Some time ago I noticed myself feeling angry when a friend was being selfish. I took some time to look at that experience and found that while my less-than-peaceful experience appeared to be due to my friend’s behavior, it was actually the result of my own self-image.
In order to find clarity here, let’s first look at the external elements by asking ourselves; at what point do I believe the thought that someone is being selfish? Several responses may come right away in the form of memories. Often, these experiences involve some level of expectation on our part that the other person is not meeting. An example might be when we are expecting someone to do something with or for us and they decline, or when we are engaged in a conversation about something in our life and every comment the other person makes is about them and seemingly not in response to what we’ve just said.
Is any of this sparking memory of past experiences in you?
In every case where I judged the other person guilty of being selfish, I suffered. And, in every case I found that the person was doing what they needed to do to take care of himself or herself. I discovered that often their selfish choice was a very self-loving and self-nurturing thing to do. So, if they were being self-loving and nurturing, what was happening with me that allowed me to interpret those actions in a manner that made them guilty in my eyes? Now there’s a question that when answered honestly can bring great progress.
The belief that they were being selfish would take me over completely and I couldn’t see the gifts behind it until I paused to look. The line of thinking that lead to my judgment of them as guilty appeared to be thoughts such as; it’s not always about you, or, you don’t care about anyone except you, or, why do we always have to do what he/she wants. I say these thoughts appeared to be the justification for my judgement of the other person because the true cause lay deeper and was only masquerading as these poor-me thoughts.
The thoughts that actually drove my reactive judgments consisted of ideas such as; we should put others before ourselves, and, my experience will not be as good without this person, and, I need him/her to say yes to what I want to do to validate me, and, I need to be heard… and on and on. Unfortunately, without awareness, all I am left with at the time of believing these thoughts is their resulting feelings of fear, hurt, and anger and I don’t know what to do with those unpleasant feelings. I do recognize that they don’t feel good; I don’t feel good and I want to feel better.
In those moments, I am giving the other person the power to take away the peace in me. It’s as if I’m saying to myself, “I can only be peaceful now if they would change.” I am holding them responsible for my own sense of being a victim. All of this generates the deep feelings of fear, sadness, wanting, and overall insecurity I experience when I believe the thoughts and make them guilty for being selfish. Some would say I then judge myself as guilty for having the feelings (who am I to feel this… the world has taught me I’m weak for feeling this way) and the guilt feels so terrible I have to get rid of it so I project it out. I project it onto the other person in the form of judging them as selfish. Now they are guilty and I can feel better.
We can learn much about where we are today from reflection such as this and how we experience the world around us just as I do in the Illusive Secrets books I offer as demonstration. I have tried both ways of being; putting others before myself and taking care of me first. Over time I’ve experienced that taking care of me by loving myself first opens the door to inner peace in ways that far exceed what any self-sacrificing action ever uncovers. Only by being selfish first can I ever be able to truly know selflessness. When I’m nurturing and loving of self I am setting the conditions for me to be ever-more compassionate towards others and the world in which I find myself.
The most curious aspect of all of this is that when I observe myself doing the exact things I judge as selfish in others, I see my behaviors as nurturing and self-loving; not selfish at all.
I invite you to consider ILLUSIVE SECRETS: DISCOVERING THE POWER OF SELF-HONESTY and other books and CDs at www.JamesPatrickMcDonald.com
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