It seems to me like the spectrum of our actions has selfishness clearly defined on one end, and yet the other end seems so far out of sight that we wouldn’t know it (or trust it) if we ever caught ourselves quickly enough to see it.
Is there really such a thing as true selflessness? Does it even exist?
Even Jesus was selfish if you consider that his actions were eventually meant solely for the glory of God. Even God is selfish if you consider that he somehow split Jesus off from himself to go about with that dirty work of salvation.
When I try my damnedest to be selfless in my actions, putting the happiness of others well before my own, I know deep down that all I’m really doing is trying to set up the cards so that I might be found blameless and pure in the end. So that my wife and kids will call me a wonderful husband and father at my funeral.
The “golden rule” is to treat others how you would like to be treated.That’s a pretty self-driven statement, isn’t it?
Isn’t mankind just doomed to selfishness on a day-to-day basis?
Maybe so and maybe not.
I have a couple of friends who would stand as fine candidates for true selflessness.
But they’re both pretty miserable a lot of the time.
At least is seems that way to me.
Does true selflessness have to breed misery?
Is misery always a bad thing? Can anything be learned from it?
Wait, that’s selfishness again.
Is selfish selflessness the way to happiness? Some strange brand of backwards hedonism? You’d have to be pretty damn manipulative to get that working for you.
People call me manipulative. Some even say controlling.
I say influential.
Maybe I really am a selfish asshole.
I do plenty in the name of selflessness, but let’s be honest — there’s always a reward for me built in too.
I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever done anything with only others in mind.
But what’s wrong with that? Why can’t I enjoy the fruits of my labor? Who says I’m supposed to wallow in misery because anything else would be counted as selfishness? What if I’m just crafty enough to have my cake and eat it too? I’m lucky to have a brain that works well and I ought to use it, right?
I’m just trying to get through life and not be miserable, which is far harder to do than I ever truly imagined. This world is a screwed up place and if I can feign selflessness while stockpiling my own future blessings, what’s wrong with that?
I love my wife to inspire her deeper love for me. I don’t demand love like a dictator, I do my best to earn it. Isn’t that what Jesus did? We don’t love Jesus because he was cool or handsome or good at sports — we love him because he first loved us — right?
The difference, of course, between myself and Jesus (among many) is that when I don’t get quick love back, I get pissy.
Then again Jesus did the same thing, really.
He often threw his hands up and shouted to the sky “How much longer must I shepherd this unbelieving flock?!”
He was human, after all.
So what’s the deal? How do we do it? What are we supposed to do when our example of love comes from a being who is himself deeply selfish?
What was the motive of the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her hair and tears and perfume? Was it simply true love — pure selflessness? Or did she secretly know that Jesus would respond to her the way he did? Did she wash his feet to get a blessing from him, or was she just acting out her love without thought or fear of consequence?
Is it possible that she exhibited selfless love when Jesus himself did not? Is it possible that Jesus is not necessarily the prime example of selfless love?
I’m an armchair theologian, or course, and a shabby one at that, so I truly have no educated idea. But it feels like I’m onto something.
I’ve been running around this sorry world acting like God.
Loving others to untimately bring glory to — me.
God is, of course, the only being that really does deserve glory, so maybe it’s appropriate that his love is laced with his own selfish motives.
I’m just an idiot that wants a good eulogy and regular sex. That’s really all I’ve been gunning for when you get right down to it.
Maybe that’s what should be written on my tombstone. It’s fitting, really. Fitting for a lot of us.
So what do we do? I’m guilty of selfishness. But I really do love my family and what them to be happy. That’s never been in question.
What’s always been questionable is my motives.
Is it possible to always deflect all love and praise and thanks back towards God? It must be possible. Seldom easy, and scarecly consistent. But surely it must be possible. Right?
I’m guilty. Guilty of trying to take the thanks and love and blessings all for myself. Guilty of doing things for my greater glory. Guilty of dropping the mirror that bounces it towards God and soaking it all in for my own damn self.
I’m furiously guilty of selfishness.
Does the knowledge of one end of the spectrum beget the knowledge of the other end too?
Is it possible to be truly selfless? To never expect God to reward you or bless you until after you die, and then maybe not even then?
Because if you’re just gunning for the golden ticket into heaven, isn’t that really just selfishness all over again?
I tend to think the girl who washed Jesus’ feet with perfume didn’t have any idea what Jesus’ response would be. I tend to think she was just compelled to act out her love in the most scandalous and radical way possible, with no hope for anything good to come out of it.
Because at that point it time, Jesus was still alive. He hadn't done the work of salvation yet. He was just walking around doing his thing. How could she have known what was to become of her and her actions? The Bible didn’t exist yet.
She was broke down and tired and at the end of her rope, and she looked at the bottle of perfume in her hand and without so much as a spare rag to wash with, she used her own ratty filthy hair.
Then Jesus says something so audacious that it still rocks me to my core some 2,000 years later.
He looks at Simon and tells him that he loves little because he has been forgiven little.
Then he tells him that the woman loves much because she has been forgiven much.
She loves because she has been forgiven. Not because she wants to get into heaven, but because she has been deeply and truly and wholly forgiven. That’s it.
Jesus basically tells Simon he wouldn’t know anything about forgiveness. He’s too busy trying to stack up cash for later.
Sounds like me.
If I was in that room I would’ve been Simon.
We all like to think that if we were in that room we’d have been the woman — simply because the magnetic power of Jesus would have drawn us to his feet. But Simon didn’t lunge for the feet of Jesus in tears. She did.
Maybe that’s what it’s all about.
Just ducking and running for the feet of Jesus.
Seems like a pretty good plan to me.