Hosted by Jodi Hildebrandt.
This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Listen to part 2 >
What is selfishness? What causes it? Why do so many of us struggle to let go of our self-focused attitudes and habits? And why is selfishness on the rise in the 21st century? In this two-episode series, Jodi breaks down the topic of selfishness: what it is, where it comes from, and how to shift out of it.
Selfishness is NOT an intentional attitude for us as humans. When we behave selfishly, it’s not that we are bad people, or that we are trying to be rude, unfriendly, or mean. It’s not that we want to destroy or end relationships. Selfishness is not an attitude we want or are even aware of in ourselves. We engage in selfishness when we are afraid that we are out of control! Selfishness is a desperate attempt to control! We fear vulnerability and our inability to control our vulnerability. From that place of fear, we believe distortions and become self-focused (selfish).
In the 21st century, many of the younger generation are being enabled to engage in incredible selfishness. As parents, mentors, teachers, leaders and friends, we have the charge to understand selfishness and invite our loved ones out of it—and into the Truth.
Selfishness is an outcome of:
- Not acknowledging vulnerability
- Believing you can control someone or something that you cannot control
Episode 96: Selfishness—The Plague of the 21st Century (Part 1)
Welcome to ConneXions Classroom Podcast. We are so excited to introduce to you the opportunity for you to join us in a classroom setting where you will be taught the principles of connection. For those of you who have already joined us on the podcasts, and for those for you who have not, you are now ready to step into an extensive, hands-on, all-star classroom experience to better understand why you are experiencing and interpreting life the way that you do.
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Some of the concepts covered inside of the classroom include: what validation and vulnerability are and how to animate those principles your life; how to live in Truth rather than distortion; how to recognize your distraction and your controlling behavior in your relationships; and how to live a life of peace rather than pain. Powerful concepts that change lives, beginning with yours.
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Welcome, welcome to December 25th, 2016. It is Christmas Day and I just want to wish everyone who’s listening a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and welcome to Sunday. It’s a beautiful day, not only outside, but inside my life. I was able to talk to my child this morning for a few minutes and share with him how grateful I am for his relationship with me and how grateful I am that we are connected. Because as you know, I am a person who is very desirous of not only being connected to people, but also sharing how to live in a state of connection, and what connection looks like, and what disconnection looks like, so that all of us are able to use our agency to make choices to either choose connection or choose disconnection.
I am a strong believer in the power of choice, and the power of perception, and how our perception is something that we have the power to manage, that we have the power to “control,” and depending on how we angle things in our world, we will either feel a sense of connection or we’ll experience disconnection. And to me, that is such a powerful gift that each of us have the ability to perceive, think, put meaning to, and have an outcome of either connection or disconnection, that there’s no outside source that can force you to connect or disconnect. It’s all internal. And again, that’s super exciting because that means that you cannot be controlled by anything outside of yourself. You are completely 100 percent responsible for everything that you perceive, and whether it leads to a state of connection or disconnection.
So, that’s either really super good news, or if you’re someone who is super disconnected and you’re blaming everybody, then that’s really not good news because it means you’re responsible for where you’re at. And the Truth is, we all are. Wherever we are is where we are, and we got to where we are according to the way that we have interpreted and put meaning on the experiences that we’re having. And I am not attempting to be flippant or light about traumas and tragedies that have gone on in your life, and at the same time, I want you to know that there is an escape. There is an exit door to those traumas and tragedies. And you may choose to come out. Yes, will it take time to heal those? Absolutely. And it does not or they do not have to define the rest of your life.
And again, those of you who have listened to these podcasts know that I have intimated to my own personal life. I’ve had many trials, and traumas, and tragedies in my life. And so, I feel that I have the ability to speak to that, and I’m really not interested in comparing trauma and tragedy because anything that’s hard that shows up on your doorstep is difficult. You get to decide what is traumatic and what is difficult for you. And stay away from comparing other people’s experiences. And you get to be responsible for how you hold those experiences – whether they be in Truth or distortion.
If distortion stays in your life, you will experience those traumas as exactly that – they will stay traumatic for your whole life until you are willing one day to choose to perceive them differently.
And that’s one of the main reasons that I’m here this morning, is to invite you, invite, invite you, invite you, invite you over and over and over and over again to perceive differently; to choose a different interpretation of what you’ve experienced.
