Is it bad to be selfish?
I invited you to consider this crucial idea of selfishness a bit deeper with me.
Most of us in the good ole US-of-fuckyeah-A! grow up with the idea that selfishness is bad. We’ve all got childhood memories of ourselves or another kid being “selfish,” not sharing his or her toys or candy or whatever, right?
Let’s take that example to illustrate an important point–so important that it may affect the rest of your life forever, so hang in here with me for a moment.
Charlie’s being “selfish.” He won’t share his candy with his little friends. Charlie’s mom says, “Now, Charlie, dear, don’t be selfish; share your goddam candy with your snotty little friends.”
She’s a sailor, that’s how she talks, she can’t help it. –(credit old-school Daniel Tosh)
Charlie reluctantly shares his candy with his friends, who gladly gobble it up with glib glee.
Charlie feels sad about losing some of his candy to his friends, but glad that he did the “right thing” and made his mommy happy.
Now, was Charlie really being “selfish” or was he being short-sighted?
PS: This is the distinction that can change your whole life if you let it.
If Charlie was thinking in a long-term way, putting his relationships with his little friends first, valuing the joy found in kindness and generosity as well as the INVESTMENT of sharing yum yums with friends and the subsequent mutual deepening of shared pleasure and soul-deepening, ecstatic sugar highs–well, say that investment paid off and his friends stuck with him for life and shared tons of candy and good times back with him. Well, then he’d actually be WAY MORE SELFISH! Ya see what I mean?
If Charlie were to trade the short-sighted value of immediate gratification of having 5 lollipops all to himself, and instead invest 4 of those lollipops into growing beautiful friendships, well, which decision benefits Charlie more in the long-run?
Sure, who knows if the kids would really appreciate the kindness and return his generosity in the form of multi-colored popsicles and video-game sharing later on in life or not? Who knows. Of course, there are millions of ways this example could go, but for the sake of illustrating the point, let’s try to believe the best about this screaming, sticky-fingered group of 6-year olds just for one second.
Let’s say Charlie does start thinking long term, consistently, and over his lifetime makes many long-term decisions, delaying short-term gratification for a long-term investment/return outcome.
Charlie’s probably going to be relatively more successful than he would have been had he taken the “selfish” (short-sighted) path more often.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?
We often use words that mean one thing while we mean another thing. Whether this is from deliberate laziness or a blind lack of awareness or both is another subject, but this particular obfuscation of meaning is so prevalent in our society, it really irks me!
See, the more we value integrity, the more we tend to value the precision of our language and the congruence between our words and our meaning. We want our words to optimally match our meaning, right?
Sometimes we’re going to fuck it up regardless. And that’s ok. We all do it.
But for god’s sake, let’s consider this idea of selfishness, and stop saying “selfish” when we mean “short-sighted.”
After all, is selfishness bad?
Well, when Charlie took what I’ve called the “long-term” strategy in life, his life actually turned out to be way better in the long run, remember?
So which action was more selfish? Sharing the lollipops or investing in his friendships?
Is selfishness bad?
Many people point to the popular story of Jesus sacrificing himself on a cross as the most “unselfish act in the world” or something to that affect.
But, according to the story, didn’t Jesus want to die on the cross? According to the stories, it was hard for him, and it seemed like he had some resistance come up for him (like when he “sweated blood in the garden of Gatshmenim.”) But the bottom line was that he felt it was his mission (from God Himself) to die on the cross. That was his goal. That was what he ultimately wanted to do. Right?
So was he being selfish or not?
You see, “selfishness” has gotten a bad rap for too long.
It’s just different than society makes it seem.
SPOILER ALERT: When we make it seem wrong to be selfish, we’re making it seem wrong to be alive.
Because to live is to be selfish.
And if you’re anything like me at all, you want to live your 100% best possible life, right!?
Yes!!! I know you do!!!
So let’s drop these fucking pretenses already, and get selfish FOR REAL. Let’s start thinking long-term instead of short-term.
Let’s realize that when most people use the word “selfish,” they really mean “short-sighted.”
And we should judge them harshly for that.
So, let’s be long-sighted, y’all. Let’s be so fucking selfish (in the long term) that the contribution that we can make to others becomes so profound, so life-changing and unstoppable. Let’s be selfish about our mission in life, about creating abundance for ourselves and others through mutually beneficial exchanges whether money is involved or not! Let’s be selfish about our service to the best lives for ourselves and for everyone we’re surrounded with.
Let’s be selfish in the long-run.
After all, we’ve only got forever together.