The Antidote for Selfishness is You

“Selfishness is that detestable vice which no one will forgive in others, and no one is without himself.” – Henry Ward Beecher

We live in a world of unquenchable greed and selfishness. We see it all around us. And often lament its existence:

  • We lash out against the greed of politicians.
  • We despise the self-serving culture of corporate greed.
  • We argue against those who spend massive resources pushing their agenda.
  • We protest the selfish motives of many wars and ruling parties.
  • We cry out against the injustice of unnecessary poverty and hunger.

With little or no effort, we recognize the ugly effects of greed and selfishness on our society, culture, and nations. The greed of others makes this world a less pleasurable place to live for all of us. We wish they would change for the sake of everyone. In some cases, we even unify and protest to pressure them to change.

All the while, our personal greed rarely goes challenged. Recognizing the negative effects of corporate selfishness is easy. But identifying our own selfish motivation is more difficult to accomplish. It is, after all, far more painful to discover and admit.

As a result, we rarely recognize how selfishness within us is…

  • contributing to the feelings of jealousy we experience.
  • causing strife in our relationships with others.
  • negatively impacting our relationship with our spouse.
  • motivating so many of the unhealthy decisions we make with our money.
  • preventing us from meeting the apparent needs of others.
  • keeping us from experiencing love, joy, hope, gratitude, generosity.
  • hindering us from finding true contentment.

It is healthy and wise to recognize the greed of our society in which we live. We need voices speaking out against it… loudly. And history will continue to recognize and praise the heroes who took a stand against it. May each of us be bold as we champion society’s selfless pursuits.

But as we do, may we begin in our own hearts. May we never neglect the pursuit of removing selfishness from our own affections. May we strive to consider not only our own interests, but also the interests of others. May we routinely place ourselves in the plight of others. And may we seek to meet their needs with the same effort we seek to meet our own.

The antidote for selfishness is you. And the battle has to begin there.

Image: Hamed Saber

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Golden Rule = Treat others as you would like to be treated *yourself*
    Platinum Rule = Treat others the way they would like to be treated.

    I have a daily rule that I try to follow to help curb my selfish tendencies. When I am in my car, let others in before me whenever possible (merging, changing lanes, etc.). When I am shopping, I try to let one person ahead of me. It takes a lot of self discpline to do that without feeling wierd at first, especially if you are a high-speed person like me. But it gets you to think about tangible ways you can put others first.

    • Queen Mary says

      Oh, so YOU’RE that guy. Unselfish? What about all the people behind you who have to wait while you are so “unselfish” with respect to people cutting in front of all of us? I’m not talking about the usual zippering merge lanes, I’m talking about the people who drive up the next lane and then try to get over in front of us. You’ve just made yourself feel better about yourself and you’ve screwed everyone in line behind you. Maybe you don’t live in a high traffic area like I do, maybe you’re only talking about the zippering merge lanes and maybe that’s hard for you to do. If that’s the case, I applaud you and congratulate you on your tangible-to-you act of unselfishness. But if you’re the guy in front of me who let’s every person in the next lane in, people who were too selfish to get in line like the rest of us, then I urge you to consider everyone around you when you act unselfishly — those ahead of you as well as those behind you. It’s not always black and white and it’s navigating the grey that is so often asked of us.

  2. says

    I definitely agree and will even take it so far to say that our lack of personal responsibility for our own shortcomings is what allows them to explode and be maintained on a larger scale. It’s easier to point the finger at everyone else rather than at oneself. The only thing I do see on occasion when it comes to selflessness is that some over do it to a point where they don’t care for themselves. I think there has to be a balance where not only do we give up some of our inherent greed, but we keep enough so that we too can flourish. Thanks for the reminder :)

  3. says

    It is almost always true that anything that upsets us “out there” in the world is a reflection of something going on inside of ourselves.


  4. Katie says

    This is a great post. The area I need to work on is my selfishness with my time. Especially in the evenings, I will crave “me time” when that hour would be better spent with family. I know better, now I must do better.

  5. says

    I love it – fantastic message. To this end, I recently started a project in Ann Arbor, Michigan called occuPIE. Each week, I bake a few pies and hand out slices to anyone who wanders by. Rather than complain about all the selfish people out there, I’m trying to lead by example.

    • says

      How nice. This is how “we” can change the world. Live the change. No preachy lectures, just live it daily. I am inspired to do something similar. Thanks for the example.


  6. says

    Wonderful post. I do struggle with this. Due to my very introverted nature, I tend to be very tuned into my interior life, and sometimes this comes at a cost, because I end up not paying very attention to the world and people around me. I’ve been trying to change this, by finding a balance, but sometimes it’s not easy. So, it’s always nice to be reminded of this. And indeed, I believe the tougher changes and battles are the personal ones… And these personal changes constitute the basis for the collective and ‘bigger’ changes…

  7. says

    What I like about this post is that it brings responsibility back to personal. Yes, we can all rant about politicians, the shcool system, our kids’ friends’ parents, greedy corporiations, theiving banks, spoiled youth… but what’s that ranting doing for us or for anyone? Increasing our tension and making other people stressed is all it does. But taking responsibilty for our own selfishness, for our own bad deeds, and looking inside. It’s an awesome post. I know there’s that saying about thinking globally, acting locally (for recycling), but this works for mental/personal/emotional stuff too. Think big, think about society, think about the world…but make the change in yourself. :-)

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