So, I want to talk today about selfishness. Selfishness. Speaking about perceptions, selfishness is an outcome of our perception. I was talking to my nephew the other day and I said, “You know, it’s a plague. Selfishness is a plague of the 21st century.” I know that selfishness has always existed, it’s been around since the beginning of the planet and obviously, I haven’t lived in any other timeframe, and this timeframe—this 21st century timeframe—holy smokes, we are incredibly entitled. Incredibly entitled. And it appears that we are becoming more so entitled.
I wasn’t born in the 21st century but I’m living in the 21st century. And so, I had what, probably 20, 30 years before we moved into the 21st century and I don’t recall the amount of selfishness and how enabled selfishness has become in our world, as it is now. It’s kind of like just a normal thing, to be selfish, and few people will call it out.
One thing that I’ve noticed that I would say connects to this attitude of selfishness—and I’m not speaking to everyone here but I want you to look at what your motive is—when I was a kid, we called people Mr and Mrs. We showed respect for our elders. We acknowledged that people were older than us and we showed them and thought of them as having wisdom and at a minimum, giving them the respect because they had more age and experience than we do. These days, I never hear that. I don’t hear the younger generation showing respect in lots of different ways—but that’s a biggie—of calling other people Mr. and Mrs. or having some kind of respectful exchange with somebody who’s older than them.
And again, that’s not a black and white indicator that you are being selfish and I want you to look at why you don’t do that, why kids don’t do that. Or maybe you’re the adult and you don’t expect people who are younger than you to call you that. You don’t expect them to show respect. Which is the part of the problem as well.
So, look at yourself and see if you have a motive that’s in Truth or distortion, because what I’m going to hopefully impart to you today if I do a good job is that selfishness is an outcome. It’s an outcome of not acknowledging your vulnerability, it’s an outcome of believing that you’re in control when you really aren’t, it’s an outcome of being entitled, it’s an outcome of fear, and it’s an outcome of distortion.
And so, it’s an outcome. It’s not the issue. It becomes an issue because people really get reactionary when people are selfish. However, we are teaching our young people to not pay attention to their motives, and not be willing to really understand that they are vulnerable, and that they are out of control, and that they are not entitled to ____________.
And so, there’s so many, there’s just millions and millions of ways to evidence selfishness. But remember, behind the scenes there is always this belief that I’m in control, I refuse to be vulnerable, and I live in fear and distortion. That’s what is underscoring selfishness.
So, I want to talk to you about what selfishness is, where it is created, what selfishness is not, what selfishness looks like and acts like, and how it gets created. I want to describe the symptoms of selfishness.
And then, most importantly, once you understand all that, how to get out, how to walk through that exit door, so that you don’t live a life of selfishness. And the answers are very, very simple.
Now, I know I just posed a question about the respect thing, about Mr and Mrs. I want you to be thinking about that as you listen to this podcast, don’t just pop off and say, “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, I do it because of this reason.” Just listen. Listen. That’s more evidence, if you just react to what I’m saying, that you have a form of distortion going on, because I haven’t even told you what I want to say yet, so you’ve got to listen to the whole thing before you start reacting.
[00:12:24] What is Selfishness?
So, let’s start with what is selfishness? Really, what is selfishness?
Selfishness, from my vantage point, is a desperate attempt to control. A desperate attempt to control. So, I just want you to think about that for a minute.
Let’s talk about what selfishness is not. Here’s the Truth: selfishness is not about bad people being bad and mean. It’s not about people who desire to be selfish, or rude, or unfriendly, or obnoxious. It’s not about having anyone like them. It is not about not wanting relationships, or not wanting friends, or connections of all kinds. And it’s not about intentionally destroying those relationships in the person’s life because all they can think about is myself.
Selfishness is not about creating a reality where no one wants to interact with me because I’m unforgiving, or unloving, or unwilling to be respectful and compassionate. Selfishness is not something I want to act like or harm myself or others with.
Selfishness is something I’m usually unconscious about. And when I’m told I’m behaving in a self-focused manner and negatively affecting others, I’m usually unaware—that is key—I am unaware that I have been doing so.
So, that is very important, that people who show up selfish, it’s not because they want to be that way or they’re just bad and mean people who desire to be this way. It’s not about them not wanting relationships or connections. It’s not about them destroying relationships, though that does happen when they act selfishly. It’s about a desperate attempt to control.
So, where does selfishness get created? It is created by a fear that I can’t control. Selfishness is created because I become unwilling or unaware that whatever experience I’m in, I can’t control that, and that I’m vulnerable. And right there, whether I’m conscious or not, that reaction to my vulnerability and that reaction to I want to control my vulnerability, that’s when I start becoming afraid. And from that place of fear, I start becoming incredibly self-focused—or another way we call it is selfish.
