If you are someone who gets easily offended, I would suggest that you do not not read this post. It has some ideas and thoughts which you may find outright inhuman and insensitive. If you have an open mind and welcome new ideas, then read on
You are selfish. Yes!. That’s right. You are selfish!
Does that offend you? You can still close this window and carry on with your day. If you are still reading this, then it probably means that you are someone who is open-minded and I commend you for that.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time, but kept stopping myself as it’s not an idea which is easily understood by many. So I’m going to ask you to read through the whole post before you start analyzing it and passing your judgement. So here is my bold statement
Everyone in this world is selfish ! That includes You, Me and almost everyone else
Now the moment we hear the word selfish thrown at us, the reason many of us get offended is because of the feelings and emotions we associate with the word. No question that the whole notion of selfishness is devoid of positive connotation. Essentially, selfishness goes against our universal ethical grain. Defined principally as “thinking only of oneself” you get a huge amount of synonyms associated with the word–among other unfavorable possibilities–egocentric, egoistic, egotistical, mean, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking, and ungenerous. I want to urge you to drop these stereotypes for a moment and lets look at at some of the selfless acts we see across the society. We’ll start with the less controversial ones
Donations to Charity
One thing that I have never understood is why people need to advertise about the charity that they do. If you really want to do something for someone, just do it. What is the reason to post about it on Facebook, talk about it on your website and do all the marketing to demonstrate that you are a very generous person. I see so many instances where after having made a donation, people fight for their names to be published in the news or mentioned in public announcements. Isn’t this being done for selfish reasons so that the world out there appreciates the generous person you are. Where is the charity in this?
True charity is doing something for someone who will never find out
Another common act of selflessness is seen in the amount of volunteering work that is being done. Now, I fully agree that these are excellent gestures and acts of kindness. But let’s not term them as selfless acts. The reason is because while there may not be any material benefit from such volunteering work, most people would talk about this with their friends and let the world know about this. Again, my question is, if you feel like helping, why not just do it. What is the need to tell everyone about it. Are we trying to get a massage on our egos (even if it’s not intentional) to prove to the world how magnanimous we are?
Couples in Love
Very often we hear about how the husband or the wife or one partner in a relationship is selfless and does things for their partner. Let me not talk about others. I’ll give you my own example. Sometimes (and it’s very rare :-)), I will offer to take care of the kids so that my wife can go out and do what she wants to do. Would you consider me selfless?. I could see this as a selfish act where I as her husband want to see her happy and relaxed. Why? Because it gives me happiness to see her happy and when she is happy, we as a couple are happier. So am I not thinking about my happiness here? Does that make me selfish? Something to be thought about.
Ok. Now we get into some controversial topics. Do you think parents are selfless? Do we as parents do things for our children without expectations. We may want to believe so, but if you look closely, all of us have expectations from our children even if we don’t openly talk about it. We may not want our children to take care of us when we are old or pay for our expenses or anything material. However most of us would expect that our children treat us with respect. Many parents talk about the sacrifices they make so that they could help their children fulfill their dreams. I sometimes wonder what would happen if you did not make those sacrifices. The children would probably struggle to achieve their dreams or worst case not achieve them at all. So what? They become miserable and disappointed and may become unhappy. So what? We as parents cannot see this. For whatever biological, psychological, or physiological reasons, no parent can see their children in pain. So should we say that we make all the sacrifices so that we don’t have to experience the guilt or pain in the future? It may sound like an extreme way of looking at things. But it’s something which we may not be able to completely deny, that deep down this is probably the real reason.
We do things for only 2 reasons. To make a gain or move away from Pain
Do you think that the people who fight wars for their countries and lay down their lives are selfless? What they do definitely takes a lot of courage and can be considered as one of the highest forms of sacrifices (what more than laying down one’s own life for others?). However do they do it selflessly?
One thing is clear. They do not do it for any gain or benefit they see from it. For most of them know that there is a good chance they may not live to enjoy the benefits. This one is probably the most difficult to understand but what could be one reason is that, these people are driven by an intense and complex rush of emotions . The mere thought of being able to do something for your country, your fellow soldier, your family can be fuel enough to make you do great things. So one could argue that for that momentary period of time, even these men were selfish. Unfortunately we will never know what went through the minds of all those who laid down their lives.
If a selfless act is something from which the doer gets absolutely nothing at all (including a sense that they’re a good person, the absence of regret etc.) then there is obviously no such thing.
We all do things for 2 main reasons
- We stand to gain or want to avoid the pain.
- We like helping people (makes us feel good)
There is no such thing as being selfless. Everything is self-ish. There is no other way. Your thoughts and emotions are essentially from within you, so they are bound to be self-ish. Everyone is self-ish. The difference is the degree of intensity with which you operate. For example where do you think selfishness ends?. Does it end with only thinking about yourself, your family, your neighborhood, your town, your city, your country, the human kind, the world… The important thing to ask is if your self-ishness is restricted only to you as an individual or do you constantly let your self-ishness influence and benefit the other lives around you. Try and constantly expand your horizons of influence. Dont be stuck with words and semantics. Words can NEVER describe what we as humans feel and want to express. I urge you to be more SELF-ISH!
So. Do you think you are selfish?. Let me know what you think in the comments below.