March 17, 2010
Selfishness, Good or Bad?
I mentioned before that Matt thinks that my negative response to selfishness is overblown. My response, half joking, was that I have a negative response to murderers, too, and I don’t think that’s overblown, either. Honestly, though, I was raised to think of selfishness as one of the worst things a person can be, and no one have earned my pure acid in life more than Becky, who’s greatest sin was total selfishness.
So is selfishness all bad? Of course not, I would not be foolish enough to say so. After all, selfishness is, at its core, an instinct of self preservation. But some people take this base and run far and hard with it. They turn it into greed, jealousy, envy, and a complete disregard for others. People like Becky will take a particular course of action, no matter how much it might hurt of affect another person as long as it will be in the least beneficial to them, even to the small point of one path being slightly easier than another. She would rather take one less step, as it were, than take that one extra step that would avoid causing someone, anyone, severe harm. She didn’t invite her husband’s long term girlfriend to their wedding because it would have been awkward (you know, seeing as that pesky old girlfriend had been around for over a decade longer than Becky had). In fact, they didn’t tell her about it until after. Ouch.
Is Lizzie that pathological? No, I don’t think so, or else I would be running fast and hard. But she certainly is not the kind of person I would seek out. Lizzie tries to avoid doing anyone else severe harm or serious damage when it comes to her selfish behaviors. Unfortunately, small harm and pain and frustration are all fair game if inflicting them will mean greater ease of convenience for her. And this is why I feel that her level of selfishness is unhealthy.
Matt defends her with the argument that if the choice is to be selfish or to lose yourself in others, which choice is best? Well, selfishness, sure, but is that ever really the only set of choices? I know for a fact that I do not fall into either of those extremes. He says the choices are not the same for everyone, but it seems to me that any adult with a shred of mental health should be able to manage a middle ground of some kind of they feel like trying. I am personally an empath, and can be strongly influenced by the emotions of those around me. For those reasons I like to keep a space of calm around me at home, and I sometimes leave social gatherings early, selfishly, some might say. But I do often attend, even when I know it will hurt me. I do make an effort when I know that it will help or benefit others. I even sometimes am the one to suggest trips to my mother in law’s chaotic household because I know she has not had a share of our time lately, however much I detest the noise and the energy there. I am not selfish to her detriment, and I am not so open that I harm myself, either.
So is selfishness bad? No. Selfishness without reason, without balance, that is what I feel is so wrong.