So, there are innumerable things that you are out of control with. The only three things you actually do control—this is probably the easiest way to talk about it—is that you get to control your thoughts— your thoughts, not anybody else but your thoughts—you get to control or manage your feelings, you get to control and manage your choices or your behaviors. That’s it. Your thoughts, feelings, and choices. That’s all you’re in control of. That’s it. Those three. Period.
You can’t control whether you lose your hair, you can’t control whether you have an accident, you can’t control your heartbeat, you can’t control your blood pressure. You just can’t control those things. You can’t control whether you’re going to get a disease.
The only things that you’re in charge of are your thoughts—which are your perceptions, your interpretation, your meanings—your feelings, because those feelings are what come after what you think, so when you think something different, your feelings change, and you think something else and your feelings change. And then, you’re responsible for your behaviors, the way you choose to act out those thoughts.
So, what selfishness is really, is that desperate attempt to control. Usually, I’m unconscious of my attempts to control. But that’s where it’s coming from: my attempts to control.
Now, when you look at it from that vantage point, or at least when I look at it from that vantage point, I have a ton of compassion, not only for myself but for everyone else in the human family because none of us are walking around trying to self-centered, though many of us are. We are incredibly self-centered. So many of us are only thinking about ourselves and so what that means, is that there’s a whole ton of people that are in pain, and are in fear, and are reacting to that pain and fear poorly. They’re making decisions from an unconscious, reactionary position that says, “protect yourself, protect yourself.” Or another way to say it is, “don’t be vulnerable, don’t be vulnerable.” And the Truth is that they can’t stop being vulnerable and their futile attempts to protect themselves don’t work. And when I show up in a really selfish manner—and there’s lots of flavors of selfishness—when I show up like that, I violate connection. The very thing the person’s looking for, connection, I violate it because all I’m doing is focusing on myself.
Selfishness is a reaction to fear. Fear of what? Fear of emotions, outcomes, consequences, choices of others, my own choices, inevitable pain and optional pain, pain that I create myself by not being awake to choices I’m choosing. Fear of ultimately being or living out of control.
What a paradox. We already are out of control, so why are we fearing being out of control? Think about that. We are afraid of being out of control but we are out of control.
Many of us live in an illusion that we are in control and so the possibility of being out of control scares us and creates fear around that. This is a lie. It’s a fantasy; it’s an illusion.
The very nature of all of our realities is that we live 24/7 in a state where we are vulnerable. Vulnerable to sickness, death, loss, sadness, receiving unpleasant news, receiving pleasant news, friendships that come and go, running out of gas, running out of time, running out of energy, weather, planes delayed, babies crying, people getting angry, stubbing your toe, breaking bones, being lied to, told no, told yes, having my expectations not met, having my expectations met, being cheated on, striking out, hitting a home run, causing a car accident, winning an award, receiving a standing ovation. We are constantly vulnerable and we are constantly out of control.
Whether we choose to live in an illusion of being in control or not, there are three things we are in control over: our thoughts and our perceptions, our feelings and our emotions, and our choices, behaviors, and outcomes. That’s it.
So, all the things that “happen to us,” whether they are outcomes of the inevitable or outcomes of others’ choices—like someone chooses their choices and it affects me—or the outcomes of my own personal choices, it’s all outside of my control.
Now, how does that settle? That is the Truth. That is the Truth. Selfishness is a deadly emotional and spiritual malady, a destroyer of connection and humanity. Selfishness means focusing entirely on myself to the exclusion of all others. My own thoughts, feelings, and desires, and expectations become more important to me than other people and how those people are being affected by me.
Selfishness totally excludes empathy, compassion, vulnerability, validation, joy, and connection. Selfishness destroys connection and renders us unable to recognize or live in Truth. Selfishness engenders both self-adulation and self-denigration and invites us into disconnect, invites us into fear, invites us until this illusion that we can control, and behave in anti-social manners.
The Truth is, we are social beings with an innate need to connect with others. We cannot spiritually thrive unless we choose to create empathy, compassion, connection within ourselves and with others. If you choose to live selfishly, you are choosing a lifestyle of denial, distortion, and disconnection. There’s that choice piece again that I talked about.
