The concept of denying yourself goes against every fiber in the fabric of our society. Commercials on the radio, television and movies continually encourage us to follow our feelings and do what is best for ourselves. Their underlying message is, “anyone that looks out for the best interest of others will risk getting run over by them.”
Even most self-help books focus on discovering what you want and chasing your dreams; there is little to no focus on the dreams of those around you. I am not against the concept of chasing your dreams, but to create a heightened sense of self can actually keep you from achieving your dreams.
Scripturally, the concept of self-denial is to stop considering your self-interest first. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The Greek word used here is aparneomai, which means: “to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, or to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.”
Jesus is talking to his disciples about a foundational truth here. Who am I going to depend on for my decision making; me and my emotions, or God and His word? Whose values am I going to utilize on a daily basis; the world’s or God’s? Who has the last word; me or God?
This isn’t just about us and God. Denying self is the foundation of every successful relationship. No one wants to be involved with someone who is out for themselves. This is true for all relationships: marriages, friendships, or business relationships.
By taking a backseat and listening we actually increase the odds of having better relationships with people. If we are willing to put our agenda to the side to listen to the needs of others, then we will be able to discover if that relationship is a good match for us.
We may discover that there are many around us that are not good matches, but we will also discover many that are. It’s much easier to attach yourself to someone else’s dreams and desires that match yours than it is to convince someone to follow yours.
If we keep our agenda in the forefront we will find ourselves wasting a lot of time trying to convince those around us why they should think like us, agree with us and partner with us. This approach may initially gain a following, but the relationships will not be as solid and will likely be riddled with problems and not last.
Denying self also increases the chances of successfully working through issues in current relationships. Someone who continually denies themselves is willing to listen to the other person in order to fully understand them. It doesn’t mean they give up the right to their own opinion or the right to make their own decision; it simply means that they give up the right to go first and they are willing to consider the thoughts and ideas of others. It also means they don’t demand the other person agree with them.
Denying myself means that I first choose to follow God and not my emotions, and that my life and my decisions are based on His truth. From that foundation I can then safely deny myself with others, seek out like minded relationships and increase the chances of resolving issues in current relationships.
Although it may seem that denying yourself puts you at greater risk, in reality it increases your chances of creating and maintaining successful relationships on every level.