Many years ago, I asked someone for help and the first thing they told me was that I was selfish. Well naturally, I wasn’t happy about that diagnosis and my response was “I’m not selfish, I would give you the shirt off my back!” This person didn’t argue with me about it, they just let that fact resonate and ruminate. Approximately two weeks later, I called them on the phone, looking for help with some terrible dilemma. They sat very quietly and patiently, listening while I rambled on and on incessantly about my tragic problem. When my insane rant finally came to an end, they simply said… “I’m doing alright today, thanks for asking!” and proceeded to hang up on me. This hit me like a wrecking ball! I could instantly see that they were right. Not only did I not care if they were dead or alive, but I fully expected everyone in the world, to drop whatever they might be busy doing at the time, because “I” had a problem. At that moment, I knew that selfishness was a major contributor to all of my problems.
The reason I couldn’t see my selfishness at first, was because there are two different types of selfishness. We have this greedy behavior like we see in a spoiled child who won’t share their toys… and that type of selfishness is obvious to everyone. But we also have this more subtle form of selfishness that we generally refer to as self-centeredness… and this form is not so obvious. So self-centeredness is when I think about myself too much. For example: I was in the checkout isle of a store with my girlfriend, and she sensed my discomfort… and when she asked what was wrong, I responded “I’m just uncomfortable around people” and then she said “Get over yourself!” Now, the way she said it lead me to believe that she thought that I was being arrogant and I didn’t really understand what she meant by it… but now I do. What she was saying was, do you really think that you are so important that these people are all looking at you? Once I understood the point she was trying to make, I had to agree, she was right. Those people have their own lives to live, their own stuff to deal with and worry about… they honestly couldn’t care less about me, but I was terrified, thinking that they were all looking at me, so I better not make a mistake like trip or drop something because then what will people think of me. That’s self-centeredness to the extreme and it renders me useless to everyone around me. I can’t help you, when all I’m thinking about is me.
I once read that we have two fears, fear of losing something we’ve already got… and fear of not getting something we really want. The fear of losing something, brings on that greedy, obvious form of selfishness; whereas, the fear of not getting something, is more likely to bring on that subtle selfishness… our self-centered thinking.
We live in an incredibly selfish world and we really can’t see that nearly everything we do is selfish, in some way, shape or form. I have many, many examples of selfishness based on my own experience and that’s what I will draw from to try to help people see their own selfishness. I was living with, and dating a girl that I was doing everything for… or at least I thought I was doing it for her. I was cooking and cleaning and paying the bills and taking care of her and her son… I was doing everything and felt as though I deserved the “Boyfriend of the year” award. Then one day, as I was explaining, to a friend, what a great guy I am (insert sarcastic eye roll here), he said “Are you sure you are doing it for her, or are you really doing it because you want something from her?” And yet again, he was right! I wasn’t doing it for her sake, I was doing it so I could strong arm her into treating me better. I was using it as leverage to get what I wanted, which made all of these seemingly selfless acts, incredibly selfish, in reality. Here is a great example, which will probably piss off at least half the world. I used to think that giving the federal government half of my paycheck, to take care of the less fortunate, was an extremely selfless act, but in reality, it is the epitome of selfishness. What I am really saying is that I am too lazy and selfish to get up off my ass and walk across the street to love my neighbor, so I will just give the government 38% of my paycheck and they can love my neighbor for me. Realistically, I am alleviating my own guilt. I would feel bad if I did nothing to help them, but I’m unwilling to help them the Right way, so this option is the incredibly wrong alternative.
COPYRIGHT © 2015 by Jeffrey S. Brown