So, now that we know selfishness is a reaction, a symptom, a fear of loss of control, my hope is that you can have compassion, and validation, and sympathy, and empathy which includes having boundaries for the souls—and maybe that’s you—that are loaded with fear and act out in selfish, aggressive manners. Those people can be difficult to connect with because they say, and they do, and they act in ways that hurt them and hurt others.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to be super close with people who are being selfish or mean. What I am suggesting is that you are kind to them and when you’re around them, you need really strong boundaries. So, if you need some help making boundaries, listen to the podcasts on boundaries. There’s podcast 87 and 88 which are all about boundaries. And continually, when you’re with those people, invite them out of their fear, out of their selfishness, out of their illusion of control.
If that causes you fear to be around them and even think of doing that, then don’t do it. But if you would like a challenge and you can maintain your boundaries, and self-esteem, and value when you’re with them, then invite them to see themselves more clearly.
People who behave selfishly often don’t know that they are affecting people and they need an opportunity to see how their words and behaviors affect others. If someone was bleeding out, or freezing cold, or hungry, or drowning, most of us would acknowledge their need and respond appropriately to them. We would offer them, we would invite them, to have warmer clothing, or food to eat, or grab onto the life preserver that you just threw them. Figuratively or literally. And we would invite them, we would offer them validation and feedback.
Feedback, which means Truth, and validation are healing properties, when offered and invited into with vulnerability and compassion and without strings attached or agendas given. So, when you give this stuff and you’re being vulnerable and you give feedback—Truth—and validation, and you give it in vulnerable, and you do it without strings attached or agendas, it has the power to heal souls.
I say has the power because the invitation is present and the power of the invitation is present and the person will either choose to accept it, get vulnerable and hear the validation and feedback/Truth, or choose not to. No one will ever be forced to choose one way or the other. They will however choose because every soul cannot not choose. Choosing Truth or choosing distortion, one or the other.
So, I’m going to tell a couple of stories.
[24:48] Story Time
Where I live, there’s lots of snow this time of year and I was driving down to a place to spend the holidays, and it was later in the afternoon and it was starting to get dark, and so the sun was going down, and there was snow falling. And as I got to a certain part in the road, there was about a stretch of probably 150 miles where I was going through mountainous terrain and there were cars sliding off the road on every side of me. I stopped counting after 50. There were a minimum of 50 cars that had slid off the road. Some I saw slide off the road and they would end up in the ditch on the side of the road or they’d end up in a field. There was no way they were getting out because there was snow piled up, the snow ploughs had come through and they had moved all the snow off the road but there was still a layer of water and it had turned to ice. And when I’d hit my brakes, I could feel my car starting to fishtail, and so it was very clear that these roads were very dangerous, and not only because I could see people sliding off the road but people were going way too fast for the conditions.
And so, as I noticed that, I had this thought of, that’s incredibly selfish of people. And here’s why I interpreted it like that. Now, I don’t know people’s motives. I mean, for me, until I hit my brakes, I didn’t realize how slick the road was, but once I hit my brakes and realized how slick it was, if I would have continued to speed (and I don’t mean like breaking the speed limit, just going super, super fast—faster than the conditions warranted) then I would have been in the state of saying to myself, “I can control this experience, I can control whether I slide off the road, I can control whether I hit ice, I can control my car.”I can control, which means I refuse to accept my vulnerability because I’m acting, and thinking, and behaving in a way that says, “my vulnerability, my experience driving this car, I’m going to deny to myself that I am vulnerable of sliding off the road. And the evidence of that is I’m going to continue to speed.” That is incredibly selfish. Selfish.
Now, do I know what the motives were of those people who slid off the road? No clue. And I’m not even interested in their motives, I’m interested in yours, I’m interested in mine. I’m interested in you thinking and stopping and saying why am I doing this? What’s my purpose? What kind of vulnerable experience am I having that I’m not willing to accept right now? That’s what I’m interested in, because if some of those people slid off the road and they just did not know it was slippery, then they didn’t have selfish motives and it would be very difficult to have been in the conditions that we were all in and not be aware that there was danger of going too fast, especially when you saw the first car off the road. That needed to connect the dot in people’s minds.
However, many of us are so selfish, which means we’re so disconnected, that we don’t connect the dots, we go, “What an idiot, I can’t believe he slid off the road, serves him right, he was going too fast,” and we drive past him. We don’t even think about having empathy, or compassion, or curiosity about, how did that happen for them? And are they going to get the help that they need? Maybe I should call the highway patrol and tell them where they’re at. Those would be indicators of being connected and not being selfish.
