Selfishness

by teresalaynebennett

Most of us like to whine about how selfish people are. Not us, of course – just other people.

Right. Painful as it is to admit, we are ALL selfish. Most of us will spend our entire lives trying to overcome this very human, systemic character flaw.

Let me say right upfront that I don’t have a one-two-three approach for subduing selfishness. That would be highly presumptuous, since thousands of books have been written about this topic. I do, however, have

one modest suggestion.

You and I can get over (“slowly squelch” might be more accurate) our own selfish tendencies by getting over others’ selfishness.

Selfishness is readily apparent in common, everyday conversations. Pay attention at your next social gathering. Notice how friends and relatives just won’t let you have your say. Some are more polite than others, nodding as if interested, but often they’re only waiting for you to pause long enough that they can jump in with their story.

Notice that some continually interrupt you to tell their story. It’s obvious they consider their interests, their work, their family, their hobbies, their health, their … (you get the picture) far more interesting and important than yours.

So what do we do? Quietly simmer and vow never to be caught in the same room with that selfish bore again? Rehearse all the nasty comebacks we’d like to say in our next “conversation”? Look for a flaw in their reasoning – and loudly point it out?

Oh, yes. Those are all choices that will make us feel better. Not.

Here’s a better alternative

that I watched my parents choose over and over. They paid attention to human nature and acknowledged that most of us are self-absorbed. They got over it, and let others talk about themselves. (Yes, this is suspiciously like Gold Nugget 2.)

They found it to be way less stressful. Letting someone else take the conversation reins allows you to relax and enjoy the ride. The mental gymnastics of looking for a spot where you can jump in to tell your story before someone else does is exhausting work. Trying to persuade someone to your point of view, against his will, is tedious, agonizing – and usually unsuccessful – WORK.

Sit back and listen. Pay attention while others talk. (But, if necessary, do guide their talk to something beyond chewing-gum-for-the-mind blather.)  When the “conversation” is over, you will know:

  • why they act the way they do. Understanding usually begets compassion; you’ll find yourself being more compassionate toward them and others you meet who are in the same situation.
  • new information. Who knows when your new-found knowledge might be useful to yourself or others?
  • more about human nature as a whole. After years of listening to others – with little wasted energy spent attempting to tell your story – you’ll be wiser about people in general, able to deal more skillfully with them.
  • you didn’t bore others by telling them stuff they didn’t want to hear.
  • you’ve taken one small step toward squelching your own self-absorption.

That last one
is the whole point of this blog.

If I can slowly squelch a little of my innate selfishness simply by giving up talk-time and you do too, just think how we can change our modest circles of influence.

And guess what? Giving up talk-time prepares us for giving up other things. When that giving-up process begins, we’re doing our part to subdue that yucky selfishness gene we all seem to have inherited.

red box with white text of Philippians 2:3

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett