Written by cycleguy on February 12th, 2013


Narcissism is defined as “generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, conceit, or selfishness.”   You can find a whole lot more information on it here.    As you can well imagine, the traits of egotism, vanity, conceit, or selfishness can be are damaging to any organization, especially the church.   More of that in a minute.

Selfishness is a character trait of every one of us.  True, some have more trouble with it than others.  You will meet some people who are more giving, more caring, more loving than others.  However, that does not mean they are not selfish.  While I don’t believe in the doctrine called Original Sin, I do believe every one of us is born with a sin nature that manifests itself pretty quickly.  Like almost immediately as we demand attention.  “Hey, I’m hungry!  Feed me!”  “Hey, wait a second here!  Can’t you smell that?  I left that for you; I’m miserable and it needs changed…NOW!”  “And just where do you think you’re going?  Oh no, no, no.  I want your attention and really don’t care what you want to do or that you need sleep.”   The common thread is “I” “me” or any derivative of them.

Failure to get a grip on our selfishness makes for a miserable childhood/ adulthood.  We want our own way. We throw tantrums when we don’t.  We pout.  We spew nasty words.  You get the drift.  You can also get the drift when i say selfishness should not be in leadership-corporate or the church.  The selfish CEO is a bane to his organization and a pain in the, aaaah, rump.  A selfish pastor, or elder or leader, or whatever facet of leadership a person finds themselves in, is a hindrance to the unity and forward progress of that church.  Bar none.

Joel is careful to define unselfishness as “it doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself-it means thinking of yourself less.  Huge difference!  Chew on that one for awhile.  Asking “How can I serve you?” solves some issues tied up in selfishness.

Here’s the key-one that Joel is a stickler about: what you are in private is what you will be in public.  If you are a selfish person in your personal life, you are unlikely to be unselfish as a leader.  Unselfishness is a key component to leading with love.  (p.93)

Space limits me from going deeper into this, other than to say Joel is convinced that organizations need to be unselfish as well.


Find a selfish church-one only interested in gazing at its navel-and you will find one already dead or in a state of decomposition.   God save the church from selfish leaders/people!!

So…what are your thoughts on this subject?  Do you find selfishness common in the church?  How is it combated? What do you do when your leadership is selfish? 

Make sure you head over to the Stretched Community to see what Jon has to say.


20 Comments so far ↓

  1. Bill, I think I have been a part of that selfish church. Unfortunately, I contributed to it.

  2. Daniel says:

    I like his definition of unselfishness. As for what to do when others are selfish, well sometimes there is not much you can do. The best thing in some situations is just to continue to be humble and to know who you are trying to please and let that be enough.

  3. Tom Dixon says:

    Read the Manby book after seeing him on Undercover Boss…really enjoyed it. Thanks for expanding on his thoughts here.

  4. tcavey says:

    You and Jon’s post prompted me to buy this book- I’m even thinking of purchasing it for someone I know, but I’m not sure they would take it well (he, he).

    I had a conversation recently where the other person stated they didn’t believe people were selfish. My jaw dropped and my head still spins over that.

    Yeah, this is something every member of the Body of Christ needs reminded of. It’s an area we can all improve on.

  5. It makes sense that how you are in private will be how you are in public. That’s what character is all about. You can only put on so much of a facade. Eventually, the real deal is going to surface.
    And I love your definition of unselfishness as thinking about ourselves less. I know that my life would be so much better if I could just think of myself less. That’s not only the key to loving others more but to true peace, I think.

    • cycleguy says:

      I once heard the definition of integrity is “who you are when no one’s looking.” That speaks of character. Wish it was my definition. 🙂 it was from Joel’s book.

  6. floyd says:

    Looks like we’re on the same page today, Bill! If a church is failing selfishness will be the reason. When we put our desires and needs above others without thought we are the core of the problem, not the answer. Humility is from God. It’s easy to see the humility that our Savior practiced while here, but we overlook the humility of our Father. Daily He keeps this world in existence allowing the scoffers the very breath they use to rebuke Him and yet He shows them mercy and grace like He does all of us daily.

    Wisdom comes from God and humility is a mark of wisdom. May we all be more in step with our calling in this regard.

    Great post, Bill.

    • cycleguy says:

      I noticed that also Floyd. you wrote a great post today. I would love it if others would go check it out. Agreed on the failure of churches. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. Jeff says:

    I liked the quote on unselfishness as well. To my surprise we agree on the “Original Sin” Theory. As for selfishness it is like most things. In moderation a lot of things are fine. But in excess those same things can get in the way. Thinking about ones self is certainly necessary. Too much or to the exclusion of others and it becomes a disaster. I would think that is true of Churches as well.

    • cycleguy says:

      I guess miracles still happen since we agree. 😛 You are right about things getting out of hand Jeff. Too much of some things is dangerous and damaging.

  8. David Rupert says:

    Again, I love this book and am so glad you are working and writing yoru way through it.

    The part of about selfishness. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it’s really true. And it’s a simple formula you’ve reminded us about. Just think about ourselves less.

  9. Betty Draper says:

    I purchased Radical Integrity, the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Love Works the same day. A life lived with integrity will manifest love. One thing for sure a person who lives radical intergrity and radical love will cause others to either hate them or be convicted. Selfishness manifest itself into different sins….leaders who steal, lie, feed addictions, commit adultry and a host of other fleshly sin are selfish for they care only for themselves. We were on staff of a church years ago in which the pastor was not right with money, had not been for a long time. His sin was manifested when the IRS caught up with him. My husband was the adminstater of the ministries of this church. The pastor told him to ignore the letter from the IRS. Ace said, I will not forsake my personal integrity for even the sake of unity. The pastor fired my husband on the spot…actually God kicked the door open and said to us, get out and stay out of this church. It was not easy for we had some wonderful friends there. We went back to the mission field So do I think it goes on a lot in churches…yes. We are always hearing of this pastor or this leader who fell into sin and selfishness was the slope they slid down. They were more concerned for their appitites of the flesh then others. A selfish leaders hides their sin and even when it comes out they still try to hide usually behind their position. God must weep at the sickness of selfishness in the church, in our personal lives. The only way to stop being selfish is to crawl out of it, on our hands and knees at the foot of the cross. Lay it there everytime we are selfish. Selfishness has destroyed a lot of missionaries also. One way we learned to combat this sin is to be accountable, on purpose to a few people who really care enough about us to get in our space even if it means the risk of losing us as a friend. That friend is exercising radical love. Good post brother.

    • cycleguy says:

      What a powerful comment Betty! I just want to stand up and yell, “Way to Ace!” Sadly, what you write about is all too true. Accountability brings rich rewards. Thanks Betty.

  10. Jon Stolpe says:

    Great post and discussion here, Bill. I’ve enjoyed linking up with you on this book.

    (Here’s my post for this week: http://www.jonstolpe.com/2013/02/13/love-works-wednesday-link-up-week-5-unselfish/ )

  11. Debbie says:

    I call my selfishness ‘me-mode’. It isn’t pretty and a red flag flies in my face whenever it gets a going. So thankful that there is forgiveness and help, in Jesus! Thank you and God bless!