So, I want you to think for yourself, why do you do the things that you do? What is motivating you? What does selfishness look and act like? That’s a thought.
[00:29:19] Statements of Selfishness and Control
So, because we know that selfishness is about control, here’s what it looks like and acts like. Here are some statements.
- “I get to _______ because I want to. Because I want it.” That’s a statement of selfishness. “I get to because I want to.”
- “I’m the exception.” I’m the exception, just like I just described. I’m the exception to sliding off the road. I’m the exception to what? I’m the exception to being vulnerable? You’re not. You’re not the exception to anything. You’re not the exception. All of us are on the planet and all of us are vulnerable to everything and every experience that we have, we are all vulnerable to them, you are not the exception.
- Trashing something that’s not yours is what selfishness looks and acts like.
- Acting like a martyr, a victim, blaming, getting angry, isolating, acting incapable of caring for oneself.
So, these behaviors that I just described, or sentences that I just described, are all about this is about control, not about the behavior that I’m exhibiting but that’s usually where all the attention goes, is to the behavior of trying to control these things.
So, for example, I don’t get curious about what’s driving the behavior, I just put all my focus on the behavior. So, I spin off the road in the snowstorm and police and the tow truck come and pull me out and nobody gets curious about my motives behind why I slid off, they’re just all focused on my behavior, like the fact that I did slide off.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the highway patrol or the tow truck person needs to say, “What was your motive for spinning off the road?” But I need to do that, and people who love me, I need to invite them to do that because I will keep having outcomes of very selfish thoughts and selfish motives. And they will manifest in these behavioral outcomes like getting fired from a job, or complaining about my coworkers, or having conflicts in school, or having conflicts with family members. They will evidence themselves—these motives—in these behaviors, and if I don’t ever get curious about why do I keep having these outcomes, then I will just continue to have them and I will never vet my own brain and start listening for how I talk to myself, like, “I’m the exception, I don’t have to go the speed. Everybody else is sliding off the road but I won’t slide off the road.”
Here’s some more statements of what selfishness looks and acts like.
- “I know we’re out of time but ______.” That cracks me up. When I hear somebody say that, I’ll say, “We’re out of time.” They’ll look at me and they’ll say, “Oh, I’ve got one more thing. I know were out of time but ______.” And then, they’ll keep going and it’s like, oh my goodness, I just said we need to end. But they’re like, “Nope, I’m going to do what I want, I’m going to say & look like I acknowledge that I understand you but then I’m going to take.”
- This thought of, “That’s the maid’s job, that’s somebody else’s job. That’s not something that I’m responsible for, somebody else can do it.”
- This feeling of, “I’m owed something, like somebody owes me something.” Here in America, we are having a very difficult time helping people understand that they are not owed things because many people in America want to believe that if somebody has something that they don’t have, then they’re entitled to have it themselves, that those people who have the things should just give them to them because they’re entitled to them. And fill in the blank, whether it’s money, or food, or travel, or a house, or whatever. And I’m all for helping, and giving, and sacrificing, and contributing to people who have less than me. I’m all for that. And this feeling of entitlement that someone owes you is a classic symptom of this selfish plague that’s running through our culture, and I’m talking about the world’s culture. It’s this plague of the 21st century.
- Fairness. Things need to be fair. I don’t know about you, but I learned very early in life that life is not fair. Just look around you. No one is having the same experiences that you are. Nobody. So, if things are fair, everybody would be having the exact same experiences, but that isn’t happening.
- This thought of, “They did it and I didn’t.” Someone saying, “Well, I didn’t know.” Kind of pleading that they weren’t paying attention and so they’re not responsible for the outcome they just created.
- Or when you ask somebody a question and they go, “Well, I don’t know.” That’s another one.
- Any kind of excuses. “So, help me understand why you didn’t get the cat fed this morning, you made a commitment and it’s gone all day long without food, help me understand that.” And they’re like, “Oh, I was really busy and I was late for work.” All these excuses come rolling forth and the cat is the one who ends up with the negative outcome.
