Avoiding Self-Centeredness: How To Keep Your Ego In Its Place

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One of the major issues that causes severe dysfunction in people’s lives is having an ego that’s out of its proper place.

All of us have an ego -- that sense of self that says I am a unique and valuable person, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and I’ve got something worthwhile to contribute to this world. But when that self-appreciation of who God made us to be turns into self importance, when it becomes a self-centered attitude that says, “It’s really all about me,” then our own out-of-balance egos will rob us of much of the joy and peace that God intends for us to have in life.

In other words, if I am a person who is all wrapped up in myself, I’m going to have a miserably dysfunctional life!

How Having An Out-Of-Balance Ego Causes Dysfunction In Our Lives

1. It causes dysfunction in my relationships with others

When my ego overflows its proper bounds, it puts a strain on all my relationships. Nobody likes dealing with a self-centered, egotistical, “me-first” type of person. Think about all the words commonly used to describe people who have that kind of attitude -- proud, arrogant, thoughtless, inconsiderate, rude, unfeeling, stuck up. All very negative terms.

Self-centeredness probably destroys more relationships than any other single factor. Particularly in a marriage, when both spouses are as concerned about the other as they are about themselves, the partners can face just about anything together. But when that factor is missing, and either spouse is looking out for himself or herself at the expense of the other, the marriage can become an exercise in torture.

2. It causes dysfunction in my relationship with myself

Think about what it’s like when my focus is all on what’s going wrong in my life; when I spend a lot of time talking about this person or that person who hurt ME or offended ME; and, oh, look at what so-and-so did to ME, and how inconsiderate they are of ME; and the more I think about it, and the more I talk about it, the more bitter I become because of how they’ve treated ME. When I allow myself to go down that path, my emotions will be in a continual state of turmoil, irritation, and resentment.

This is not a recipe for emotional health! The more I allow my emotions to spiral downward into negativity, the more my peace and joy just evaporate away. I become a perpetually unhappy person.

3. It causes dysfunction in my relationship with God

Self-centeredness and the pride that comes with it disrupt our relationship with God. If it’s all about me, then it can’t be all about Him. But there is only one King of the universe, only One who should rightly be at the center of all attention; and that One is not me! God is God, and He will not share His glory with anyone.

Lucifer was the most beautiful of angels, but his ego got out of place and he tried to elevate himself to God’s position. That’s how he became the devil. James 4:6 says that God actively resists the prideful, but gives grace to the humble. So, I must get my ego in order if I am to have a real relationship with Him.

Most ego-centric people don’t realize they are

One of the greatest obstacles people with out-of-place egos face is that they are usually unaware that this is their issue. They really believe they are the normal ones, and it’s everyone else who has a problem. So, how can I know if my ego really has overstepped its proper bounds?

5 Signs I May Have An Out-Of-Place Ego

1. I habitually look at things mostly from the standpoint of how they affect me. Whether they admit it to themselves or not, self-centered people aren’t really that concerned about how other people are affected by a circumstance, as long as it works out for them. For someone with an out-of-bounds ego, it is extremely difficult to follow the Scriptural admonition to “look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

2. I find myself frequently being offended and hurt by other people. Since self-centered people see themselves as the center of their universe, they interpret what other people say and do mostly in light of how it impacts them. That often causes them to be offended by unintended slights. For example, the fact that an acquaintance who passes them by without speaking may be distracted by their own thoughts may not occur to a self-centered person. They receive it as that person intentionally ignoring them.

3. I frequently mistrust and dislike people. Because self-centered individuals usually evaluate others based on the effect that person’s actions have on themselves, they will often be distressed by other people’s lack of consideration toward them. People who neglect or refuse to pay them proper attention obviously cannot be trusted, and are not worthy of being liked or respected.

4. I am often surprised and dismayed by negative reactions of others to things I say or do. A self-centered attitude keeps us so focused in on ourselves, that we totally miss how the things we say and do, or just the attitudes we display, affect other people.

Many times when a husband or wife walks out of a marriage, the other spouse is shocked and devastated. They didn’t see it coming. Their self-centeredness kept them from being aware of the other person’s pain.

5. Most of my thoughts and conversation have to do with what’s going wrong in my life.

Self-centered people are, of course, absorbed with self. Since they are at the center of their universe, and other people are there basically to serve their needs and desires, they naturally complain when the rest of the world isn’t doing its proper job for them.

