I think we should all be more selfish.
Now that sounds wrong, so let me try and put a little context around it. We should do things because we want to more often than because someone else wants us/expects us to, because it make us feel good about ourselves. Let’s call this positive selfishness, or perhaps you prefer self-full. So when I say we should all be more selfish, I really mean that aspect of selfishness that is self-serving, not the aspects of ignorance to others.
Take a simple everyday scene. You have done your morning shopping and have been waiting your turn at the check-out. The sales assistant is the usual young person looking a little harassed and just a little stressed. The person they are serving, like a machine, waits while the assistant tries to deal with their stern looks, registering and packing the purchases, and hoping that they don’t have to do anything that may actually involve eye contact. I’ve been this person once. I was a check-out operator in my youth, and while I don’t think the customers were even harsh as heartless as they are today, even then we had our fair share of trouble makers and less-than-courteous types. I do not wish to be one of them.
So then it is my turn. The assistant offers their short and hurried “Hi” not because they are just saying it to be polite, which is only partly true, but out of fear that by saying anything at all they may invite some form of negative comment from me, the customer. They are often rather surprised to find that I, some random bloke, reply with a smile and “And how are you?” I love watching the slight shock and smile of appreciation that many often exhibit after such a simple statement. Just for a moment, I touched another person’s heart and gave them a little assurance, or hope, or whatever it was they were needing. Sometimes I get a reply, sometimes I don’t, but that’s not why I do it.
Even if I get absolutely nothing, I know that I have done something good and offered a small sample of friendship to another. I can’t make someone else accept my offering and so I have no expectations that they shall. I go in to the action only to offer something I have an unlimited supply of; kindness. It costs me nothing and it makes me feel good to offer. If I get nothing back, I have lost nothing and gained a sense of pride. If I get something back, it’s a bonus.
In truth, I am really doing it for me, not anyone else. From that perspective, I am being selfish. It is selfish only in that it is self-serving, yet it also contradicts the definition of ‘selfish’ in that I am doing this through altruistic actions, or selflessness.
Maybe the selfishness and the selflessness cancel each other out, which would make me… I’m not sure there is a word.
The key thing here is that it is incredibly easy to do and very rewarding. The only thing hard about it is breaking the habits one may have developed over time which would inhibit such a show of healthy respect, and once broken, you find it is easier every time you do it.
Don’t take my word for it though. This is just my opinion.