- So, this idea of one person being the giver and the others taking or not contributing. So, I was talking to a mom the other day and she was like, “Oh, I’m just so happy with my daughter—she’s got four sons and one girl—and she’s like, I was just so happy with my daughter, she was so willing to get up and ask her brothers if they wanted breakfast, she’s just so kind, so loving, she does that all the time.” And I said to her, I’m like, “That is wonderful, that is super that she’s so willing to give to them.” And she’s like, “I know, I know, she’s just a sweetheart.” And I said, “What about your boys?” She’s like “What, what do you mean?” I said, “What about your boys giving to your daughter, do they get up and do things for her? Do they either make her breakfast or do they go heat up her car before she gets in it in the morning? Are they giving to her like she’s giving to them?” And she’s like, “Oh, well they’re nice boys, they’re really nice, they’re very grateful for what she does.” And I’m like, “I understand that, but they are taking, they’re in an act of taking. She as a pattern, does for them, I’ve heard you talk about what a sweet girl she is and you tell me month after month all the things that she does for her brothers, and I don’t ever hear that her brothers are doing things for her.” And the mom, she didn’t get it. And part of the reason she didn’t get it is because the mom is like the daughter. There’s two girls in that family, there’s a mother and a daughter and then there’s a husband and then four boys. And the men just take while the women give. And it could go the other direction, gender is neutral here but I want to underscore that both genders need to be giving and receiving.
- Another way that selfishness acts out or what it looks like is forgetting to return an item or repay money, especially after you’ve been asked to repay the money or return the item. And then acting shocked when somebody reminds you, like, “I’m going to!” You’re going to take that electric knife back, we borrowed it for Thanksgiving and it’s been like two weeks, are you going to take it back? “Yeah, I’m planning on it, it’s on my list of things to do, don’t bug me.” Can you hear it, can you hear the selfishness? When really, the Truth is I hadn’t even thought of that until you reminded me and now I feel this sense of distortion like, “Oh my gosh, that means I’m bad,” so then I react from a position of fear and selfishness.
- Waiting until the last minute to tell someone that you have to cancel. This is so upsetting, that someone knows something and they’ve made a commitment and they wait and they wait and they wait and they wait, and then moments before (or maybe they don’t cancel at all, they just don’t show up), they call or they text or they email—I love those, they don’t even get ahold of you, they just send out this non-committal don’t have to confront the issue, medium of communication and just hope that you get it. And you’re left high and dry because you’ve planned for the last two weeks to maybe move your house, or make breakfast for the elderly, or maybe you planned on studying for a particular test with this person and you really need their help, and they either don’t show up or they cancel last minute and it’s kind of like well, I cancelled so just deal with it. It’s unbelievable.
I remember a couple of years ago, I was moving and it was just myself and another young man, we had to move a whole trailer load of boxes and this young man asked about four of five of his friends to come, and at the time that he had given them to show up, nobody came. Nobody came. And I was so upset, not because we had to unload the whole trailer, I was more upset about the selfishness, the lack of connection to another human being, that these people did not even think of how they would affect another person if they just didn’t show up.
And so, I invited this one kid who was with me, I said, “I hope that you’re going to confront your friends.” He’s, like, “Well, I’m sure they didn’t mean to and they probably forgot.” I’m like, “Please don’t give them excuses. Please. Because this is what keeps selfishness going, are people just like you that excuse this horrendous behavior away.”
And so, he did. He confronted them and every one of them said something along the lines of, “I forgot, or something came up, or I didn’t think you really needed me because you had the other guys coming.” It’s like, that’s not the point, gentleman. The point is that you made a commitment and you need to show up barring you’ve had an accident and you can’t move. That’s the point.
I talk to young people, girls and boys, men and women alike, and their word means nothing to them. It is unbelievable. Back 40, 50, 60 years ago, your word was your bond. Your word was like gold. And if you didn’t follow your word because you died, the family would show up and repay the debt. Today, your word means nothing. People give their word and it means nothing to them.
In fact, when I talk to young people and I’ll say, “You made a commitment,” and they’ll look at me like I just said, “Go get me a drink of water” or like I said, “The sky is blue” and they’re like, “Yeah, and?” And I look at them and they can tell them I’m disturbed but they don’t know why I’m disturbed. And I’ll say, “Does that mean anything to you?” And they’ll typically go, “No.” It is so tragic, how we are showing up in our culture, in our world, that our commitments have so little to no meaning to us. And not only to us but to others. People don’t expect us to keep our commitments.
Two more things.
- Letting someone figure out who will follow through for you. So, for example, I make a commitment and then I say to somebody, “Can you follow through for me?” And they go, “Well, I don’t know.” And then I just go, “Okay, great.” And I just kind of leave it with them to figure out who’s going to show up instead of following through and saying, “Okay, I will make sure I get a replacement. I’ll make sure that this gets done. Whether it’s me or somebody else, I will make sure that the thing I committed to will happen.” They just go, “I can’t, or I know I committed but something came up, so good luck.”
