Is There A Difference Between Selfishness and Self Interest? . . .Surprise!

I wonder sometimes if we, as a civilization, are becoming more of what we expected from each other or are we becoming more self-interested? And if it’s about paying more attention to self-interest is that a bad thing? What are the differences between selfishness and self-interest anyway?

Remember when we were kids our parents and grand-parents would tell us not to “brag”-that wasn’t nice to talk about yourself. Our churches preached on giving all we have to others first and not to pursue wealth as a goal. In my day to day work with other people I often deal with those who are conflicted by the use of alcohol or drugs or perhaps it’s a gambling addiction or a shopping addiction. Many folks present with sex addictions or being addicted to the Internet. Are all addictions simply about being selfish or can they be about putting their self-interests at the top of their list of what they believe is in their best interests? Who really knows why people use “stuff” until they realize they can’t live without it? One thing, it seems for sure, is that the line between selfishness and seeking self interests is fine at best and often blurred. Many struggle with trying to determine which is which.

When we watch today’s parents struggling with this dilemma in terms of what to tell or say to their kids it is somewhat easier to understand the behaviour of many of our kids today. They have not received a clear message regarding which is which and so they just do what feels right at the time with not a great deal of consistency. I often wonder if our struggles with bullying aren’t a by-product of the lack of an unclear explanation of which is which. Our schools say it is wrong to bully others but do they present a clear explanation of “why” it’s wrong? Perhaps the bully’s argument would be that when they are holding power over someone else that is the only time that they feel good about themselves. How do we counter that logic?

There are many instances when we have justifiably made a decision to react or respond to something or someone in a way that would suggest we put our own best interests and desires ahead of others. I remember a time when I had a chance to attend a function at the last moment and it was something that I really wanted to attend but I had told someone that I would do something with them. I chose to offer a bit of “untruth”and attended the function instead. We pass these times off as telling a “little white lie” with little or no harm done. I try not to do that anymore.

However, I still need to be able to explain the differences between the two states of mind. Is there a clear distinction between the two? I’m not sure there is but I can recite some of the principles that are recognized as being part of one camp of thought or the other.

Someone who is said to be “selfish” is one who gets his/her own way and does so by ignoring or not taking into account the rights and well-being of someone else. If I get what I want on the back of someone else I would be seen by most as being selfish. It is not a matter of getting what you need but instead it’s what you want. It then becomes a matter of not caring how your decision affects anyone else. At this point folks would say “yes, but what if I need so and so. Obviously if something is life threatening involving your life or the lives of others that takes priority over everything else. If you had to harm someone else in order to prevent harm coming to someone else therein lies the issue. I believe you do what you feel is right and deal with the fine points later.

The difference with pursuing something connected to “self-interest” is that you don’t continue on at the expense of someone else’s freedoms or rights. That doesn’t mean that we can’t carry on but we need to help the person who will be affected by our decision understand why we are doing what we plan to do and that we continue, not because we don’t care about the other person and their rights and freedoms but because we need to do what we are about to do–it is important to our well-being.

So the distinctions  are: selfish–wants met with no regard to how others could be or would be affected. Self-interest–needs met with regards to how others might be affected by our behaviour.  Not everyone will understand and there will always be some who see what we do as selfish. Hopefully there will be those who see what we did as being motivated by “self-interest.” There is no preventing the dichotomy that develops. Truly, I am more concerned about what WE are left with in our being and how we look in the mirror and say that was the right thing to do.

Anyways, that’s how I see things.

All the best, Jim

Comments will find me at: jim.lifechoice@gmail.com. All comments are welcome.

(Image/quote resource used for education, research or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image).

Isn’t It About Time . . . ?

Time

Photographer Unknown To Me

The purpose of this article is not to get all weepy and sloppy or down and negative but rather to encourage people to understand that they have been presented a gift and with each new day they will be presented another gift called ‘TIME’. It will last exactly 24 hours and not any longer. And it is an finite resource meaning that we only have so many ‘new’ days to receive it before it no longer graces us. Each day that goes by is a day we will never experience again. Some will be gifted with 30 years some will have, perhaps, 80 years to share and experience our humanity. There is no way, really, of knowing who will get what or for how long and there is no chance of creating more time. One of the great tragedies in human development is that young people, meaning little ones to those in their mid to late 30’s, don’t understand the importance and the value of ‘time’. This fact helps explain why some people try to relive their 20’s–they just refuse to grow up. We even have a name for this time frame–we call it ‘our mid-life crisis’.

