Selfishness and Selflessness
I was raised with the old-fashioned idea that others come first and that I come second, third, fourth or what ever it takes. This was the supreme ethic in which I was brought up. It was built into my family’s culture through the family business that my grandfather started in nineteen twenty-seven: Meyers Service Station. “Others matter more than you and that’s just the way it is, so get used to it” my mother used to say. This has caused me a great deal of grief over the years as I’ve tried to transcend and include it.
My many decades of working experience in service industries has taught me that it isn’t selfish to love yourself, care for yourself and enjoy yourself. In reality it’s a necessary act of survival and the basis for any selfless acts one feels called to engage. I embraced my family’s work ethic to a degree that I burned out four times over four decades of professional life. Each time I’d give selflessly until I dropped, take months off to recover then take on a more challenging job and do it again. What an crazy cycle.
The most recent push ended two years ago and I’m set to enter the fray again but this time I’m committed to doing it differently. As I’ve been reflecting on this conditioned pattern of behavior, I’m wondering if this so called selflessness is actually selfishness in disguise and if it is, it’s time to be consciously selfish so I can be more selfless. I know this sounds paradoxical and it is so let’s take a look at it and see if maybe you might be caught in the same web of psychic entanglement that I was.
Webster’s dictionary says that selflessness is having ‘no concern for yourself‘ and that selfishness is being ‘excessively or exclusively concerned with oneself.’ In looking at where I’ve been, I can see that my so called selflessness of having no concern for myself was in fact an excessive concern for myself. It was about proving myself, being enough, standing out so no one could put me down for being lazy and selfish. When I read Robert Ornstein’s quote I awakened to this dysfunctional psychic entanglement.
So much of the time we’re unconscious of our compulsions, motivations and culturally conditioned patterns of behavior that we just do what we do because. We don’t ask ourselves why and if we do ask we get the old fashioned answer; “just because.” How many times have you heard others or even yourself say this? It’s not an answer. It’s an excuse to be unconscious of what’s going on within, around and through you. When you take a look at your own selfishness and selflessness, what do you experience?
In our innate interconnectivity, selfishness and selflessness are ultimately bound together by the third energy of compassion which reconciles them one to the other. This creates an infinite cycle of giving and receiving love and care for oneself and others. This non duality is the natural order of creation. It’s part of the Generative Operating Design of the Whole; the original blessing of reciprocity for what’s essential to bring Life to Life. When we’re in harmony with this natural rhythm, we’re always creating in a unified field beyond the small selves through the unity of the One Self.
Our task is to ‘wake up’ to this balance and reciprocity, to throw off our culturally conditioned illusions of separateness and objectification, to co-create abundance for all thereby nurturing a well balanced and sustainable inner and outer environment for ourselves and the whole of creation. As we ‘wake up’ to this infinite flow of life, we realign ourselves with our One Self, the True Self that holds together all apparent opposites. It’s a movement from me to you to we to Thee; to knowing our sacred Unity.
- In this moment, wake up to your Inner Being. Move your attention to your Heart Space and feel the reconciling nature of compassion. Breathe from your heart and rest here allowing all opposition to dissipate. Relax and release any burden you’re carrying. Care for and comfort your many selves with the lovingkindness of your True Self. . .
- As you journey through your day, become aware of your selfishness and selflessness. When you do, add the third force of compassion and notice what happens. . .
- When faced with conflict take a deep breath and move to the compassion of your heart. Remain within this heart space as you go out. Bring the compassion with you as you go out. Become aware of how long you can remain within while going out. . .