Been thinking a lot about the word "selfish" lately. Mostly because it appears that we have been taught that it's a bad thing. From the time we're little kids, we are told we must share. We must put others first. "Tis better to give than receive". So it got me to thinking about the view from "outside". Here's what I mean:
Let's say you're going about your business, doing what you do, being who you are. You make it a habit to help people when you can, doing whatever it is for the sheer joy of helping. No agenda. No ulterior motives. Just being "nice". It's who you are. It's how you are. It's not really anything you give a lot of thought; just "being" the you that is you. Then one day, someone calls you up and asks for a "favor". Maybe they want to borrow your truck or drop their kids off for the day or come over to your house and use your swimming pool so they can have a huge party. Problem is, you don't much feel like doing whatever it is they've asked you to do. You don't like anyone else driving your truck. Or you're not in the mood for a bunch of noisy kids screaming through your house for the next 8 hours. Or you're just not into having a bunch of strangers coming over to your house, whoopin' it up and making a mess. So you say, "No."
Next thing you know, they're calling you selfish. They're reading you the riot act for not obliging their request. They call you all sorts of other things (on top of the selfish bitch that you are) and hang up the phone, swearing to never speak to you again.
As you drop the phone and hear the echo of their words in your head, you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach and begin to question whether or not their accusations are true. You feel the pain of their wrath and wonder if maybe you are being selfish. You second-guess your very nature, all because you said "no" to someone who has over-stepped some boundaries. In short, you feel like shit for having said no.
Now I want to offer this up because it seems to me that few people ever get past the feeling like shit part. And maybe it's because of that whole "don't be selfish" thing. What if...when someone calls you selfish what they're really saying is, "How DARE you not put me first! How DARE you think of yourself and your needs before mine. How DARE YOU!"
Because from where I sit, that is precisely what is going on. When people call you selfish, what they mean is that you have no right to put your needs and desires before theirs. If you weren't so selfish, you'd want them to be happy. You'd want them to have what they want, no matter the cost to yourself. See what I mean?
I suppose the folks who have the hardest time with this whole selfish thing are the ones who are utterly selfLESS. The ones who go out of their way to do, do, do for everyone but themselves. And the moment that someone calls them selfish, they are so astonished they can't even breath. It's a sad and common thing. But it happens. Too much. To many fine people. And the worst thing of all is that they think they are being selfish, just because somebody said so. Very sad indeed.
The last time someone called me selfish, I laughed and said, "Yep. You're right. I AM. And guess what? I don't really care what you think anyway. Because if you weren't being so selfish, you'd see that your accusation is all about YOU, not me. Your judgment of me is utterly irrelevant."
Stopped 'em dead in their tracks. And even though it didn't mend any fences, they were fences I didn't want mended in the first place. I have no room nor any desire to have such people in my world. Am I selfish? Yes I am. Sometimes. And I don't think there's a reason in the world to have to justify my choices to anyone. I do plenty of stuff for other people. I do it because I want to, not because I am obliged. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who wants to point their finger at me and judge can just go stand in the mirror for a minute and see who the jury is. I'm not having any of it. Judge if you wish. But I'm not obligated to honor your decision. The only judgement that matters to me is MINE.