“Do some selfless service for people who are in need. Consider the whole picture, not just our little selves”. ~ Nina Hagen
I’ve been thinking a lot today about what it means to be “selfless”. So, as I did for my first blog, I headed to my trusty dusty dictionary to find the official definition which is as follows: having no concern for self. Okay, fair enough, but I’d argue that if this is what it really means there is no one on the planet who truly qualifies, nor should there be, as self interest is a qualifying requirement for membership in the human race. Additionally, that same self interest is innate in each of us because it fulfills an evolutionary purpose and is the very trait which fuels survival instinct. Even Mother Teresa herself possessed a certain degree of self interest as she dedicated her life to the pursuit of what I have often heard described as her selfless life’s work. Elements of self interest always enter into the equation as we carry out activities of our own volition, such as the selflessness that is required to make personal sacrifices for our children’s well being, or unpaid hours we devote to charity work, etc.
It occurs to me that while “selfless” may be a Utopian myth of epic proportions, the meaning behind it is very real, and comes down to a matter of degree and percentages. When we carry out so called selfless acts, it doesn’t always mean that we, ourselves, are particularly selfless. And here’s the big secret—THAT IS 100% OKAY! Individuals such as myself who have chosen to dedicate our lives to nonprofit work do so for a myriad of different reasons. And in the case of charity work, random acts of kindness, and all manner of seemingly self sacrificing behaviors displayed by people in this world, the truth is that, whether 100% selfless or 100% selfish, the end result is always the same, and can be just as beneficial to the world we live in.
Reality dictates that not one of us is 100% self-less or 100% self-ish, rather are some mixture of both, which is a completely separate matter from our actions. This is because our motivations for doing what we do are hidden—sometimes even from ourselves; more or less so depending upon how truly introspective we are. So, to chase worldly recognition for selflessness, is to chase illusion. We won’t always be recognized or thanked for true self sacrifice, and I think the degree to which we are okay with that is probably directly proportionate to how much mythical selflessness we actually possess. Mind you, this would be how okay we actually are with it, not the self effacing “Oh, it was nothing” wave of our hand within earshot of others. And it’s also wholly between ourselves and our Maker, that is, if our personal paradigm includes a Maker. If not, then it’s just between You and You…as lonely as I think that would be.
As for me, I will consider my life a 100% smashing success if my Maker turns to me and says, “Lisa, I see that you have been busy with the life I gave you. You were 50% selfless, but made effective use of your 50% selfishness to drive 25% of those selfless acts, that helped 75% of the earthly brothers and sisters I made sure crossed paths with you. You done good kid….Welcome Home!”
Until next time…