There are a number of things on my mind today, one of the chief things being the terms selfish and self-centered. A number of things have contributed to my thoughts on the matter and being the analytic person I am I have decided to write them out to try to bring about some sort of cohesion and peace of mind.
First off, I looked up the definition of both terms. The online definition of selfish is:
1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. 2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself
That is pretty self-explanatory. When someone is described as selfish they generally don’t care about the well-being or happiness of anyone, but themselves. The online definition of self-centered was deemed synonymous with selfish, but also holds more than that one meaning:
1. concerned solely or chiefly with one’s own interests, welfare, etc.; engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical. 2. independent, self-sufficient. 3. centered in oneself or itself. 4. fixed; unchanging.
I have been referred to as selfish and self-centered at different times in my life by different people. This isn’t surprising or outrageous. Most people have been called one or the other if not both in their lives and I believe it’s pretty much true. I have had my moments as everyone does, why try to deny the fact. The problem isn’t in having those moments, but in whether or not you live in or move past those moments. That is what makes the difference in a person being selfish or self-centered as an action, or being selfish or self-centered as a state of being (character).
“Here I am going to say something which may come as a bit of a shock. God doesn’t necessarily want us to be happy. He wants us to be lovable. Worthy of love. Able to be loved by Him. We don’t start off being all that lovable, if we’re honest. What makes people hard to love? Isn’t it what is commonly called selfishness? Selfish people are hard to love because so little love comes out of them.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands
My list of faults and mistakes are lengthy, but one of my biggest strengths is the compassion and love I have for living things. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number of bad experiences with people, I still love them. I love people who have lied to me, beaten me, used me, and attempted to break me. I love people who have met me at every turn with vile words and accusations. God has given me a deep desire to show Him to all living creatures and to be a living example of love. I stumble, I fall, but I always strive towards that goal.
Some people think that is a cop-out. They say I’m using it to avoid taking responsibility, but I’m not. Having pure intentions doesn’t excuse my mistakes or my faults. I still have to apologize and take responsibility for myself and my actions. I still have to nurture and rebuild relationships with people I have unintentionally wounded, mentally, physically, or spiritually. I still have to monitor my words and my actions around people who don’t trust me (and may not have a reason to yet).
Unfortunately, sometimes people you love and care about deeply take one of your actions and brand it as a characteristic. It is, in my opinion, one of the most hurtful and unnecessary things a person can do, but it happens. Speaking from experience I will suffice to say that once a person has characterized you as such it doesn’t matter how you interact with them or how much effort you put into making their life more beautiful, they will always look down their nose at you and say you are selfish or self-centered. Few wounds have left such a deep mark.
Nonetheless, life goes on. Love thy neighbor as thyself is the command Christ gave us. It doesn’t have an ‘unless’ clause or an ‘until’ clause. It states love thy neighbor as thyself. That’s a period afterwards.
So I continue my life. I may still have my selfish or self-centered moments, but I will not make it a characteristic. Instead I will continue giving of myself , loving those who may or may not love me, and improving myself in whatever mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical capacity I can.