It shouldn’t be a secret or a surprise that Christians are called to love (John 13:35). This kind of love—the kind that Jesus showed towards us and asked us to show towards others—is not about flowers, chocolates, jewelry or sappy songs. It’s not about sentimental symbols, but personal sacrifice. At the idea of personal sacrifice, most of us take pause. We may fear that if we don’t listen to the world and look out for our own interests that we’ll be doomed to a miserable life. We’ll become doormats. We’ll be perpetually taken advantage of and constantly come in second place.

Jesus addresses these fears and corrects our thinking. He told his disciples, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:24).” If we try to white-knuckle onto our own desires and preferences, we’ll actually lose what we desire most. Instead, by giving away our life and sacrificing to love others to help draw them closer to God, we’ll gain true life, as Jesus promises.

Even knowing this truth, personal sacrifice to love others doesn’t come naturally. We have to work to fight our own self-centeredness to become more other-centered. Here are three questions that can help you learn how to love others well:

1 // Ask God, “Will you change my heart?”

Attempting to love others by only addressing external behaviors can often end in bitterness and resentment towards those you’re trying to serve. We must be changed from the inside out. Earnestly pray that God will change your heart to become more others focused. Most of us will need to pray this each day as we fight our natural tendency towards selfishness. In time, the Holy Spirit will to change our heart as we offer God this prayer and begin to engage practices of service.

2 // Ask others, “What do you need?”

We know that assuming isn’t a great idea, so it’s important to ask others what they actually need. Otherwise, we may think we’re doing something nice for someone else, but actually missing the point. Once we know what someone else needs, our next step is really simple: figuring out how we can help. We may not be able to meet every need we discover, but by asking we’re expressing care and concern for others and learning how we can best serve those around us.

3 // Ask yourself, “Who does this benefit?”

If self-centeredness is remarkably good at disguising itself as something else, we need to consistently ask ourselves if what we’re doing is covertly furthering our own selfish desires. Are you serving your wife in hopes that she does something nice in return? Are you serving your neighbors so that others will notice and praise you for it? Are you sacrificing your own preferences only to make others feel indebted to you? These aren’t fun questions to ask, but we must dig deeply into our intentions to make sure we’re motivated by a genuine love for God and a love for others if we want to fight our self-centeredness.

As we live lives motivated by love instead of selfishness, the world will notice. We don’t love so that we will be noticed and praised, but so that our God will be recognized for his goodness and his desire to reconcile the world to himself.