- Missing an appointment or running late.
So, those are some of the actions and what selfishness looks like. When someone continues to attempt to control or act selfishly, they begin to show or behave these symptoms of much more significant problems. So, when someone starts showing up in a selfish way, they will additionally start showing symptoms of the selfishness and it turns into very significant problems.
This means the attempts to control are becoming more pronounced and more desperate. The pain the person is feeling, they try to block themselves from it, like they try not to notice it and they’re doing all they can to silence it.
And so, here are some behavioral evidences of the fact that selfishness is behind the scenes. And behind selfishness is this desire to control, this desire to not accept my vulnerability, and therefore, I live in fear and distortion. So, here are some symptoms.
- Addiction is a symptom of living in selfishness, of living in this unwillingness to accept your vulnerability and realize that the experiences that you have and all the emotions that come with those experiences are yours to own and yours to feel. So, symptoms, addictions of all kinds.
- Obsessive behaviors.
- Social media. It was Christmas Eve last night and I went out to dinner and I was by myself, and I went to this restaurant and there were just families all over the place, big groups of people. And I looked around and so many people were on their phones. I actually had a tear come to my eye, I was so sad. I would have loved to have company and talked to someone. In fact, the waiter came and I was in this little booth and he came and sat down across from me and he goes, “Are you here by yourself?” And I said, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Oh, would you mind if I just sit here and take your order?” I said, “No, that’d be great.” I’d never had a waiter come sit down across from me. Usually, they stand up. He was very nice; his name was Jeff. He and I had some verbal exchange and I thanked him for working Christmas Eve because I know he has a family and he told me all about his family and he’s working to go to school and to provide for his family. I just complimented him about being really charactered and being willing to work on such an important night to serve all of us and take care of us at the expense of not being with his family. As I looked around the restaurant and so many people were on their phones looking at videos, I’m sure they were social media-ing.
- Other symptoms are this focus on fashion, like I’ve got to look a certain way, I’ve got to dress a certain way.
- Video games.
- Eating, any kind of eating disorder like obesity, anorexia.
- This expectation that someone is going to take care of me.
- Continuing to commit, not follow through, and hiding it.
- “I’ll have that soon.”
- “Everything’s my fault.”
- Perfectionism. That’s a big one. Perfectionism. People will go, “I’m not perfect.” It’s like, no one’s asking you to be perfect, don’t bring perfect into our conversation. You’re the one that brought it up, I didn’t. I don’t even know what perfect is and neither do you. But it is such an extreme position that people go to, it’s kind of like a hiding place, like I jump on this free space called perfectionism and say, “You can’t touch me, you can’t touch me because I’m trying to be perfect.” And really what perfectionism is, is it is an utter and complete lie because there’s no way to attain it. And inside that lie, I don’t have to be responsible for myself because I can do whatever I want and then say “I was just trying to be perfect. And I can’t be perfect. And I try to be perfect.” It’s like, this isn’t about perfect, this is about get up when your alarm rings. This isn’t about I’m trying to be perfect, it’s about getting up but I just can’t seem to be perfect. Perfectionism is a violation of personal responsibility.
- People who claim they have mid-life crises.
- Behavior that is evidence of selfishness is people who try to be tough, or being needy, or hating oneself, wanting praise and doing things for praise.
- Taking services without paying for them. I don’t experience this a lot, but when I first started my practice, I’d have people come in and I’d see them for therapy and then they wouldn’t pay their bill. And it was like oh, my goodness. And I’m sure every single person who owns a business who has trusted that people will take the services or take the goods and they’ll repay them, have had this experience with people, it is unreal how many people have no problem because they’re disconnected and very selfish, at taking things and then not paying them back. And really thinking that, well, “They charge a whole lot, so it’s not going to hurt them if I don’t pay them.” It’s like it doesn’t matter what somebody charges, what matters is that you took their service or you took their product, and you owe them for that.
You can see that what selfishness looks like and acts like is also the same behavior and ways selfishness shows up in symptoms. The symptoms are selfishness being played out in real life, yet many of us are reticent to call the behavior or symptom selfish.
So, when someone goes, well, I’m just trying to be perfect about getting up on time. Few people will say, “You know what, that’s irresponsible, you’re being very selfish.” Few people will say that. They’ll go okay, honey, just keep trying, that’s really good that you’re trying, you’re trying to be perfect, that’s wonderful. Instead of saying, “That’s a bunch of baloney, start being responsible and get up when your alarm rings.”
