doesn’t require love. It is often times a well meaning act, but isn’t necessarily born from love. It’s the present time decision that I make to do what you want instead of what I want.

Charity can be considered the highest form of love. Charity is acting out of love for someone not because they can repay me or it’s convenient at the time to do so, but rather because the person I am naturally produces loving actions. Charity, in it’s purest context, isn’t a choice but rather a lifestyle of love and caring for others.

The difference between the two cannot be understated. Washing the dishes because I want clean dishes to eat on and not be dealt a disappointed look from my wife is unselfishness. It’s self serving at the core, despite it’s surface level appearance of a loving act.

Keeping a home clean and organized isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, but it has meant a substantial amount to my mother, and the same attribute has been adopted by my wife. Having a clean house is important to her, and so it is important to me. Not because I want her to do something for me in return or avoid her reprimand, but rather because I want to serve her.

The sown seeds of unselfishness can completely unravel a marriage. Becoming aware of my personal unselfish acts, and not receiving any attention from my partner because of them, can easily become a stuffed bottle of emotion ready to explode at any sign of conflict.

Or, because of my unselfish nature, insisting on doing what I believe is her wishes, while she attempts the same to me, leads to nobody getting what we desired. We begin to fight and argue about doing what we often incorrectly assume our partner wants, yet our unselfish natures, at this point, wouldn’t accept what we actually want even if it presented itself. This solves nothing!

Instead of serving each other, unselfishness tends to hurt each other in the long run. Don’t find yourself ten years married down the road and fighting over what you think your partner wants. Rather, spend those ten years lovingly caring and learning about your partner, grow together though the easy and difficult times, and continuing pursuing a lifestyle of charity that impacts your entire life, not just your marriage. That’s my goal.

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