Our Savior is the perfect example of unselfishness. If we are to follow his example, we must be concerned with the needs and feelings of others. We must be able to put our own wants and needs aside to show love and concern for others.
Ask your family members to each define selfishness as they understand it and to give an example from personal experience or from the scriptures. One definition of selfishness is “clinging to your own comfort, advantage, or position at the expense of others.” Elder Theodore M. Burton has said that true love is the exact opposite of selfishness (see Conference Report, Apr. 1979, p. 100; or Ensign, May 1979, p. 72).
Discuss and list the ways that Jesus demonstrated unselfishness. Conclude that the Atonement was the most unselfish act of all.
Write the following teachings of Jesus (and any others of your choice) on wordstrips, and put them in a bowl. Have family members draw them out and explain how they relate to unselfishness.
“Love one another” (John 13:34).
“Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).
“Let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24).
“Love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).
Discuss why the Lord has placed such emphasis on our learning to become unselfish. Point out that selfishness comes naturally and easily, and it takes struggle and growth to rid ourselves of self-centeredness. But one of the purposes of this life is to overcome our weaknesses and become Christlike.
Have each family member name a blessing that comes from being unselfish and explain why unhappiness results from continued selfishness.
Observe your family for a week, and write down any unselfish acts you notice. Share these at family home evening and tell your family how proud you are of them. Have them discuss possible reasons behind selfish behavior and suggest some strategies for overcoming it. Make sure that each person deals with his own attitudes, not someone else’s. Ask questions such as these:
Think of a time when you were selfish. How did you feel?
Think of a time when you were unselfish. How did you feel?
What happens to us spiritually when we are selfish?
How does our selfishness affect our relationships with others?
Share Elder Gordon B. Hinckley’s thought that selfishness is a canker that drives out peace and love (see Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 83; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 72).
Allow each person to resolve to become less selfish. Ask them to report their progress next week.
Role-play the following situations and any others that apply to your family, adding unselfish endings:
Johnny asked dad to help him with his homework, but dad said he was too tired.
Adam wanted to play with his truck, but his younger brother was having a good time with it. Mother asked, “Couldn’t he play with it just a little longer?”
Discuss what happens when family members are unselfish with each other. Put the name of each family member on a slip of paper. Have each one draw someone else’s name, without revealing whose name they have. Encourage them to be particularly unselfish toward that person throughout the coming week, and to notice how it makes them feel.
Using the following story, discuss the results of unselfishness:
When Elder Thomas S. Monson was a young boy, he received an electric train for Christmas. His mother had purchased a smaller wind-up train for Mark, a needy boy in the neighborhood. She allowed young Tom to keep an oil tanker out of the wind-up train set to use with his own train. But when he saw how happy Mark was with the wind-up train, he ran home, got the oil tanker, plus another car from his own train, and gave them to Mark. (See “Mark’s Train,” Friend, Oct. 1977, p. 16.)
As a group, suggest ways your family could practice being more unselfish toward those outside your family. Consider the following ideas:
Remembering others in our prayers
Paying more fast offerings
Helping in community volunteer programs
Supporting missionaries with letters, copies of the Book of Mormon, money, and prayers
Decide on and plan a project to unselfishly serve someone outside your family, and make appropriate assignments.
Show and discuss some pages from a newspaper, pointing out or having family members circle each news item that is a result of selfishness; examples would include wars, theft and other crimes, and civil disputes.
Relate the account of the people of Enoch (see Moses 7:18) or of the Nephites after the Savior’s visit (see 4 Nephi 1:2–3, 15–16), explaining the great happiness that existed because there was no selfishness and they were able to have “all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor.”
Assign a family member to be a reporter. Ask him to observe family members during the coming week and prepare to report on their acts of unselfishness.
Isaiah 56:10–12 (The results of selfishness.)
Matthew 20:25–28 (The greatest is a servant to all.)
Acts 8:18–24 (Simon wanted to use the priesthood for selfish purposes.)
1 Timothy 6:10 (The root of all evil.)
Mosiah 11:1–10 (The story of the selfish King Noah.)
Helaman 7:20–22 (Nephites admonished to repent of selfishness and wickedness.)
See also “Selfishness” in the Topical Guide.
“Jesus Said Love Everyone,” Children’s Songbook, p. 61.
“True to the Faith,” Hymns, no. 254.
“Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” Hymns, no. 260.
Gospel Principles, “Service,” chapter 28.