Friday, November 02, 2012
Why are people so darn selfish? Seriously, I’m genuinely interested. I’ve been mulling the question over in my mind all week, and am hoping to get to the root, not so that I can change people. We all know that line of thinking will only lead to disappointment and failure. (After all, who enjoys being told, “You need to change”?) I’m interested in learning why we’re so selfish (oh, yes, I include myself in this) so that I’m not so upset when – inevitably – someone’s selfishness, you know, interrupts my own.
I started thinking about it this week when I was picking up gifts for yet another wedding or baby shower… ah, who knows? There have been so many this season that I’ve lost track. I’ve also lost nearly half of my life savings. I really envy men. Men don’t attend baby showers. Men don’t have to wade through piles of pink and blue outfits in teensy tiny sizes and try to navigate the perfect gift that shows they care, but doesn’t break the bank. Men attend stag parties. That’s it.
So I was looking at my anaemic bank account, thinking about how much I do for others, and I got to feeling a little bummed. I sure do a lot for my friends! I like to remember the things they love, and then do some of those things for them. I spend time helping them out. I step in where I know they need a hand.
But I know my friends do lots of great things for me too. There’s that time when… oh, no wait. Oh! There was that one time they threw me a party… no, that wasn’t for me either; that was for someone else. Uh… there has to be something!
And yes, there is. There are, in fact, plenty of times that people have done small and even great things for me. But the memory of all of those times quickly evaporates when I’m feeling slighted, which leads me to reason #1 why I believe people are selfish:
1) Our memory deceives us. I’ve forgotten that sweater my friend Jen bought for me because she knows my wardrobe is seriously lacking right now. I’ve forgotten that time when my roommate swept the entire house (but boy do I clearly remember each time he didn’t take the garbage out.) I remember how my friends take their tea, but could they remember how I take my coffee?
What I don’t realize is that they have their own way of being unselfish. It’s so easy for me to judge them based on the ways that I like to help them, but we’re all different. We are all at different stages in life. We all have different things pulling on us. We all have different resources available to us. We all have people we’re caring for in our own way. And, yes, sometimes, it’s all we can do to just take care of our own needs. That leads me to reason #2 why we’re so selfish:
2) We either really don’t have the resources or, at the very least, we think we don’t. Sadly, thinking we don’t have the resources is almost worse than really not having them. There are a lot of people living life from this viewpoint: no matter how much time, money and energy I have, it’s never enough. And I can’t share it, because then I’ll have even less.
Well, I’ve learned that there’s only one way to add time to your life: invest in other people. We all have the same 24 hours in the day. If I’m doing something that requires more time than I have, the only way I can get that thing done is by recruiting friends. The friends who are more inclined to help me are the ones who I’ve helped.
3) Some people have no interest in helping others. I have to remember that. We all have our choices and our beliefs. Not everyone sees the value in helping others. They haven’t learned that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and maybe haven’t experienced the joy of sharing their strength with someone else, or the relief of having someone with an expertise help them in an area where they are weak.
I’ve heard somewhere that it takes 10 good things to counteract 1 bad thing, meaning that we remember one good thing as much as we remember 10 bad. And if people are going around, feeling slighted all of the time, constantly bombarded by the real (and even the imaginary) snubs, then there are a ton of stressed-out, depressed, and subsequently selfish people in the world.
It makes me wonder how people keep a cool head at all. And it makes me remember that every single nice thing I do for someone else can really make a difference.
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The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory
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The Discipline of Weight Loss
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