Are the selfless really selfish?

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selfishnessAt lunch with the other executives the othe day, we were sitting around after finishing our food for a few minutes discussing some work issues.  However, the issues sort of diverted onto a tangent about “doing things for the sake of one’s needs.”  So, I asked something that I’ve thought numerous times in life: “Do people who help others actually do it for themselves? …or for the others?”  What do you think?

Of course we should probably just leave it at “helping others” and be happy with that, but do you ever question your motives?  Do you question other peoples’ motives?  I think we do a lot of the latter.  Now I know personally that I do get satisfaction out of helping others.  However, over time, I’ve also found that helping the ungrateful bothers me.  Helping people who tend to not change or improve their lives due to the help also circumvents my desire to do more of it for people who are like this.  As I’ve mentioned in the 25 things about me post earlier, my ultimate dream in life was to help people — it was to make others smile and hopefully make this world a better place.  Over time (35+ years), I’ve found that actually that I have less desire to help folks.  I feel like all the time and effort is wasted and in many cases basically “thrown away” or I get the feel that people are VERY ungrateful. 

So, is it simply I’ve grown cynical?  Is it that I am really selfish in wanting to be selfless?  I guess I’ve figured it’s at least good that I do want to help people and so in sum, I guess I’m happy to at least have that desire and that even if it is a selfish desire to want to help people, it’s a good thing.  Perhaps it’s just an o.k. thing to be selfish in at times and that the negative connotations that come with it are actually just generalized.  I guess selfishness can also have good forms like the oxymoron: selfish volunteers?  🙂


Filed under Interesting reads, Interesting..., My writings, Philosophy, Random thoughts, Theories by Brandon

4 responses to “Are the selfless really selfish?

  1. Sang Kim

    I can relate to what you just wrote. It is harder to help those that are ungrateful and feels a joy to help those that are grateful.

    The world is full of imperfect people. I am definitely one of them.

  2. Another extension of the conversation was that “if we help people who are worse off than us, do we create conditions where we make them stronger and as a result create ‘competition’ for us in the world?” Additionally, if you have kids or other friends or family you care about and you realize that helping other “poorer nations” makes them stronger. Do you create competition for your kids and make their life worse off?

    Sometimes you wonder why some people don’t help…people who are ungrateful and creating competition for loved ones makes it more difficult to want to help. No? Should we just do it if that’s what our heart tells us despite the consequences?

  3. Laz

    In my opinion, selflessness is not selfish. It’s goodness and grace that drives us to help others. I agree helping the ungrateful is tiresome and seemingly unproductive. But, I have to remind myself that Love conquers all. Love triumphs over evil. Our efforts no matter how futile are not in vein. When we help the ungrateful it looks like our efforts are useless, but it’s the effects that we don’t see that are important. Being selfless has an underlying definition of being unaware of nature results. And subliminally focuses on the unseen longer lasting results. e.g. The Big Picture.

    For me, I’m not perfect, but I have to almost force myself to see it this way, or I will soon be discouraged and doubt my efforts and reasons for helping others. I help others because it’s the right thing to do. It makes me feel human, and not some emotionless animal. I convince myself that even if I don’t see immediate results now or in my own lifetime, I know I did the best I could with what God gave me, and I will be rewarded on the other side.

    Now, is that selfish? Perhaps. Do I help people for everlasting reward? No. “For God so loved the world he gave is only Son, that whomever should believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life”. The least I can do is follow that as well as I can, and leave the consequences up to him.

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