Sunday, July 06, 2008
There are not many words in the English language that I dislike more then this one; mostly because, I question its authenticity.
First, how is selfishness judged? I would suggest that we do so objectively. We look at a person’s acts, and if they seem to benefit only themselves in the face of others, we consider it selfish. That seems rather unfair to me. Does the object truly match what’s going on in the subject? I’m not convinced.
What about the things that we consider selfless, what are the natures of these acts? I suppose donating to charity would be considered selfless, or perhaps giving your time to another for a given reason, (this can come in many forms). Lets simply say selfless is the donating of yourself in one way shape or form to the benefit of someone or something else. I question what lies at the bottom of a self less act, for example:
One chooses to donate to charity – why? I can think of a couple reasons, 1.) it makes the person feel good, 2.) Social pressure, 3.) Moral obligation…..
If it makes you feel good to donate your time and money, how is that a selfless act? Are you not servicing your own desire to feel good inside and therefore being selfish? If you bow to social pressure are you not servicing that felt obligation in order to relieve whatever tension it causes internal, and again, is that not selfish? Many people LOVE nonprofit work, in many cases they feel good about themselves that they’re making a difference, again, selfish. Simply because someone is benefiting from your acts does not necessarily mean you aren’t servicing internal desires and pressures.
So we judge people by calling them selfish if they don’t happen to feel good about giving money and time. We say you’re selfish if you feel no need to relieve social obligations (perhaps some are more sensitive to social pressure then others, or perhaps they never learned to be sensitive to it – this doesn’t make one a bad person. The fact that one does not feel good is simply unfortunate, in the end we’re all equally selfish, and we all equally service our internal needs and emotions. One man is cheap, yet another man is giving, but I say they’re both equally selfish. As people however, we like the ones that benefit us the most, and that makes us selfish.
The bottom line, selfishness is a term we use to point out what we don’t like in other peoples actions. It’s judgmental, hypocritical and just plain wrong. Although “wrong” is another word I have a problem with.
A short anecdote from my kids:
My kids are no different then anyone else. When they’re playing with they’re toys they often times observe the other with something that they suddenly decide they want, so they take it. Immediately following this the other begins crying, so you step in and say share, and make them give the toy back for a short period of time. The funny thing is, the toy they took is often times one they just put down because they were bored with, or something they never play with anyway. I often wonder if what’s going on in they’re heads isn’t, “Hm, it looks like he’s really having fun with that, that must mean I can have fun with it too, I want it,” or perhaps, “He’s having fun with that, I’m going to ruin it.” Children don’t have that idea of social obligation, politeness, so on. They don’t have the burden of needing to service those needs, so they do what they please regardless of the crying sibling who just lost a toy – afterall, now they’re having a blast.