Selfless vs. Selfish

Definitions

Selfless: concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish

Selfish: lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure

I had a fight with your Dad this morning.  It happens, we fight.  I’ve noticed a trend in our arguments though and I wanted to write about it because for the first time I think I finally understand it.  This fight had to do with me accusing your Dad of being selfish (something I am very quick to do when I get angry with him).  Sometimes I get to a point in our relationship where I feel as though I am the only one that is caring about and focusing on the “important” matters of our life.  This happens most often during football season when your Dad is very busy watching all the games he can and doing what I find to be the most irritating thing in the whole world: ignoring me.  What usually happens is he doesn’t do something I feel like he should be doing and it makes me angry and then I call him selfish and tell him that he is putting football before me and that it is NOT okay.  I tell him he should be more like me: selfless instead of selfish.  This same fight takes on many forms- sometimes it’s about football and sometimes it’s about other moments in our life where I convince myself that we are not on the same page.

After going back and re-reading the above paragraph the only thing I can think is: “Wow, just listen to myself.  Maybe I’m the selfish one, can it be?!”  I hate to admit that I’m wrong, it just doesn’t feel good.  But honestly, I am wrong.  I am wrong for getting so angry with him.  I am wrong for assuming that your Dad thinks football is more important than me.  I am wrong for thinking that what is “important” to me is more important than what your dad values.  I am wrong for telling him that he should be more selfless and I am wrong for assuming that I am the selfless one.  I did a little research after realizing I had made a mistake and found some good reads on what exactly selfishness (and also selflessness) is.  My goal from now on is to think about this post every time I start to feel angry at your Dad.  I think this fight will begin to happen less and less and we will continue to grow and understand each other, a must for a good relationship.

I need to be understanding- Often we make assumptions about what motivates people, for better or worse, but often those assumptions are inaccurate.  I assumed that Aaron was more interested in football than me.  This is just simply not true.  Your Dad loves football, it’s a hobby of his and it always will be.  But it’s just that- an enjoyable hobby.  The act of watching football is not selfish.  Taking time to do something you enjoy is not selfish.  I know for a fact that your Dad loves me and always will- a completely separate idea and feeling from that of football.  I assumed the two had to be prioritized and I assumed that I was being ranked #2- it was all in my head and if I would have taken the time to understand that Aaron was just simply doing something he enjoyed I would not have gotten so angry.

Changing takes time and I need to be patient- Not even a year ago your Dad and I were not married.  The fact of the matter is that when you are an unmarried person you only have one person to think about, yourself.  All I had to think about pre-marriage was what I wanted to do.  Now that we are married, all of those “I” statements were changed to “we” or “us” statements.  This seemed very natural for me.  But everyone is different, and everyone handles change differently.  I know that your Dad wants this change, and I know that he is working toward this change.  I know that he deeply cares for me, and I know that he just needs some time so that his head can catch up with his heart and it when this happens it will be more natural for him to think “we” instead of “I”.  Change takes time, I know this.  I think I just forgot.

Selfish vs. Selfless- which is better?- I always considered myself a completely selfless person (and honestly I was always very proud of this).  During the day when I find that I have some time with nothing to do I immediately think of what I can do to help those around me.  Helping others makes me feel good.  So is this selfless or selfish?  Even selfless caring and generosity is not really selfless.  If it makes you feel good to do something for someone else, then it’s still somewhat selfish, isn’t it?  But that doesn’t make it bad.  My point is that you can’t have one without the other.  Here I was getting mad at Aaron for not being completely selfless, when in fact being selfless is in a way selfish.  People are both selfless and selfish and that’s just the way it is.  One is not better than the other and you have to be both.  Healthy selfishness reminds us to take care of ourselves, and this makes it possible for us to take care of others.  I will always believe that being selfless is very important but I now understand that to do this I have to be selfish sometimes too.  And that’s okay.  Just like it’s okay for Aaron to be selfish sometimes, especially when there are times that he is selfless, and there definitely are.

In my opinion, having a perfect balance of selfishness and selflessness is the key to a good relationship.  I know that your Dad and I can find this balance and have a successful marriage.  So I will leave you with my plan for moving forward, my advice for myself to follow when I start to feel frustrated about selfish behaviors that are happening around me (or when I notice that I am the one being selfish):

  1. Be responsible and admit to myself that I am also a selfish person.
  2. Understand that it’s okay to be selfish sometimes as long as I am maintaining a healthy selfish/selfless balance, and the same is true for my hubby.
  3. Ask the question to myself and to Aaron, “Is this what is best for both of us, or just me/you?”
  4. Understand that I am married, and everything I do directly affects Aaron’s life as well. Also understand that what I think is important and what Aaron thinks is important may not be the same thing.
  5. Communicate with Aaron about selfish behavior, and find a balance where we can compromise.
  6. Be patient, it takes time and effort to find a healthy selfish/selfless balance.
  7. Don’t immediately blame Aaron for everything he does, instead try to understand why he is doing it.
  8. Share my thoughts with Aaron more often and continue to do selfless acts for him to show him that I care.

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