Time is the ultimate gift and yet few give it much thought. We get so caught up with facing the world with all its complexities that we offer little thought about how each day will never come again and that we need to live life to its fullest every day doing what we enjoy doing. Most of us just assume that the next day will continue to appear-forever. They are wrong.

I remember when I was a little guy and I would look at my parents and my grand parents and say or think:’I will never be as old as my parents and certainly not as old as my grand parents. 40 was old and such a long ways away. Younger kids are often heard to say they can’t wait to get older so that they could do ‘older things’ like drive a car or go to the pub to drink and party. However, the older we get the more important time becomes and the faster it goes by. There is an inner sense that makes us aware that ‘time’ is growing shorter. There is just no way to slow down the passing of time. There is a panic of sorts that sets in and an urgency to do as much as you can before you can’t. When nearing retirement what near senior hasn’t said if only they could have known at 40 what they know now how different their life would have been. Some lessons are only taught by time and this is one of them.

So how can we manage our time differently. To assume that ‘we will have plenty of time afterward’–when we retire that is– is playing a fools game. What has to happen for us to get more from the time we have been given? One thing we can do is downsize–learn to live on less. If we can do this then we can quit working earlier and enjoy more. Many are beginning to do just that. As has been said:’You can’t take it with you’ so why not enjoy the fruits of your labour while you can appreciate the gift of time. I believe this process starts with introspection. We need to start asking ourselves some questions about how we have managed our lives to date and are we doing what we want to be doing or do we feel as though we are just hanging on for our very lives.

I have come to understand that there are two things that will suck the life out of us if we let them and by doing so will they will ‘steal’ our time. One of those is plotting our revenge to demonstrate what? Too many people don’t understand that to hang onto plotting revenge is to allow the ‘other guy’ to win. You are spending time thinking about someone other than yourself and the likelihood is that they don’t even care. The other thing is not allowing ourselves to forgive. That can mean forgiving ourselves for something we have done or something that someone else has done. Forgiveness means that I will no longer allow guilt, shame or anger power over me. I choose to forgive-not for ‘them’ but for me. It helps me to regain my control over my emotional stability. I become free again.

Other things to consider:

1. Do I live to work or work to live?
2. Do I (we) really need the secondary income to make ends meet or do we do it so we can have more toys?
3. What is the cost attached to chasing more money especially if more money isn’t necessary to maintain a particular standard of living?
4. Do my or have my relationships with family and children suffered because of my decision to chase more money?
5. Given that money can provide comfort to some degree does it buy me happiness?
6. How much money is enough?
7. If you could retire right now what would you really enjoy doing?
8. If you could go back in time and make some other decisions what would you do/decide differently?
9. What is one thing that you could begin to do now that would provide you with more happiness or contentment?
10.Is it true for you that time is going by much more quickly now that you are getting older? (The older you get the faster it goes)

Too of us many live in the future–the I wish place. In doing so we forget how important it is to live in the present. If you have things you want to do–get them done. Life is to be experienced not endured. It’s a matter of perspective. Are you in charge of your life and if the answer is ‘yes’ then what is stopping you from having or experiencing some of the things that you want to do. If the answer is ‘no’ then what is it you need to do to change that? If you truly believe that you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want to do then you are destined to be very disappointed with the choices you made when your time comes. “Time stops for no man” is a valuable saying. True happiness is directly related to how you choose to spend your time. Spend it wisely.

Anyways, that’s how I see it.

All the best, Jim

Please feel free to comment on this or any other articles in the archives by contacting me at jim.lifechoice@gmail.com OR by commenting on the Wordpreess site at the bottom of the article. Please pass this on if you know of anyone who might benefit–thank you

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