Few parents readily admit to acting on the motive of selfish ambition–sin deceives us, after all. Notice that Philippians 2:3 contrasts selfish ambition or rivalry with regarding others as more important or significant than yourself:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Parents, do you regard your teenagers as more important than yourself? Before you answer that, let me say that regarding your teenagers as being more important than yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you follow their wishes.
What does it mean? It means that you treat others, including your teenagers, with the respect that Scripture calls for. Your children are a trust, a blessing given to you by God. He calls upon you to live with them as he directs, not as you feel. So, following the example of the way God treats you, you are not to treat them as they deserve to be treated (Psalm 103:10). Instead, you listen intently and respectfully (Proverbs 18:13 &15), you say only things that are designed to benefit them (Ephesians 4:29), and you use pleasant words when you speak to them (Proverbs 16:20-24). Following these principles with your teenagers (or with anyone) is equivalent to considering them more important than yourself.
If you had a conversation with your teenager, and someone were to interview your teenager immediately after that conversation to hear his reaction to the conversation, what would he say? Would he say that you listened to him respectfully, wanting to fully understand him before you answered? Would she say that the words that you did speak were carefully chosen to show care for her and address her concerns? Would your teenager say that the words you used were pleasant and built them up? Perhaps someone is thinking, the only person I communicate that way is my boss! Really? Then you’re getting the point.
Paul is saying that this kind of talk shows that your hearer is more important than you are. You might be thinking that it would be nice if your teenager treated you this way! While that’s true, Matthew 7:12 applies here: if this is the way you would like to be treated, then this is how you should treat others.
When you don’t consider others, including your children, as more important than you, it reveals a spirit of selfishness, even an ambitious spirit, that says others exist to serve you. So many conflicts between parents and children end with each person thinking the other person cares only about his own selfish needs. These words in Philippians provide a practical and effective way to break this cycle. You can love your teenager by considering them to be more important than you. Have the courage to set the example.
Something to consider.