Putting others first
As you begin to slow your life down, reorder your priorities, become more watchful, and gain freedom from the chains of your likes and dislikes, you will also begin to see changes taking place in your relationships.
It is selfless relationships that lead us to happiness and a life close to God. This is what Christ meant when He asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves. You cannot act as an isolated being and be close to God. When you dwell on yourself you only build a wall between yourself, others and God. Those who insist on thinking about their own needs, their wants, plans and ideas only become lonely and feel insecure. They separate themselves from God.
A powerful approach to learning to love is to practice putting others first. You can begin with your own family and close friends and coworkers. As you try to understand the needs of your spouse or best friend, and to begin to consider their needs before you insist on your own, you will find that you move closer together. This kind of action weakens the negative aspect of your ego-centeredness and opens deeper relationships with others.
There is a ripple effect that begins with your closest relationships. As your closest relationships grow, those further removed will also grow closer. Your love ripples outward. At the same time you will find yourself growing closer to God.
Most of us find that we are all puffed up by our ego. We see the world based on what we like and dislike. We think everyone has the same hopes and fears that we do. We expect others to behave just like ourselves. But, when they don’t and expect us to act the way they do, we run into conflicts. This is the reality of the world. When you are able to allow yourself to think in the way others other think, to look at things from their perspective, then you will find that your relationships blossom.
The block to knowing God is the same as the one that blocks us from loving others. It is our self-will. We grow spiritually when we learn how to eliminate our self-will. This is the aim of putting others first. This is the example that Christ has set out before us. This is the accomplishment of the Saints of the Church. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If you want to find your life, you have to lose it.” One of the two great commandments He gave us is to love our neighbor as yourself. Why? Because he wants us to be able to live Him. God is present in all of us and when we love each other we are loving God. It is though our love of others that we can come to know the love of God.
The ability to put others first demands patience. This virtue only comes with a disciplined life based on a foundation of daily prayer where we gain strength to control our passions and get beyond our own likes and dislikes. We must continually ask for God’s mercy and His help to overcome our self-willed nature. When you are patient and able to think of the needs of others, an unkind word will not agitate you and trigger anger. As you become more watchful and your life more ordered, then you can support others even when they are angry with you.
This is true even at work. There you can learn to accept that others may have good ideas even if they are different from your own. There is usually more than one good way to do a job. When you no longer expect every one to be and think like yourself, and you begin to appreciate the ideas of others, you can then begin to build loving relationships. In fact, work is a great place to get rid of the sharp edges of your personality. As you learn to love in the work environment then your example will be seen by others for the benefit of all.
Some will say that putting others first will only make us like a door mat and subject ourselves to abuse. This is not what putting others first is about. You do not automatically say yes to everything others want. What we are saying is that you must put the other person’s welfare before your own desires. There are times when it is in the best interests of the other person to say no. There are other times when we say yes even when it goes against one of our own desires. This is the essence of godly love. The other person’s welfare means more than your own. It is like the love a mother naturally has for her infant child. This is the sacrifice that Christ made on the Cross. He willingly gave His own life for our salvation. Often in a relationship we have to say no when we know it is not in the best interests of the other person and yes when it does not meet our own desires.
Putting others first also means not judging them. You never know what is in another persons mind or what their true motives are. Whenever you judge another you are separating yourself from them and saying to yourself that you are better than they are. You cannot help but communicate this feeling of superiority to them. In reality you are also judging yourself. Withhold judgment, you can disagree, but to judge sets the standards for you own salvation even higher. God will hold you to the standards you set for others. In reality, only God is our judge. Recognize the splinter in your own eye. Accept that others can have a different view of an issue than you, honor their view and express your own without degrading them. In this way you uphold their dignity and make it easier for them to listen to your view as well. In this way you avoid separating yourself from others and from God at the same time.
You can even mend broken relationships with love. It is the act of forgiveness that is the healing power. Forgiveness makes both parties whole. When you forgive those who have done wrong to you, you also forgive yourself for your wrongs of the past. This brings up another tool we have in the Church, the sacrament of Confession. In this sacrament you can ask God to cleanse you of all your past transgressions where you were not able to control you passions and your self-centeredness. You will also gain spiritual advice, a penance, to help you overcome the passion that you find most difficult to control. When you clear the deck so to speak, when you humble yourself before God and admit your weaknesses, you open yourself to become more understanding of others struggles and more willing to forgive them. As you forgive others you are more able to forgive yourself. The result is that we all come closer to God.