I am sure elders at home must have always told you at some point in time that a dog lives for itself and if you too live that way, you could very well be equally selfish. The elders would further advise you to lead a virtuous life that is of use to others, a life which is dedicated to serve others. They also advise you not to be a source of nuisance to others; causing trouble, deceiving them, inflicting pain and misery upon others. And if you cannot do any good to others then do not do any harm either. Doing neither good nor harm would still make this world a better place. Being guided by conceit and self-aggrandisement makes one a selfish person. Well in the modern world it is how most people live by because they think, if they don’t, they might lose out on all the goodies that life has to offer since they believe that resources are limited and will exhaust soon. Take for example tickets in a cinema for a particular showtime, seats in a particular train journey, job vacancies or seats in a highly coveted school, none of these are unlimited. Certainly, these are in short supply and not freely available on tap. These will soon exhaust and if one is not aware as well as conscious of ones needs and interests, he or she might have to suffer in deprivation as others might grab them ahead of you leaving little or nothing at all for your consumption or enjoyment. Knowing that only a few people will get benefited, one is forced by circumstances to become selfish and supersede others. And if you do it over a period of time and also early in life, it becomes your habit. Unfortunately, this has become a way of life for many in our country.
At the school, a student learns the lesson of ‘sharing is caring’ that tries to inculcate feelings of compassion and love towards fellow beings. As the child grows and reaches middle school, he or she starts feeling the brunt of peer pressure and resultant competition. Certain amount of pressure does so much good to the learning capabilities of a child while an excess of the same may destroy all the gains. In a competitive environment, needs and wants begin to take shape and individuality and personality start to assert itself. Feelings of I, me and myself start growing inside the child. The child learns to take care of his or her interests and that’s where a little amount of selfishness begins to take birth. Even within the family the child observes his or her parents catering to their own interests rather than members in the larger family as well as others in the society. A school encourages its students to perform at various levels and stages, intra and inter school competitions in both curricular and extra curricular fields. A child learns that all successes like awards, certificates and prizes are personal as he or she puts in individual efforts to secure them. Consequently, the child starts basking in its glory that further fuels selfishness and conceited thoughts. This is where he or she becomes self-centric and soon learns that sharing is not the way forward. We might prefer to call it the end of innocence.
One faces a similar kind of scarcity even at his or her workplace. There are too few promotions and appraisals to be handed out at the year-end. Only a hand full of employees, typically under 10 % of the those eligible get highest salary appraisals and the situation boils down to one of fierce competition among the professional colleagues. The best of pals might not remain the best of colleagues professionally while vying for those appraisals. Understandably, one would become too mean as well as selfish to the extent possible that would lead him or her to top the charts by surpassing his or her colleagues. Consider two friends who are in sales function and only one top position is up for grabs. What would they do? Won’t they try to outperform each other to secure that position that may even come packed with its kind of financial rewards? Some amount of professional rivalry is quite natural as well as expected to achieve higher levels of performance but it is not necessary that it should be accompanied by selfishness. One perpetrates these conceited acts to further one’s own interests with little or no regard to those of the others. We all chase greed, avarice and self-aggrandisement at some point in life. Don’t we at times become selfish keeping our own interests in mind while forgetting those of the others? This could be one of the reasons why we at times are disinclined or disinterested to offer help to our friends and colleagues in need. Not only this, we might as well misguide them and shy away from offering good counsel. All the lessons learnt in the childhood like ‘sharing is caring’ and ‘cleanliness is godliness’ seem to be relegated to the attic or lost to oblivion in our adulthood?
It is not that a person has totally forgotten to share and care for others. Look at what happens in a relationship. The man and the woman in love forget themselves and their environment totally while keeping the preferences and interests of the other on topmost priority. Each remembers the other’s likes as well as dislikes of a number of things like clothing, food, places, hobbies, movies, movie stars, people etc. Each is ever ready to adopt other’s and give up his or her own likes and dislikes for the sake of one’s love. How come all of this happens so naturally in such situations while we comfortably forget all compassion while dealing with the rest. The human mind is the most amazing thing. It is capable of conjuring up different and opposing acts at the same time. We seem to control our own mind and tune in to perform differently in different situations as per our desires.
I wish to narrate a very unusual event that occurred recently that might sound funny as well as intriguing. A friend of mine was labelled selfish, arrogant and self-conceited by another friend of ours. The friend attracted these comments for not marrying even at the age of 40 while others were married for years. The reason tendered was absurd as well as ridiculous. ‘You are thinking about your own happiness and desires, what about the feelings of others whom you could have shared your life with like your might-be wife and yet unborn children’. In response to these comments the friend stated ‘how could I be inconsiderate and callous towards people who are not yet part of my life and those yet unborn’. ‘The very act of not marrying tells so much about you that you do not wish to go through your fair share of the pain that our world is so replete with. Not caring even for the those who are not yet in your life and those yet unborn you have snatched their rights to be born and lead a happy life?’ I guess, it is perfectly my friend’s personal choice to not marry and have no children. How can he be labelled selfish? Agree/ disagree?
How can you have all the fun and happiness in the world while we have all the pain and misery? We are so jealous of you.