Monday, December 3, 2012

Selfishness is a right - not a sin.



I was checking the stats on this blog, and it gives me the searched word or phrase that led someone to my site. One of these phrases struck me as interesting... and as a good topic to write about... "Selfishness is a right, not a sin"

Now, don't misunderstand me, I don't actually believe that phrase. But, I thought it was a good one, especially considering all the times I've mentioned selfishness as of late. We, as humans, by nature, are incredibly selfish, and I am no different - and perhaps worse in many ways.

Another phrase I heard was in regards to the definition of selfishness. It was a quote by Oscar Wilde -  "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." I found this quote to be interesting as well, especially considering it changes some actions one would otherwise consider as selfish to not be so. To me, selfishness is self-interest - it is quite simply to ignore the needs of others.

To address both definitions, let us consider Jack and Jill (yes, I realize, I'm not too creative - it is 11:30pm after all). Jack and Jill are very close friends and have been for several years. They have enjoyed Friday night drinks at the bar every week, and Sunday brunch. They've talked on the phone a few times a week (or day) for several years. But now, Jill has made the decision to leave - to move across the US. She met a guy, and found a job, and there were just many perks (in her mind) to make this move.

But, of course, Jack is not quite as excited about this decision. He's hurt and angry. He feels slighted. He doesn't believe Jill cares - after all, if she did, she wouldn't move away. And, he believes she is acting very selfishly. She isn't thinking about him, or her other friends and family, or anyone else that loves her. She's only thinking about herself and what she wants.. and of course, by definition, this must then mean that he is not something she wants.

And Jill of course will miss him and her other friends, but this move is something she is excited about, and a move that will be good for her. She knows it's time to move on.

So, who is being selfish here? If you go by the simple definition of self-interest - doing what you want without regard to anyone else... they are both being selfish: Jill, because she isn't considering Jack's feelings, and is instead chasing her dreams; and Jack, because he isn't considering her feelings - he wants her to stay for him.

Jack thinks Jill should live as he thinks she should; Jill thinks she should live as she wants to. By the Oscar Wilde quote, this would make Jack the only truly selfish one here.


So what does the Bible have to say about selfishness, and how can that be applied to our little scenario?

Philippians 2:4 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:21 - For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:24 - Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 John 3:17 - But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

The verses from Philippians would suggest that both Jack and Jill are guilty of selfishness - they are both seeking to fulfill their own interests.

1 Corinthians 10:24, and John 3:17 would both suggest it is Jill whom is the guilty party. She is seeking only her own good... not the needs of her friend.

But to me, the most important verse to consider is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 - Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Actually, it is simply... "Love... does not insist on its own way." Again, both of our characters are guilty to a degree of this, however, it is Jack whom is truly trying to push his way on Jill. 

So, we must cast aside our own desires, whether or not we believe the other person is also acting selfish. We must be the better person, and not allow selfishness to cloud our hearts. 

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