One of the things that has been on my mind lately is selfishness and the effect it has on others. To be perfectly frank, almost everyone I know is selfish in one way or another, and it is not healthy for them, or for anyone they associate with. I am not saying that these people are not good, or that they are complete ego centrists; I am saying that everyone has at least one major aspect of their lives where the “universe” shifts and they become the center of it. At such times, it is a small wonder that the individual does not walk around with a neon sign over their head announcing to the general populace, “I am your center. Revolve around me!”
I am ashamed to admit there are times I fit too well in the description I just gave. When I am having a bad day, everyone is out to get ME. When I want something, and someone else gets it first, it is ME who has been wronged. When I have a chance to show off in some way, I take it because I want people to recognize ME. I am smart, funny, talented, right, etc., so why shouldn’t the universe revolve around ME?
Granted, most people do not even realize they create a “Me” universe around themselves. Part of this is because western culture, especially in the United States is very centered on individual sense of entitlement. Commercials are geared towards it. Some parents condition their kids to accept it as normal. The sad truth is, it has become normal. What we do not realize is that self esteem and ego centrism are not the same thing. Self esteem is a respect for self and personal attributes, and ego centrism is a sense of personal entitlement to whatever he/she wants or needs. Do you see the difference? True self esteem gives the individual confidence to act because they have an accurate understanding of who they are, and (here’s the important part) what they can contribute to the world around them. Ego centrism strips that power from the individual and leaves him/her in a position to be acted upon.
How do we shake off the self-inflicted chains of powerlessness associated with the selfish “Me” universe? It is a lot simpler… and also a lot harder than we think. I have two simple ways of putting it that were originally penned by people much better than me. The first is the Golden Rule. You know… that old adage that no one really talks about anymore? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In other words, if we don’t want people to cut us off in traffic, we should not do it either. if we want others to show common courtesy to us, we need to show common courtesy to them… even if we feel like they do not deserve it. More often than not, people are not intentionally rude, or unkind, or inconsiderate. They just live in a “Me” universe of their own, or they have problems just as bad or worse than ours. If nothing else, this powerful statement will help us gain better control of our lives and we will be less troubled by petty things that usually drag us down. Odds are, we will have a better day anyway if we have a kind disposition and a positive attitude towards other people.
The other comes from the New Testament. When the Savior was approached by the lawyers (allied with the Pharisees and Sadducees who were trying to find an excuse to defame and eliminate Jesus) and asked “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (In reference to the Law of Moses), he gave a beautifully simple answer that no one was expecting. The idea of the greatest law in the vast array of Godly mandates had been a subject of major debate for centuries up until that point. Who was right? Who was wrong? Whose ego would this “rabbi” boost, and whom would he offend? They all wanted to have their “Me” universe justified. Instead, Christ turned the tables outward from all of them. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (KJV Bible, Matthew 22:35-40) In other words, stop thinking about yourself, follow God, and pay more attention to what you can do for others.
I would like to amend what I said about having personal issues with selfishness. Trust me, I still have issues, BUT I am trying to be better. I guess you could say I am a work in progress. While I know I still have a long way to go before I am the picture of perfection in this or any other area of my life, I would like to extend an invitation to everyone who reads this to take a little time to think of others. Perhaps, in some small way, we can make a difference.