That’s hard for people to do because they don’t want to be “mean.” And I put it in quotes because it’s all this illusion. The person’s that’s being mean is the person who is being selfish. That’s who is being mean if there’s anybody in the equation that’s being mean, because the person in the selfishness is lying, they’re lying to themselves and they’re lying to you. And they’re saying, “I can’t do this and I just get so depressed with myself because I can’t be perfect.” That’s a distortion from the word go.
So, I want to share what respectful behavior looks like. I just have a story and this is a story about Rick, my good friend Rick, the mechanic. He’s been in several of my podcasts. I love Rick. He is a wonderful man and I remember when I first met Rick, he was at his Chevron station and when I got up in the morning, I saw several of his employees sweeping the asphalt. Now, they have a huge piece of land where they have probably 12 gas pumps and so it’s a big piece of asphalt, it covers a lot of square footage. And these men, there were like three of them, they were all walking around with push brooms sweeping the asphalt. And I remember saying to Rick later on that day, like “I keep seeing these guys out sweeping the asphalt.” And he goes, “Yes, that’s one of the things that we do, is keep the asphalt clean.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because we want it to be clean. We want our Chevron station to be really clean.” I’m like, “You’re sweeping the cement for cars to drive on it?” He’s like, “Yep.”
It was kind of like sweeping and mopping your floor in your house because you want to walk on it with bare feet. That’s what it felt like, is that Rick and his employees wanted their Chevron station to look so clean for them, it’s a reflection of them, and also for their customers because they respect their customers. And then, people would drive up and they would get out their cars and these people would drop their push brooms and they’d go over and they’d wipe their windshields. And then, I overheard people say, “Do I need to pay you?” Or, “Don’t do that, I don’t have any money.” And they’re like, “No, no. This is free of charge.”
It was so wonderful to watch people’s responses to these people who were giving. They didn’t want anything in return, it wasn’t this hidden motive, like I’m going to do this for you so you can give me something. It didn’t have that in it. It was just a gift. Very respectful. Respectful of themselves and respectful of the patrons who came to their store.
Now, I have known Rick for four years now, and every time I stop at the gas station, there is at least one person, if not three, out sweeping the asphalt. That is the cleanest asphalt in probably all of the world because it gets swept numerous times during the day, just because. Just because. These men take pride in their work because they respect themselves, and they respect cleanliness, and orderliness, and they respect the people that come and get gas at their Chevron station. They don’t want anything in return, they’d be out there sweeping it whether people showed up or not.
So, that is a story of what the antithesis of selfishness would look like, where I’m willing to acknowledge my vulnerability, I’m willing to not control—these people were not trying to control people coming, they just did what they knew to be good for them and people responded in very positive ways.
So, how is selfishness created? Selfishness is created by an unwillingness to accept vulnerability and Reality. If we won’t accept our vulnerability and Reality, then these are the results. Ready?
We can have things that create selfishness by having traumas, lack of parental guidance, enabling, or some kind of confusion about something where I don’t get the Truth about something, entitlement, my expectations not being met, or not being required to have consequences for the choices I make, parents want their kids to be comfortable so they just give them what they want. We have a responsibility as parents to launch our children at age 18 and when kids have not been taught the process and the movement of choice and consequence, they’re not ready to launch at 18. They’re incredibly entitled.
And so, vulnerability means: I will accept the Reality, I will accept what will happen and that I will be affected. And then, I will choose to perceive how I’m being affected, I will choose how I will perceive the Reality.
And then, I will make choices through that perception of Reality to feel certain things and to make certain choices, because the Truth is, is that I affect myself and others affect me and circumstances affect me, so my choices have effects, have consequences, others’ choices have consequences, and just living in the world has consequences, like weather, and things breaking, and things wearing out, things like that just happen and I need to be responsible for the way that those experiences show up and how I engage them.
I’m going to stop here and I’m going to pick the rest of this up on the next podcast.
Spend time thinking about what I’m saying. I know I’m talking very boldly and very bluntly to you because selfishness is a significant issue in our world. It is causing so many conflicts and relationships to be destroyed inside families, inside businesses, inside governments – selfishness. It is a very demoralizing and destructive way to behave, and so many of us don’t even know that we’re doing it, let alone know why it is that we’re doing it.
I’ll talk to you in a few minutes.
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