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How To Keep Ego In It’s Proper Place

What can I do to keep my ego in its proper place? I believe the apostles in the Bible point the way. In the introductions to their New Testament letters, Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude all spoke of themselves as bondservants (the Greek word means slave) of Christ. Look, for example at how James introduces himself in his letter:

James 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Ask James who he is, and he will reply, a servant. The same with Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles. All these men, who’s lives and ministries have had an enormous impact on the church and the world, saw themselves first as servants. No ego problems there!

The antidote for an out-of-bounds ego is the humility of servanthood. Jesus Himself led the way.

Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

If I, like the apostles and like Jesus Himself, name myself a servant, and see myself as a servant, placed where I am in life to serve those around me more than to be served by them, I will be well on the way to having my ego stay within its proper bounds.

This is something Jesus wanted to make sure His followers didn’t miss. So, He provided a graphic demonstration of what it means to have a servant spirit.

John 13:5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

John 13:12-15 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Jesus gave us an example to follow. Not that we need to grab a basin and take off someone’s shoes to wash their feet, but that we be willing to take the place of a servant, thinking of others and how we can minister to their needs before we think of ourselves.

Practical Steps I Can Take

  • Like James and the other apostles, I need to identify myself as a servant. That doesn’t mean making a big production of telling other people what a wonderful servant I’m going to be from now on. It can be as simple as coming before God in prayer and confessing to Him that I want to become more like Jesus in this area of my life. Just actually saying the words, “I am a servant” can be powerful in a person’s life.
  • I need to obey Philippians 2:3, and “esteem others better than” myself. That means I consciously and habitually give preference to others. For example, it may mean deliberately giving respect to people I feel have not respected me as I deserve.
  • I need to follow the example of Jesus, and actually do the work of humbly serving someone rather than waiting for people to minister to me. With every person I come into contract with, I need to ask, “how can I serve this person in the name of Jesus?”

When the spirit of a servant becomes ingrained in me, I won’t have to worry about my ego getting out of bounds.

© 2013 Ronald E. Franklin

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Comments 25 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Thank you very much for this article. You just gave me the vocabulary to deal with a friend of mine whose ego "overflows its proper bounds." Ths presentation is very clear and very helpful. Voted Up.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, MsDora. I hope things go well as you minister to your friend.


janshares profile image

janshares 3 years ago from Washington, DC

I enjoyed your take on dealing with self-centeredness. You are spot-on in your descriptions of self-centered people and how relationships with others, self, and God are impacted. I like the solution of taking on the characteristics of humility and servanthood. It makes a lot of sense to those who ascribe to the teachings of Christianity. And even for those who don't, stepping outside of yourself and being of service to others is basic humanitarianism. Great article, voted up, useful, and interesting. Also sharing!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, janshares. One thing about the subject of ego and self-centeredness: there's never a worry about it being relevant!


The Stages Of ME profile image

The Stages Of ME 2 years ago

Thank you for this hub I teach Sunday school to young ladies and it is a tough topic and I am blessed to have this now as a resource. Blessings to you in the New Year


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, The Stages Of ME. Teaching a Sunday School class to young people is such a great ministry. I pray you and your class will be blessed in the coming year.


Adree 2 years ago

Great article ..it really touched close to home...I have a question if we want to change and be more worried about others other than ourselves, it doesn't mean we're going to change overnight right.... because I seem to be beating myself up over this and what's a good first step to take in acquiring this selflessness? Thank you so much in advance!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Adree. Becoming less self-centered doesn't happen overnight! It's a process, with many stumbles along the way. For me the key is the willingness to recognize when I do fall back into my old ways, and specifically repent (1 John 1:9). The important thing is that we make a non-revokable commitment before the Lord asking Him to shape us to be more like Jesus in this area, and then follow through with repentance when we fall short. Please don't beat yourself up over this! That just brings frustration. Instead, when you fail, accept God's forgiveness and move forward. And the whole time, He will working in you to help you change. Thanks for reading and commenting ... and for being serious about honoring God in this area of your life.


