Selfishness

selfish
[sel-fish]
adjective
1) Devoted to, or caring for, only oneself
2) Concerned primarily with one’s own interests

Several times in recent weeks I have listened to people discuss the selfishness of others. I even got dragged into the age old debate about selfless acts (Is there such a thing? Is everything we do done for a self-interested reason deep down?).

I have found people happy to admit that they are often selfish, and people who tell me they rarely are. I belong to the latter group, I believe; there are times that my actions benefit only myself, but I think this is rare. I like to please others, be they family, friend or lover. I get satisfaction from making others happy, from making lives a little bit easier when I can. My great debater says, “See! That makes it selfish; you might go out of your way to do something for someone, but you are doing it primarily because it makes you feel good. You get your own sense of well-being, which spurs you on better than anything else.”

When my Dad books a day off work to look after my children so that I can get away for a day or so… surely that is a selfless act? I’m sure he gets something out of it, some time with his grandchildren, the knowledge that he has given me some much needed space but, surely, this is more for me than him?
When a friend drives down to see me because he has been told that I am unhappy… is it selfish? In all likelihood there are some selfish thoughts going on; he likes to be the one to comfort me, he likes me close to him. However, is he caring only for himself? I think not.

My debater, I have to agree to differ. I don’t think it is selfish to carry out an act that will give you a small amount of pleasure, if you are giving something much bigger to someone else. A selfish act is one which serves only you, and doesn’t take into account the feelings of others.

Some of us do as we please on a daily basis and never once think about how our actions will affect others, and I find this shocking. Is it so hard to put yourself in the place of another? Is it not wrong to ignore the consequences of things you put in motion? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is no place in this world for selfishness. My mother told me a long time ago, “If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will,” and I happen to agree. There are times when everyone has to think of themselves, for reasons of self-preservation. But wouldn’t the world be a sad place to live if we all lived that way as the norm…

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