My friend was spinning, words tumbling out of her mouth like dice. “I was so worried. She wasn’t answering her phone and she wouldn’t respond to my texts, I knew that she was drinking too much so I went over there. Of course, she was deep in her vodka bottle. I know I can’t do anything about that so when she told me about how much the divorce was costing her and how much she needed money, I told her to sell the artwork on the walls. She doesn’t need a $50K painting. So, I called my art dealer friend for her….” On the surface she appears to be a concerned friend. But what’s under the surface? She was worried. She wanted to not be worried anymore. To assuage her own fear, she barged into her friend’s home and started selling the artwork off of the walls. And she told herself that she was trying to be helpful.
Selfishness is not helpful. And it’s sneaky. It hides behind justification and rationalization. It’s sometimes so huge that it creates its own shadow and you don’t even know that you’re being overshadowed. I remember the first time someone told me I was selfish. I honestly didn’t know what they meant. I was always helping other people. Didn’t I swoop down and pull Michael out of his apartment before he was evicted? Didn’t I take the blame for Bryan when he didn’t dry the fancy English silver before putting it away? Didn’t I pick up the check on Friday nights when we all went out for Mexican?
Sure, on the surface that stuff looks nice and all but in reality, I wanted Michael to come and live with me so I could make sure he didn’t drink himself to death. I wanted Bryan to like me and make sure I got the good catering gigs. I wanted all my friends to think I was rich. It all comes back to me and what I want.
Selfishness is the root of all of humanity’s troubles. It seems like a bold and sweeping statement but think about it: Selfishness is driven by fear. Fear that we won’t get what we want or fear we’ll lose what we have. The cloud of selfishness blocks out the Light. It’s nearly impossible to see anything or anyone else when we are in it. It promotes self-pity, blame, victimization. It equally encourages arrogance, pride, jealousy. It’s pervasive, friends, absolutely pervasive. And it’s a liar.
The next time you’re in conflict with someone, or yourself try this:
- Pay attention.
- What are you so upset over?
- What are you afraid of?
If you can honestly answer these questions, you may find that you aren’t getting what you want. And that is precisely what selfishness is, not getting what you want. In the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try … you’ll get what you need.
Just for Today
I’m going to watch out for selfishness. When it tries to overshadow my thoughts and my actions, I’ll ask God for a new thought. I’ll phone a friend and ask her about what’s going on with her. And listen.
God, there are so many times that I’m wrapped up in myself, my plans, my to do list, my thoughts, me my and mine. Help me to see what you want me to see, to hear what you want me to hear. Take away my selfishness and give me new thoughts. Thoughts of other people. Grant me the ability to practice compassion.
And so it is.