Adree 2 years ago

Thank you too ....it's just so hard sometimes because I find myself back thinking of only myself it really is hindering my life and I almost just want to "quit" but like you said I can't get frustrated and I have to remember that God forgives and keep moving forward thank you for this amazing advice I'll be trying to keep myself in check!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

God bless you, Adree!


greeneyedblondie profile image

greeneyedblondie 2 years ago

My father is a very egotistical person and cannot see how others can feel about something differently. Over the years I've noticed I'm slowly starting to get this aditude. I am trying to fight it, because I don't like that kind of behavior, but it's only getting worse.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

greeneyedblondie, I know it's difficult to not fall into the ways that are ingrained in you by the example of a parent. But, please don't give up! I think you know from experience how destructive that self-centered attitude is for those around you. Remember that God can give you power you don't have in yourself to overcome. That requires faith, and faith is all about persevering even when it's hard. May God bless you in your determination to not allow your life to be marked by self-centeredness.


mySuccess8 profile image

mySuccess8 2 years ago

Human relations are at work everywhere and all the time, because there are always interactions among people. It can make our lives difficult and miserable, or easy and comfortable. You have given great tips to avoiding and resolving interpersonal conflicts by understanding and avoiding self-centeredness, and inculcating positivity in life. This interpersonal skills and understanding will lead to personal success. Great Hub!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, mySuccess8, I appreciate that.


Bryan Rambler profile image

Bryan Rambler 23 months ago from Ravenna, OH

Very insightful! I am dealing with someone who has these attributes. This article has helped me to make sense of the behavior that I've observed. Any thoughts as to what the root of self centeredness is?


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks for reading, Bryan. I'm glad the article helped. I think the seeds of self centeredness are there in all of us. Why it becomes such a prominent part of some people's outlook, I'm not sure.


darnold 22 months ago

This article reinforces my understanding. Self-centeredness leads to anger also. The information/scripture in this article gives great help to avoid these feelings. Thank you!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 22 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, darnold. I'm glad the article was helpful.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 21 months ago from upstate, NY

Nice commentary well written! I am a selfish person in many ways, it's good to see the red flags here.

" I am often surprised and dismayed by negative reactions of others to things I say or do. " - This could apply to my surprise when I post controversial subjects on HubPages and are surprised by the reactions of others.

"Most of my thoughts and conversation have to do with what’s going wrong in my life."- I've come a long way in this area but it's a good thing to watch out for.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 21 months ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

"surprised and dismayed by negative reactions of others to things I say or do"

fret not WBA, most likely you said nothing wrong, some people just can't stand hearing the truth from someone who plainly tells it like it is which is you my friend. Although I have found that it is so easy when blogging to say something that sounds other than what you meant to say or to misinterpret what is actually said by another. I've learned to reread and think before assuming you understand the point being made by you or others and still I can miss it.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

wba108@yahoo.com, I'm glad the article was helpful. I think the way people react when they read controversial statements online is different from how they react in person. You may get a lot of negative pushback, but it may have nothing to do with who you are as a person. They just don't like what you are saying! On the other hand, when we do get that kind of feedback, it can be a good trigger to examine ourselves to see whether, in our certainty of the correctness of our own viewpoint, we may have been unnecessarily dismissive or offensive toward those who disagree with us.

Thanks for sharing.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 21 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Hello Ron....As you have explained so eloquently, the ego is a troublesome issue. It's surely one that we mortals can do battle with on a daily basis if not continually cautious.

However, when we are continually aware of the importance of tolerance and being kind to our fellow-man, it greatly lessens the strength of our ego.

I am reminded of the quote that warns us it is often better to remain silent and possibly appear ignorant, than to speak and remove all doubt. I'm not always willing to accept that most individuals are unaware their words can be terribly hurtful, as well as unnecessary.

Human beings believe what they believe because in their mind & heart, it IS their truth. Thus, the insistence of someone else who believes HIS truth is the only truth and everyone else is simply wrong, can and usually does result in building an impenetrable wall and create an angry defense. This would seem to be futile, wouldn't you agree?

I enjoy your writing style, Ronald and I especially appreciate the love of your fellow-man that accompanies all that you say. Thank you.

UP++++ tweeted. & pinned.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, fpherj48. You make a very important point: when we are convinced that our own beliefs are true, then by definition, people who disagree are wrong. So the test of tolerance is how we deal with people we honestly believe are wrong. To my mind, the kind of intolerance that degrades people who believe differently than we do is a direct manifestation of an out-of-bounds ego.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 20 months ago from USA

Wonderful hub! Self-confidence versus pride is a fine line and you provided some practical guidelines that all of us must review to examine our lives.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 20 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, American_Choices. It's certainly an issue we all need to be reminded about on a regular basis.

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