As your teens enter the classroom, have them write a response to this question on the whiteboard: What is the most selfish act you have ever witnessed? (If your class is meeting online, invite students to share their thoughts as you record them on the screenshared document.) Be sure your students don’t include names in their responses. Their answers might include something like someone brake-checking them on the highway or cutting in line when they’ve been standing there a really long time. Once everyone has had a chance to respond, read through a few non-relational responses (save responses about relationships for later).
We can be pretty selfish people sometimes, can’t we? So many things in our society—from an “I-want-it-the-way-I-want-it” cup of coffee, to choices that impact the environment come to mind. Here’s one disgusting example:
Share this video with your teens [3:18]:
Miami-Dade Sewer System Being Clogged Up By Flushable Wipes
The waste management spokesperson agreed that while throwing wipes away rather than flushing them may not feel as convenient. However, throwing these items away creates less work for waste management workers who, after a lot of extra time and money, are throwing away your wipes for you. While it may feel like a more convenient choice at the time, selfishness in the way people dispose of wipes and similar items can cost other people a lot of extra time, money, and labor.
- What are some other examples of decisions that may feel convenient but end up harming or inconveniencing other people? Why do you think it’s so easy to make choices without considering how those decisions will affect other people? (Allow teens to share their thoughts without using names. Accept all reasonable responses.)
Draw your students’ attention back to the whiteboard (or screenshared document). Now take note of responses that involved relationships; read some of those. Answers might range from someone’s little brother always taking the biggest piece of cake for himself to a boyfriend/girlfriend always choosing the movie they want to see without letting the other person choose occasionally, etc. If there aren’t a lot of relational examples on the board, ask for some now.
- How do you think relationships are affected by this kind of behavior? (Answers will vary but may include: Relationships affected by selfishness are going to leave one or both parties angry; there is no love in that relationship, because love isn’t selfish; hurtful words will come sooner or later when someone acts selfishly; the relationship may actually be destroyed if selfish behaviors prevail.)
Selfishness—a desire to have things go your own way—in any form is destructive to relationships.
- Can you think of a time when selfishness destroyed or greatly hindered a relationship? Tell us about it. (Allow students to share without mentioning names or too many details. Answers might include a divorce, situations where siblings end up not speaking to each other all of their adult lives for something that occurred in childhood, or friends who wouldn’t reconcile. Be prepared to share your own experience.)
In this “it’s-all-about-me” society we live in, selfishness is commonplace. But selfishness is nothing new. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about a seriously troubled relationship between twin brothers where selfishness tore a family apart.