Selfishness is defined in Webster's : an undue concern over personal profit or pleasure; lacking consideration for others. I think what I saw first hand this weekend was the second definition, the lack of caring and consideration for others' feelings.
I feel that when we interact with others, others that LOVE us, we actually carry their hearts in our hands, that we have to be mindful - always - that what we do will affect them. It's not out of an air of self-importance that I think this. It's not because I think I am so important in their lives that they must cow-tow or cater to me. It is because I believe, deeply, that we have a responsibility to each other - those in our lives that we have let inside our hearts - a deep responsibility to be careful and caring with our words and actions.
This weekend, two people that I love very much were very uncareful and uncaring in their actions and hurt a whole bunch of other people I love. This couple thought only of their own problems, their own words, their own selfish needs, and by making a choice to absent themselves from a family gathering, they hurt people. They caused a riff in our family. They caused pain and tears. They caused worry. Because they could only see their needs, they were neglectful in seeing how their actions affected others. This couple's lives could have been even richer had they fulfilled their responsibility to family and thought of a fine brother first. Instead, they chose not to. The operative word here is CHOSE.
A friend said at breakfast today that unselfishness comes with maturity. But I don't agree. I think a selfish person ALWAYS remains a selfish person, that something is missing in their DNA or their soul or their heart that enables them to see the other person first, to empathize, to recognize the way that they can make a life better, or ease someone else's pain. A selfish person even sees a kind deed as a reflection of themselves. ("I worked so hard for them. I did that just for her. I, I, I, I....")
Now don't get me wrong...I firmly believe there is a place in this world for selfishness, particularly when applied as self-preservation. We have to learn to say no to some things, if it would negatively affect us, even if saying yes would please someone else. We must learn to be selfish in the face of an abuser. We must think of ourselves first in terms of food, shelter, and employment. We must selfishly protect our spirits and souls and turn away from those that would steal that safety and security from us.
But when there is a clear choice:
1. suck it up for 24 hours, act like grownups and put your own problems aside to make others happy; or
2. abandon those who care for you, fail to even acknowledge their phone calls of concern and trade a family gathering for a trip to the ice cream store;
the choice must be the high road.
If you are very tired, and a son calls and asks for a ride to work? You give the ride to work.
If you have little money and someone needs gas or lunch funds? You share.
If a family member or friend is in need and you can help in any way? You help.
If someone calls and needs to share a difficult moment? You listen.
If there is ANY way you can put a smile on someone's face? You do it.
Why would you ever reject a chance to exhibit kindness? Being kind - the ultimate unselfish act - is not something left for whim. It is how you CHOOSE to live your life.
Most of the world has outgrown and matured beyond temper tantrums and screaming fits when when we don't get exactly what we want. But in some people, that childish selfishness has simply been replaced by a more subtle version of self-centeredness.
We see it in the pettiness of everyday behavior - cutting off another car to get a good parking spot, slipping ahead of others in line because we don't want to wait ourselves, taking the biggest piece for ourselves. The childish variety at least has the virtue of being obvious, as opposed to hidden beneath a veneer of nicety and decor. "I look great. I have a new car, a beautiful house, expensive things..'' is the motto, while the quality of life is so not linked to those possessions. No one's value is measured by the value of their things. Value only comes from the goodness of one's spirit.
My mother used to say "You reap what you sow." Plant seeds of selfishness, you end up with a bitter harvest.
Selfishness is like a worm, digging its way into a soul, killing off friends, family bonds and other relationships, so that - in the end - the selfish person ends up all alone. Mother Theresa said "One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”
That, I believe, is what happens to selfish people. In the end, that is what they are left with - only themselves in the mirror, a reflection of broken dreams, broken promises and broken hearts.