Does selfishness demean me?

Commentary by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

What do we believe selfishness is?

Maybe we associate it with uncharitable deeds, with greed, with miserliness…

These are just a few superficial aspects of something that goes much deeper.

Although selfishness can be seen as a natural tendency that impels us to do whatever we can in order to ensure our survival; that is not the point that interests us here.
When this natural impulse is transformed into something that becomes the centre of our lives then we are in a different situation.

In that case, I do, judge, censure, relate etc., based on my personal well-being. Although it is hard to believe; that is how it is.

When everything revolves around my well-being and security, by implication, I want everything to adapt itself to me. I will fight, in every sphere, so that this happens and this will lead me to adopt attitudes or forms of behaviour towards others that are not very generous, or not generous at all. I will give you something, if you give me something. If I concede, then you will too. No sharing or lying. I will think badly of others and very well of myself. Intolerance. Demands on others.

Relationships for a return.

It may be that after reading the above you are imagining some horrible person. However, we all do these things, although we manage to control ourselves quite well, so that we do not appear that way, even to ourselves. Curious.

What makes this selfish attitude break out?

Fear.

We are animals that fear what may happen, and in case something goes wrong, we are constantly trying to guarantee our own safety. Fear makes us selfish: I, my, me, with me. Consider how many times you use those words. This is not so that we feel guilty. No. But it is a fundamental question to enable us to escape from the confusion in which we live, because selfishness is as bad for the person who is selfish as for the person who suffers it. It isolates us from everything, from people and nature.

The way to start dropping this attitude is to observe how it manifests itself in me and what feeds it. That is not easy, because selfishness is not a very admirable trait, so we exclude it from our list of personal qualities. Few people will say that they are selfish, because nobody wants to feel singled out for something “ugly”. You need to be prepared not to censure yourself because of what you find, because if you do, we will only see the justifications that mask it. You need to approach it with great kindness and curiosity, because otherwise you will not see anything. Selfishness for us is like water for a fish, it does not see it. It lives in it, and from it, but it does not see it. So you need to stay very quiet and observe and you can be sure that it will become visible when you are able to stop censuring yourself.

It is worth trying, you will experience great surprise and happiness when you discover it.

And remember: no censure.

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