In modern society, to be ‘selfish’ and not putting others before you is considered “evil”. Does this make sense?
Selfish doesn’t mean ‘evil’
Nietzsche made an interesting point in his book, ‘Will to Power’ (he might have also put forth the idea in his book, ‘Antichrist’), when criticizing the notion of “selflessness”, and “putting others before you.”
If you are commanded to put your neighbor above yourself, shouldn’t your neighbor also put you before themselves?
In favor of more independent families
Let me give you an example. If you are in a family where everyone is self-sacrificing themselves for the other members of the family, who really profits? Doesn’t everyone technically lose? Or perhaps build resentment, because the other members of the family aren’t appreciative of their self-sacrifice?
Furthermore, when you are sacrificing yourself and your own preferences for the family; what does the notion of the “family” really mean? You can help individuals 1:1, but to help the abstract notion of a “family” really makes no sense.
Thank you umma
The person I respect the most is my mom, who essentially sacrificed her entire life so myself and my sister could have a better life. She grinded 7 days a week, doing menial labor, in order to pay rent, put food on the table, and to try to help me and my sister academically.
To myself, it always made sense that parents should sacrifice themselves for their children. Why? Because the children should become more powerful and “successful” than their parents. Furthermore, assuming a texting-while-driving accident doesn’t occur, children should always outlive their parents. Thus, the future of a child is always more important than their parents.
To me this makes sense. But should a child sacrifice their lives, and sacrifice their chances of personal betterment in order to help their parents? I don’t think so. I do believe that a child has a duty in a basic sense to take care of the bare necessities of their parents, but I don’t necessarily believe in this duty to spoil your parents silly. The best way to “spoil” your parents is to just show them love; to talk to them, spend time with them in person, and to share your life with them.
Too often (this happened with my dad), is that your parents try to emotionally blackmail you– they try to make you into their slave. Then comes the insane ethical idea:
“I sacrificed so much for you, now it is time for you to return the favor to me!”
That is not sacrifice; that is treating your child as an “investment”, which I find morally abhorrent.
I think that true sacrifice never has strings attached. Furthermore, true sacrifice never includes shame or guilt. If others (whether your parents, or anyone else in your life) tries to use the rationale that you must help them, because they self-sacrificed for you, call out the bullshit. That is emotional blackmail, and we do not tolerate that at all.
My dad did this all the time. He tried to invoke Confucian guilt (filial piety) that I had to “take care of him”, even though he was a morally repugnant person (abusive both emotionally and physically to my mom), and tried to always brain-wash me to go against my mom.
The best thing I did to conquer this was to just cut him from my life cold-turkey. One day I decided. When you decide, you just do.
I blocked all his phone numbers, and cut all ties. I haven’t talked to him for the last two years.
With emotionally abusive people in your life, you must be ruthless and excise their cancerous presence from your life. Otherwise, how can you thrive?
Altruism is the concept that you help other people for the sake of it; especially helping others who are ‘less fortunate’ than you.
I believe in altruism in a general sense. I know if I were in a really difficult situation, I would want help. I would want help from my family, my friends, and would appreciate government support as well (though I wouldn’t expect or demand for it). But for myself, I would never desire to become a leech; if I were to suddenly go bankrupt from some freak accident, I would want enough help for me to get back on my two legs — kind of like a booster pack for me to become independent again. But this comes from the idea that I want to work hard and hustle hard. I don’t think that lazy people should be given help, if they’re not willing to work hard and hustle hard to become self-supportive.
Perhaps as an ethical rule:
Only help others who actually want to help themselves, and seek to become independent.
Only help others who would actually help others.
It is so deeply embedded in the American psyche that self-sacrifice is the ultimate moral and ethical good one can do. And it is also considered that being “selfish” is evil (in fact, when you call someone ‘selfish’, you are just calling them evil).
I like the idea of helping others out of your personal abundance. If you have a lot, and others have little, and by giving them some your surplus won’t hurt you; give away! But the idea that you are barely paying your rent, and sacrificing a few hundreds of dollars to help another family member– this makes no sense.
Can a selfish person help others?
I’ve been called selfish many times in my life, and whenever I get called (or inferred) as selfish by others; it invokes the hellfire of Valhalla in my soul. My blood boils, but why? Because in my mind, I always thought of myself as a “selfless person” who likes to help others. And I do! I love helping others!
- But is it possible to help others, while NOT inflicting damage or harm upon yourself?
- Furthermore, is it possible to help others while being selfish and self-centered?
Help yourself before helping others
For myself, if I do anything for myself that will ultimately help or assist others, I feel zero ounces of guilt. For example, I help a lot of people via writing on this blog, thus I feel no guilt in investing in any equipment or tools which help me create knowledge for this blog.
But this is the tricky thing–
Should you do things that only benefit you, and nobody else?
I think according to Christian morality, the answer would be “no”.
But this is the tricky thing:
- Often there are certain things you do for yourself, that in the short term, it doesn’t seem like it will help others. But perhaps in the long-term, it actually might help others.
- There are certain things you must do for yourself, to maintain your own personal sanity which is essential. To me, this is paramount. You must first take care of yourself physically and mentally before even attempting to help others.
First, be extremely selfish.
At a base level, we MUST be strong (first) physically and mentally. That means, before even attempting to do anything that has to do with other people, FIRST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
And I don’t mean to say this silly “treat yourself” mentality. I mean to say:
Do what you must in order to allow your body to physically thrive, and for your mind to also mentally thrive.
For myself, ultimately I desire to strengthen myself in order to strengthen and empower others. Yet, this isn’t a “universal imperative” (Kant) which everyone must follow. To be clear, you can dictate your own morals and ethics in life.
I think if you want to be self-focused for the rest of your life, and not help anybody else, that is fine — as long as you are not dragging anyone else down with you, or ruining the lives of others. That means, if you see someone else that is behaving a certain way which you don’t approve, yet they’re not ruining your life directly, nor are they ruining the lives of anyone in your inner-circle, ignore them.
I apologize for this long-winded essay, but here are some takeaway points I want to share with you:
- Be extremely selfish. Being selfish ain’t evil. Take care of yourself, before you desire to help others.
- You don’t need to help others in your life. I personally like helping others, but this isn’t an ultimate law that should be applied to everyone.
- If there are people who piss you off, or people who cause your blood to boil; just leave them alone and simply ignore them! You only have so much mental energy and space in your brain. Don’t waste any of your brainpower thinking about others, especially when it is negative. Best to be indifferent towards others you don’t really care for.
- If you feel shitty (physically or mentally), cure yourself before anything else in your life. For example, I was becoming so overwhelmed with all of my internet communication and correspondences, so I got rid of my phone, and I stopped checking and using email and communication platforms for about 2 years. This was the best “selfish” thing I ever did for myself. I inconvenienced a lot of people, but nobody died. And as a consequence of going “zen monk mode”, I thrived.
- Remember, you are allowed to create your own table of morals and ethics. Don’t just follow the morals and ethics you’ve been taught as a child; always challenge “common wisdom”, and seek to inquire wisdom for yourself.
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