God understands our human tendency of self-centeredness. He knows that the inclination of our heart is often to think of our self first and to take care of our self-first. That’s why He says to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He also says to “prefer one another” because He knows our sinful hearts tend to prefer our self. God also says that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves – so how do we do that?
In His divine wisdom, God understands that we often want to take care of ourselves first, protect ourselves first, and fight for our rights first. We so easily want to be heard and understood first! However, when God transforms us to love others as ourselves, we begin to take care of others first, protect them first, and fight for their rights first! This will require us to listen, ask questions and empathize in order to truly understand. Once someone is heard and understood, their hearts are in a better place to receive a different perspective because they feel honored, respected and valued. St. Francis of Assisi says “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
However, we must be very careful that in an effort to become other-centered, we don’t devalue ourselves. God’s command to love others is not given because we are not valuable or because others are more valuable than us. We must be very careful to not buy into the lie that the humble life of being other-centered means ignoring our needs and only focusing instead on the needs of others. Actually, the extent to which we love ourselves is the extent to which we can love others well. In God’s sight, we are ALL valuable and of high worth. The Bible actually values our needs and self-care. According to Cloud and Townsend, our needs are intended to propel us into growth and neglecting them lead to emotional and spiritual problems. Having them met, however, frees us to meet the needs of others without resentment.
Everyone desires and deserves to be heard and understood. To be known and loved is the greatest need of all of our hearts. When we are other-centered and “seek first to understand”, we love others well. Ultimately we all enjoy healthy, holy relationships.