The older I get, the more I realize how much selfishness influences us, myself included. I have come to the conclusion that selfishness is a root of all sorts of evil and problems in every aspect of our lives. Our whole society is saturated in this culture of selfishness. “Just look out for #1” we often say, not considering the cost and implications of such a statement. Looking out for “#1” may make you happy, but in doing so, you may have to run over everyone else to get what you want. We even advocate that by telling people to never let others keep you from what you want. While I understand the principle, I think we have taken it too far. We hurt people and take from others to appease OUR own desire for happiness while not even considering theirs. We’re worried about what WE look like and the impression WE’re making instead of reaching out and helping people. We envy others’ successes because we are more concerned about what their success says about US and whether WE are successful or not rather than being genuinely happy for them. We meet people every day that need our help, and instead of being concerned about them, we just pass them by because WE just don’t want to give up OUR time, money, or energy to help. We don’t tell a friend what they need to hear, maybe it’s a hard truth or just honestly answering a question and giving your opinion, because we’re more worried about the consequences for US instead of what would happen if we didn’t tell them. We put others down and brag about ourselves because WE want to look good instead of encouraging others because we care about them. We lie to, cheat on, and divorce from our spouses because WE want to be happy. We continually over-sexualize people in advertising or in our everyday life, strangers on billboards or everyday in the streets or on the job, because WE want some sort of sexual gratification and to feel good instead of considering how dehumanizing that is to others. We “hook up” with others and even rape others because WE want gratification instead of considering their wants and wishes. We murder others because WE want revenge rather than their forgiveness. We get angry when things don’t go OUR way or we don’t get what WE want, not realizing that that there are others out there who want or need something different. We get angry and look down on others when they don’t act the way WE would, but we don’t even understand where they have been or what they are going through. We get upset when OUR feelings are hurt or when WE are suffering in some way, not realizing that we may inadvertently do that to others more often than we realize and we pass people everyday going through worse things yet we never know. We don’t do anything about others’ problems because we want to keep OUR time, money, and energy for things that WE want. We only hang out with people that will make US look good because WE want to be in the “in-crowd” and don’t even notice those outside our “circle.” We do nice things, not because we genuinely care for others, but because it makes US look good or so they will return the favor and we’ll get something out of it. We fight for attention because WE want to be noticed instead of looking to give attention to others. We are kind to our superiors, not because we genuinely care about them, but because WE want to get ahead or gain some favor in their eyes. We care about others only because of what they can do for US, not because we care about them. We want relationships with other people so WE can be happy, not realizing that true happiness comes from making OTHERS happy.
Because of our selfishness, we cannot even comprehend what love truly is. In reality, all those things listed above are a reflection of love for OURSELVES, rather than a love for others. Love at its core is putting someone else BEFORE yourself - putting their wants, needs, desires, happiness above your own. Love is making someone else more important than yourself. Love is also ACTIVE. We say all the time that it is a verb, but we often don’t understand what true love really entails. We think it’s romantic stories of happiness ever after (which in and of itself says that we don’t see love as anything other than a skewed version of romantic love), when really, it is incredibly deeper than that. Love is SACRIFICE. Sacrifice is giving up something we value for something else that we deem as more valuable. It’s giving up our wants and needs to meet others’ wants and needs because they are more valuable to us than ourselves. It’s putting aside our happiness for the happiness of others. It’s giving up our time and effort that we need for someone else. It is fundamentally UNSELFISH. Love forces us to get past ourselves and to be invested in and totally consumed with a compassion and care for other people. Love is giving up something you really want to do, maybe it’s a dream you’ve had since you were little, for someone else’s wants and dreams. Love is being there when you’d rather be somewhere else. It is doing the things that are inconvenient. Love isn’t contingent on feelings or emotions or even the other person’s actions or choices. Love is a conscious choice that we make everyday, whether in friendship or marriage, to act in a caring, respectful way regardless of what the other person does, to give without expecting anything in return, and to put them before yourself. Love isn’t easy or natural, and it’s definitely not always convenient, but it is the most powerful, humbling, and life-changing thing in the world.
We as a society are confused and horribly mistaken about love. It is incredibly sad to me that we live in a world that constantly questions others’ motives when being kind or loving because so many are insincere. In reality, this life has never been and will never be about us. “Look out for #1,” sure, but realize that #1 is serving God, and in serving God, we serve other people FIRST - BEFORE we serve ourselves. If you move your focus from yourself to others, you will make others more happy and in turn, yourself more happy, as well.
"How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness…"