Being selfless is a confusing thing to do.
Whenever I try to think of what it would really look like to be truly selfless, I imagine giving away all my possessions including all of my money, food, and even the clothes of my back to anyone who asked for it until the day that I finally had nothing left to give and soon died from starvation.
Not exactly what I would call living the dream.
But then I really thought about it and I realized something.
If everyone in the world just decided to give everything away and save nothing for themselves, no one would have anything and everyone would starve.
If giving away all your stuff was all that it meant to be a selfless person, selflessness would be tantamount to suicide.
And that can’t be right.
Therefore, there must be more to selflessness than the reckless sacrifice of one’s time and resources and, fortunately, I believe I understand what it is.
To be selfless the right way, you have to be a little selfish.
*gasp* (not really, you probably already knew that but anyway…)
That’s right, to be selfless the right way you have to be able to balance your needs with the needs of others.
But what is that balance?
Well, that question might seem simple but before we can balance anything we first have to address what specific conflicting elements there are within a given system that require balancing in the first place.
We can accomplish this with a bit of simple reasoning.
First, we establish the truth that life is nothing more than an infinite set of decisions.
From deciding what career we will pursue to what we will eat for dinner on any given day to the choice of whether or not to read another word on the screen you’re looking at right now, we can agree that life as a human being can be expressed as simply making one decision after another on a seemingly endless continuum.
In this infinite recursion of one decision after another, there are only two types of decisions that we could ever make.
We can make decisions reactively meaning in response to a situation rather than controlling it (“I’m hungry, I’ll go get food”) or proactively meaning for the sake of itself rather in response to a situation (“I’ll go get food before I get hungry”).
When we say we want to be selfless people, what we really mean is that we want a majority of the reactive and proactive decisions that we make on a daily basis to be made selflessly or, in more specific terms, to concern themselves primarily with needs/wishes of others rather than our own needs/wishes.
From this viewpoint, we can see that there are two main conflicts that arise when we attempt to be selfless individuals.
The first conflict comes with trying to be selfless when it comes to reactive decisions which can best be explained as the value of our survival as individuals versus the value of the well-being of our community.
The second conflict comes with trying to be selfless when it comes to proactive decisions which can best be explained as the value of our appetites versus the value of our relationships.
These two conflicts are alike they draw attention to the reality that when we attempt to be selfless, we inadvertently compare the apparent ‘goodness’ that our action will create to the obvious ‘badness’ that we will have to endure despite our good intentions.
We compare the pros of being selfish against the cons of being selfless.
If many of us were to see a hitch-hiker along an interstate road asking anyone passing for a ride to an unknown location, many of us would, understandably, make the reactive decision to keep driving possibly out of the genuine concern of own well being.
If many of us were asked to decide between spending a weekend with a long-lost relative in some far unknown place or with close friends at a concert or a movie marathon event, most of us would, again understandably, make thee proactive decision to be with our trusted friends rather than someone we don’t know.
Sometimes in life, we will choose our own well-being over the well-being of others just as we will choose our own satisfaction over the well-being of others.
And do you know what, that’s okay.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Just as you would want someone you loved and cared about to be safe while taking a long trip, you yourself should want to keep yourself safe and be cautious about picking up hitch-hikers on the road.
Just as you would want a friend to feel happy and safe on any given weekend, you yourself shouldn’t feel ashamed to want to spend time with people who love and care about you more than want to spend time with a complete stranger.
The balance of being selfless is twofold.
First, in the quick reactive decisions that you make in response to everyday life, take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
Be suspicious yet understanding, be frugal and compassionate, be safe secure yet brave and fearless.
Be kind to yourself, yet when you see that someone needs help and you have the means to do something about it and you’re in a position to do something, be your worst enemy if you need to and do what needs to be done to get them to a better place in life.
Try to be a better you than you were yesterday so that when someone comes to you for help, even if you don’t know them, you will be strong enough and capable enough to give them everything they need to persevere.
Finally, when you’re proactively deciding what you want to do in the future, short term or long term, make an effort to spontaneously love others just as you love yourself.
Every so often, don’t be afraid to show the friend and family who have loved you and been there for you all throughout your life how much you appreciate them.
Focus on the good in people and make a consistent effort to look past the wrongs that they may have done you in the past.
Make a conscious decision to do your work with excellence, commitment, and intuition so that your home will be secure, your food will be provided, and your life will be well established without you even trying.
Love others as God loves you.
Love yourself as God loves you.
Do these things with intent and dedication and one day, all of a sudden, living selflessly, just becomes loving helplessly.
This is 30 Days of Growth: Day 2
Thanks for Reading!