Phil 2: 3-4
The Random Acts of Selflessness chart was born out of both biblical teaching and sheer frustration. My two daughters seemingly incessant fighting was sending me over the edge and my own selfish behavior was driving me nuts.
Two forces. One edge. I teetered on the precipice. Enter in the selfless chart. An idea inspired by God to keep me sane.
The basic premise is not much different from the ordinary behavior chart – choose to think of someone else’s needs or desires first and you get a smiley face. After I drew out the chart on some construction paper, I called a family meeting. Around the table we sat – my husband, my six year-old, my four year-old, and myself.
We went over the definitions. What does it mean to be selfish? What does it mean to be selfless? How does Jesus want us to be? Then there was my personal confession. There have been times that I don’t do things for Daddy or for you because I am too involved in what I want to do. Then, I related it to them. I’ve noticed that you girls have been fighting a lot over your toys instead of sharing them or making compromises. I think that if we get in the habit of thinking about each other before we make a decision, we might show each other more love and have more peace in our house.
I then told them that we all had two jobs. One was to practice being selfless – putting other people and their needs before our own. The other was to recognize when someone else was being selfless. I think recognizing the goodness in the actions of others often prompts us to act in pleasing ways as well. When all four of us had filled in all the squares with smiley faces, we would celebrate with a special family event – a dinner out, a movie, or another adventure of our choosing.
In our family, the chart has provided us with a point of departure for discussions about what it means to be selfless in a myriad of different scenarios. Some examples:
My older daughter saw the Pledge and rag left on the dining room table. She picked them up and started cleaning for me.
The two kids were arguing over a plastic snake (really?) and I asked both girls how they could be selfless in this situation. Abby told me she could let Hannah have it for a while. Hannah told me that she could wait to play with it until Abby was finished.
I let my husband sleep in on Saturday morning, which is something I normally claim as my luxury.
My husband made the bed – without me having to ask him to do it.
As a parent, I want to provide my children numerous opportunities to do good things, to set the stage for loving acts, to teach them what it means to be selfless in a very tangible way. To be fully honest, I need the conversations just as much as they do in order to remind myself of what it means to be selfless as well. Knowing that my children are looking to me as an example, makes me think twice before I complain about helping them clean their room or do the laundry or help a neighbor.
Am I sane now? No, not really. But, I feel a little bit better with the new framework we have in place. There is still fighting in my house, but we have a way to discuss it fruitfully now. Complaints still slip from my lips and I find myself thinking sometimes about my husband, “Well, what selfless thing has HE done today?” instead of just being grateful for what he has done and for who he is. And every time I turn around, I see the chart. I am reminded of the way that Jesus has called us to live. I know what I desire more than anything– for me and my family. I toss up a prayer and simply say, Less of me, more of You.