Selfishness plagues the human race, affecting each of us at the core of our being. The Bible explains that this bent toward self-love that wants to take everything for itself is rooted in the fall of humanity. In Adam, we rejected our Creator and His good law, exalting ourselves in their place (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18–32). Even the redeemed must fight against selfishness, as we war against the sin that remains present in us until we are glorified (Rom. 7:7–25).
Because selfishness results from our rejection of the God who is Himself love (1 John 4:8), it follows that authentic love is not selfish. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 13:5 when he says that love “does not insist on its own way.” When we love others rightly, we do not put our needs above theirs. Instead, we are generous, seeking the good of others ahead of ourselves. Christ Himself is the model of this, for He left glory in order to accomplish the greatest good for His people (Phil. 2:5–11).
If love is not selfish, it is also patient (1 Cor. 13:4), as it requires patience not to put ourselves in front of others, to meet their needs before we meet our own needs. Love that is not motivated by selfishness also refuses to show rudeness (v. 5). It makes us courteous people, for those who are courteous and who show good manners are not trying to put themselves first. Respect and general courtesy are among the telltale signs that the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 is present. We can respect others only if we are patient with them and if we put their needs first, if we possess the other key qualities of authentic, God-honoring love.
In a similar vein, because love is patient, courteous, and not selfish, it “is not irritable or resentful” (v. 5). We do not grow irritable except when we are impatient with others or with our circumstances. We do not show the proper respect when we resent others and their achievements. True love seeks to avoid irritability and resentment. It does not avoid all anger, for it is possible to be angry and not sin (Eph. 4:26). Instead, love that is not irritable or resentful means that we are angry at appropriate times and do not have short tempers.
To escape irritability and resentment, we must cultivate the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:22–23). By practicing self-control, we exercise command of our emotions and put things in the proper perspective. Self-control enables us not to get enraged at the slightest offenses.