Sunday, July 25, 2010


"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself." ~ Albert Einstein

I have to be honest, I have two things I would rather be doing now besides writing this blog. The first is working on a short story for my writing workshop and the second thing is watching one of the three movies sitting on my coffee table. However it has been one of those days and I have decided that the best way to deal with that is through blogging about selflessness.

I am struck today with what it means to be selfless versus selfish. I will skip my usual dictionary search that I usually do to check my definition of blog topics and I am going to write on this topic inspired by a conversation I had with a friend (we will call him that for now) who was very close to my heart. This friend and I are having some serious communication issues . Over the past few years, I think I have gotten good at trying to see what role I play when communication issues arise. I know I sometimes jump to conclusions and I know I can have a temper so I do try and step back to see how I have contributed to the problem. In doing this with my friend, a common theme emerged. Friend does not think I am being understanding and I think friend is being selfish, very selfish. So that got me to thinking about what that exactly means.

Is it human nature for all of us to be a little selfish sometimes? I guess so. I know I can be but I think more often than not (at least I hope so), I tend to be selfless. I often care about other people's happiness before my own. I think though that many people tend to put their own needs and happiness above those of another. This brings up a bigger question. Is the person acting selfish bad? Does this even qualify as being selfish? Or are they taking care of themselves first which subsequently allows them to be more available for others? How do we find the balance?

I think oftentimes, it depends on the type of relationship we have with another person. I am not sure why that is exactly. I know with my mom, I tend to be the more selfish person in the relationship and she is the more selfless one. This woman would put my needs ahead of hers every single time, without question and without worrying about the ramifications for herself. As I am thinking about this, I was going to say that it is because she is my mom; therefore making her selfless. However then I realized that is not the case. She is like that with everyone. She is like that with the rest of her family/friends as well as her former patients, students, and coworkers. She automatically thinks of other people before herself.

Then there is my friend. In that relationship, I am the one in who is more selfless. That is not to say he is not a giving person because in many ways, he is. However I am finding that when push comes to shove and all the chips are down, I will look out for his best interests more than my own and he subsequently puts his best interests ahead of mine. Does that make me a better friend than him? Or does it just mean that I expect too much because someone is not acting in a way that I judge (and yes I can be judgemental as well) to be supportive and caring?

What it does bring us back to is balance. Some of us have times where we need to be more selfless and the people who are so selfless, may need to step back and remember to make themselves the priority at times. Hopefully in the process of finding this balance, we can keep in the back of our minds that despite whatever we are dealing with, there are people in our lives who may be struggling just as much. By living outside of ourselves, we can then experience a more harmonious and satisfying life.

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