Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash

I was on a plane last week. Two planes, actually. The first trip was eight hours, then a two-hour layover, then another two hours home to Chicago.

Long day.

By the time we got to our second flight, we were tired, sore, greasy, and just ready to be home. Our connecting airport was a crowded, chaotic mess, so we were feeling the stress of travel quite keenly by this time, and we were anxious to get to our seats.

In an exit row.

Ahhhhh, the lovely, lounge-y luxury of the exit row. I couldn’t wait to settle into my seat and relax for the remaining two hours of a very long day.

When we arrived at our row, the gentleman next to the window was already there—settled in with headphones over his ears and a newspaper in his lap. How could he be so settled already? I wondered. We had been some of the first people allowed on the plane, but he had obviously gotten there long before we did.

I squeezed into the middle seat as my husband took the aisle, and I very quickly realized that Mr. Me First had already claimed the arm rest.

Now, everyone who travels frequently knows that the person in the middle seat has dibs on both arm rests since, obviously, the people in the window and aisle seats have better seats, therefore they relinquish the one, small benefit of two arm rests to the person suffering in the middle seat.

[Are you with me here? Please tell me I’m not crazy. My husband has never heard this rule before, and he thinks I’m nuts.]

I tried the subtle “just-going-to-put-my-arm-here-on-the-armrest” move, hoping he’d get the clue, but Mr. Me First pushed back, solidly leaving his arm on the armrest. For the entire two hour flight this guy refused to budge, even though he knew I was cramped and not happy.

When we finally pulled up to the gate, before I even knew it, Mr. Me First had unbuckled his seat belt, climbed in front of both me and my husband, grabbed his bag and hustled a few rows ahead.

He was obviously Very Important and had Places to Be.

The whole ordeal left a really bad taste in my mouth. In fact, everyone around us on the plane looked aghast at this man’s behavior.

Not cool, Mr. Me First.

I got to thinking . . . who taught him that pushing ahead of everyone else was OK? When he was young, did his parents just let him have his way all the time or did they just give up trying to make him act like a respectful human being?

I also thought about our society today and how, really, more and more people are pushing ahead with little thought to the people around them, wanting to be first in all things. How many times have you been cut in line lately? How many times have you heard people shouting to be heard? How many times have you seen people speeding ahead on the highway to the point of being dangerous?

And I thought about parents of young kids and how hard it is to raise respectful kids today, but also how it’s really up to them to put a stop to this Me First trend.

This post is for you, moms and dads, because if we’re going to make a difference in our culture, we’ve got to start teaching our kids to have a You First attitude, rather than a Me First outlook.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since that awful plane flight and realizing that I’m just as guilty as Mr. Me First about certain things. But I’m on the lookout for this behavior in myself and trying to learn to say “You first” more often.

Think of the difference it could make in our world if our kids became people who said, “You first.”

You go ahead of me because your time is more important than mine.

You take that last piece of cake because your satisfaction is more important than mine.

You can have the better seat because your comfort is more important than mine. 

The examples could go on and on, but the idea is that having a You First mindset could be the very thing that someone notices and begins to see a difference in our kids. It could be the very thing that helps shine the light of Jesus into this dark world.

A You First attitude is, after all, an example of the gospel:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Phil. 2:5-7 (NIV)

Moms, Dads, won’t you start this week by helping your kids to have a You First attitude at home? Help your child practice putting others first, thinking of themselves less, by saying, “You go first.”

And maybe, just maybe, we could start a movement. #youfirst


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My book, First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kregel.com. Check it out!