012 – 4 Benefits of Selflessness

Last week’s article focused on the negative impacts of selfishness on our families. It is only fitting that I follow that up with an article that highlight the benefits of a selflessness attitude this week. In much the same manner as last week, my personal example of selflessness involves my dad. Only this time I’ll be referencing my step father. From here on out, I’ll refer to him as my dad because I really despise the term step father. I despise it because it seems to take away from the relationship I had with my dad. Let me first describe for you the selflessness that I witnessed in my dad and then I’ll highlight some benefits of such selflessness.

My dad lost his battle against lung and brain cancer just over a year ago. He fought a valiant fight against this insidious disease. In the midst of his battle, I witnessed some of the most selfless acts I’ve seen in all my life. It is well known that fighting cancer is a very tough task. Many would argue that the treatment is worse than the disease. My dad knew that full well when he entered into treatment of his cancer. He first started with major surgery to remove a tumor from his brain. Shortly after recovery from surgery, he embarked upon a regiment of chemotherapy. It was deep into his regiment of chemotherapy that I witnessed his selflessness and his love for his family.

If asked, my dad would say that he wanted to fight so hard against his cancer because he wanted more time with his family – his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. However, what I witnessed after his eighth chemotherapy treatment convinced me otherwise. He was fighting so hard for us, so we could have more time with him. Let me explain why I feel this way.

I took dad to his doctor appointment following his eighth and final round of chemotherapy (at least we thought it was to be his final round). Dad had endured roughly four months of these torturous treatments at this point. He received a chemotherapy treatment every other Monday. By the Tuesday following each treatment he was miserable. He endured all the symptoms of chemotherapy for eight to ten days following each treatment. After enduring the symptoms of chemotherapy for a week or so, he would enjoy a couple days without sickness and weakness. But then that every other Monday routine would send him through the same torturous cycle.

But now the eight prescribed chemotherapy treatments are completed and dad can put all the misery of those treatments behind him. Dad was still feeling sick and weak during his doctor appointment as he was just one week out from his eighth treatment. As we sat in the examination room awaiting the doctor, I wondered what might dad have to face next. Would it be another type of treatment? Would be enter a wait and watch period? What would I say if a decision needed to be made and dad wanted my opinion? Could I really tell him to press on with his fight if the doctor suggested? At this point, the cancer and the chemotherapy had reduced dad to less than half the man that I’d always known him to be. Could I advise him to continue to endure such an aggressive regiment of treatment knowing that it would continue his misery?

The doctor finally entered the room to explain the details of dad’s recent tests. The tests indicated that the chemotherapy treatments were still having a positive impact on the cancerous tumors in dad’s lungs. Reduction in the size of the tumors had continued with the last couple treatments. You could feel the relief that dad and I felt and you could see the signs of joy on our faces. The doctor continued to give more details of the tests and finished with his recommendations on the next steps – 4 more of the exact same chemotherapy treatments that dad had struggled through for the past four months. My heart sank into my stomach. As my mind raced to rehearse the conversation dad and I would have within a few seconds, those questions I’d earlier contemplated but still didn’t have an answer for haunted me deeply. Should I suggest he keep fighting or should I recommend he take a break? How should I tell him to… Then suddenly my thought process was interrupted by a comment my dad said to the doctor. “Ok, let’s do it. It means more time with my family.” My dad, without a second of hesitation, agreed to put himself through two more months of the misery that is chemotherapy. Totally sacrificing himself in order that our family might have more time with him. That is the picture of selflessness. He went on to endure those four more chemotherapy treatments, but eventually they stopped having the positive impact. Ultimately, cancer took my dad’s earthly life, but it never took away the attitude and spirit of putting his family first in the most selfless of ways.

Now with the context of this story, let me share a few benefits of having such an attitude and spirit of selflessness toward your family.

You will be their hero
It had happened many times before, but my dad became my hero that day in the doctor’s office. I recognized the incredible sacrifice he was making and the reason he was making it. Instantly my mind and heart was filled with a desire to be just like him – my hero.

You will be their friend
Our family struggled through the one year anniversary of my dad’s death just a couple months ago. I sent my mom and little sister some flowers on the anniversary date just to let them know that we were praying for them. My mom preempted any phone calls that I might have made to check on her with a text message. In the message she said that she didn’t feel she could talk that day, but greatly appreciated the flowers and prayers. She finished her text message with “it’s hard to believe I’ve been without my best friend for a year.” Dad’s selfless spirit made him everyone’s best friend.

You will inspire them
As I mentioned earlier, dad was my hero. And he made me want to be as much like him as I possibly could. A few weeks after that doctor visit, I felt the need to send dad a card in the mail. In the card I wrote how much I appreciated the courage and selflessness that he had demonstrated throughout his battle with cancer. I mentioned that he was setting a wonderful example for me and his grandchildren. I finished the note by letting him know that he inspired us all very much.

You will live out the Bible
Sure many of us know the Bible well, but how many of us actually live it out. Dad clearly understood how to live out Ephesians 5:25 where God said that husbands must love our wives and sacrifice for them. Sacrifice starts with an attitude and spirit of selflessness.

So how do we build this spirit of selflessness into our character? Well, if the actions of my dad are any indication, we’d better ensure that we consistently humble ourselves into the Bible, meditate on the words we find there, and pray for it as if we believe it possible that God could build such a wonderful character into wretched souls such as us. I watched my dad do that for forty years and it sure served him well.

Do you struggle to maintain a selfless spirit with your family? Do you have examples of selflessness that inspire you to be equally selfless? Share your struggles, examples, suggestions, and comments below – I’m certain others will be blessed by your sharing.

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