“We learn the inner secret of happiness when we learn to direct our inner drives, our interest and our attention to something besides ourselves.”
Ethel Percy Andrus

How common is selflessness in our culture today? Have we become a society where the “me” first mentality reins supreme? How many people out there can honestly say they put others needs before there own? I would imagine the percentage is rather small, but then again I have very little faith in our current humanity. I know there are many wealthy Americans who do great deeds of charity, giving away millions of dollars to various organizations, but are they doing this because they are putting others before themselves or are they doing these things for tax breaks, self-image, or some other form of self-interests. I know like our country I struggle with the disease of selfishness. When I slack on studying the Tao Te Ching, I tend to lose my center and allow ego and selfishness back to the forefront of my conscience. The days I am able to live by putting others before myself, tend to be my greatest Tao moments. I have learned so much from the Tao thus far, but I have a hard time living the lessons on a daily basis. I would love nothing more than to rid myself of my most embarrassing character flaws, but this has proven to be a hard habit to break.

Ever since I started writing I have directed my inner drive on achieving my writing goals; neglecting my other responsibilities. There was a time when I would get home from work and do nothing but write until it was time for me to go to bed. Naturally this produced friction in my marriage and my ability to be a good father. My interests and attention was focused in a selfish manner, and my happiness was greatly impacted. Once I started to let this desire go I noticed a greater sense of happiness inside of myself as well as my family. I also noticed how much my happiness was affected by this simple change. Now this could be because my selfish focus on my writing was causing so many arguments, and now they were not, or it could be because of how I felt about myself knowing I was putting others before me. I know my wife and kids are happy I made this transition. Yes there are days where all I want to do is write, but if I only do this once every other week or so then I am met with love and understanding from my family. The question I need to answer is finding balance. When I do not work at home my writing suffers, but when I do get sucked into writing I can’t seem to find a happy balance.

There are some aspects of my life where I need to be selfish and that is in managing my mental health. For many years I felt guilty for shutting down and tuning out when I finally hit a mental wall. I have since talked to my therapist and she reassured me that being selfish when managing your MI is actually a good thing. I can only go so long before my mind and body begin to deteriorate. I for the most part have been good at recognizing my symptoms prior to just completely breaking down. When I recognize this I immediately need a few days to shut down and recharge. I need to have little to none negative or hyper stimulation, and I either need to cuddle on the couch and watch television or play Madden. My therapists praised me for being able to identify my current state and know what I need to correct this. My wife is understanding of this and accommodates me well. My problem is I will turn a weekend or evening of recharging into two-weeks of laziness. I have transformed productive selfishness into damaging and negative selfishness.

I work everyday at trying to put others before myself. I am a bit frustrated with my progress to this point. I began studying the Tao Te Ching ten months ago. It has taken me this long to get through twenty-five verses. I feel like I should still be on the first verse. Should I really move on to the next if I have not yet mastered the lessoned learned from each verse. The first verse talks about turning desiring into allowing. The verse says to sit back relax, and stop trying so hard to achieve something, instead just allow it to happen. Although this verse does not directly mention selflessness it is perfect for my selfishness because in times I want to get something done, it is all I think about and I become irritated when something stands in my way. The third verse builds on this concept and says it much better “practice not doing. When action is pure and selfless, everything settles into its own perfect place.” Now if I could just live this everyday I would be golden. 

“The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live.”
Ethel Percy Andrus

Our country is founded and thrives on capitalism, where greed and selfishness are the building blocks. Imagine a world where every citizen inhabiting our planet stopped with the “me” first mentality and instead lived to serve their fellow man. There would be no war, poverty, violence, starvation among many other things. We would live in a world where the rich would shelter the poor, instead of stepping on top of them. Sick adults and children would receive life altering medical care, not because they have insurance but because it is the right thing to do. If every one of us took the very first step towards thinking of others in time we would live in a much better world, but who am I to talk. If I cannot cure the disease of selfishness in my own life how can I ask others to change theirs?

  1. renxkyoko says:

    To be totally selfless is so hard, so very hard.

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      Welcome toi the community.
      I hope one day to achieve this mind thinking. I have grown up with a defense mechinism of always looking out for yourself to survive. Living lessons such as this takes years to reverse

  2. hainesmorgan says:

    I have been having similar thoughts/feelings as of late myself. And you’re right, in a society that is completely ruled by capitalism, how do we possibly act only in a selfLESS manner? And who will look out for you if you are not looking out for yourself? And if you are looking out for yourself, does that equate to selfishness?

    This is the vicious cycle of thoughts that pollute my head…

  3. Johanna says:

    I have also tried to do things that I enjoy and have ended up sacrificing family time. I finally realized that there is a time for everything in life and my time now is to raise/be present for my kids. I figure when they leave, I’ll have more time to spend on things that I want to do.

    Also, concerning the Tao, I think each time you read a particular verse, depending on the day and the time of your life, it may have a completely different meaning for you. It is a never ending process. You can’t just read it and be done. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading it over and over for many years to come. No hurry.

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      I fel a sense of urgency to become this perfect person. I have spent 31 years being the opposite of great. I just get so frustrated when I cannot impliment these lessons. I feel bad when there are times I would rather be doing personal things instead of doing family time. It is almost as if I need it, but I shouldnt take it. I know one day I am going to open my eyes and poof my children will be gone. I can see it all ready. I know this yet there are times I still choose to be selfish.

  4. Johanna says:

    Me too.

  5. Maybe instead of focusing on the word “balance,” you could focus on the word, “harmony.” Try to harmonize each moment with what’s going on inside of you with what’s going on in the world around you.

    (Ya see, the problem with “balance” is that we too often see it in terms of 50% this and 50% that.)

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      Harmony is an elusive concept I have been failing at achieving. It sounds so wonderful and peaceful but I can’t seem to obtain it! I feel like I am falling into pieces and I am running out of the glue that holds me together.

      • renxkyoko says:

        The fact that you’re thinking this way means you’re aware and even in control. The rest of us aren’t.

      • Tim Lundmark says:

        I am aware but not always in control. I slip into selfishness way to easy. To me it is second nature. I trace back my need to be selfish to when I was a child. The things that happened to me caused me to realize I need to think of me first in order to survive.

  6. Ross says:

    Jesus Christ is the only One who will truely allow us to live selflessly. He did it. He will be the only One to ever perfect it. We will waist our time, as many of you have said, trying to live up to some quote someone said that seems as if we can be just like that, that all will be fabulous. Not true. Neither is it true even living for Jesus. His Holy Spirit alone can draw us to repentance. Many have tried to be like Jesus, and have desperately failed in embarrassment, because no one can be like Him. But yet we try other resources and challenges and focus on other things ppl say and do our best to apply it to our lives. Why? Because WE are selfish. Its about me, myself, and I right? Even reading the Bible, I think about how to apply those truths to my life even though it only comes by trusting Christ for His wisdom. Anything apart from Christ is blasphemy. Yes, ANYTHING. I’m not claiming to be better than anyone by no means. But I do know Christ and His power is real beyond measure and beyond anything I could think or imagine. He only can heal our disease!

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