>A few years back I took a philosophy course in which I learned of a certain philosopher (I can’t remember his name) who claimed that everyone was selfish; it is human nature; there are no unselfish acts. His theory was that even the most innocent, seemingly unselfish acts have a selfish motive behind them. Now, before I began my ramblings please understand that I do not believe in this philosophy; I certainly hope I do not because it is a very cynical way of thinking. I am merely repeating what I learned in class and attempting to apply it to real life. With that being said; you should understand that I am typically an optimistic person and I have, on occasion, been accused of being too trusting when dealing with “repeat trust offenders”.
Anyway, back to my ramblings. This particular philosopher insisted that everyone is looking out for themselves and every seemingly unselfish action benefits the person in some way; at some level. For instance, if “Joe” helps a friend move, is it possible that in the back of Joe’s mind he is hoping that his friend will help him when it comes time for Joe to move? What about volunteering time for Habitat for Humanity or some other charity organization, is it possible that the volunteers are trying to prove to others that they are good people? Selfishness can even come in the form of making yourself feel better or relieving guilt. If I give $1 to a homeless man maybe I will feel less guilty while I eat lobster tail and watch him shivering in the cold from the restaurant window. As I stated above, this is a very cynical way of thinking. Basically this theory states that there is no such thing as a “good” person. When I originally studied this theory I thought to myself “geez, this guy must have had a terrible life, I bet he had no friends because he didn’t trust them”. It has been a couple years since the course and in that time I have thought of this theory a few times, usually when someone I trusted has let me down, but also times like today when I was asked a favor and agreed to do it with no hesitation. Did I benefit at all? No! Will I be able to call in a favor if needed? Eh, only if it convenient for them. So, my question is… why did I do it. If everyone is selfish, why did I jump up and run out the door to help someone when I knew that it wasn’t convenient?
OK, here is some background for you. I come from a big family. There is not a single point in time that I can remember when everyone (brothers, step-brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and parents) was getting along. We are a giant real life soap opera. Someone is always mad at someone. Everyone talks behind everyone’s backs, rumors fly, feelings are hurt and drama is a daily thing. I hate it; I hate when people are arguing and I hate it even more when someone is mad at me… so I try like hell to make everyone happy. If someone needs a favor, I help; if someone needs to vent, I listen; if someone needs a place to stay; my door is always open. This has caused some disagreements between my husband and I because he says that I am too forgiving, that I help too much (typically he’s talking about financial help). I understand where he is coming from, we have our own family, my three sons are my priority and I have to stop “babying” my grown family. The problem is that even though I know he is right, I can’t help it. Today I received a phone call to come pick up a family member (30 minutes away) and let them borrow my husband’s car (since he isn’t here to need it) because they had lent their car to another family member. I jumped up from my half-drank coffee and hauled my butt into my truck and picked them up. The problem was that I knew my husband would be furious when he found out that I lent his car out, so I offered to drive them to their destination (2 hours away), knowing full well that I had to prepare for my son’s concert tonight in which he will be playing “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” on the viola as a solo. Why would I do that? Why would I offer that? Well, nobody else in the family would be able to help, so I’m all they had. As it turns out the concert is still on and all I have to do is drive another family member to and from work until the car is back on the road. That in itself is a hassle, but I don’t mind… someone needs my help and I can give it.
So, here’s what I’m thinking. If this philosopher is right, my selfishness comes from a desire to feel loved and needed. If he’s wrong then maybe I really am a good person. Hmmmmmm, something to ponder. I’m going to vote for the “good person” option, because I refuse to admit that I am selfish.
Anyway, sorry for the lengthy blog, I just needed to vent and I selfishly (hehehe) used my blog to make myself feel better. So, if you are still reading, thanks, and sorry to have taken up half your day, lol.