Hosted by Jodi Hildebrandt.
This is part 2 of a 2-part series. Listen to part 1 >
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 97: Selfishness—The Plague of the 21st Century (Part 2)
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Welcome back to a podcast about selfishness, the plague of the 21st century. Let’s ask some questions. So questions to ask myself to be aware if you are wanting or attempting to control. And again, that means behave in a selfish manner.
So, here’s what you ask yourself if you have a desire to control. Here’s a handful of questions.
- Am I willing to be honest with myself and see others and the Reality of what I’m experiencing? That’s a very important question. Am I willing to be honest with myself and others about the Reality of what I’m experiencing? The Reality. The Truth. Am I willing to be honest about the Truth of what I’m experiencing? If I’m not, then I will go into control.
- Will I accept that I am or will be affected because I’m vulnerable? I’ll tell you, that one right there, that takes billions of people down right there. That one right there. I refuse to be vulnerable, so I’m off being selfish. I’m off thinking that I can control things, and people live in that space their whole life and they pass it on to the next generation because they model it for people – you don’t have to be vulnerable, you can do whatever you want. It’s unbelievably distorted, unbelievably.
- The Truth is, nothing is personal. Nothing is personal. When things show up vulnerably, like let’s say that you lose an animal or you lose a friend, or a family member—like death—it’s not personal to you. Is it going to affect you? Oh, you bet it’s going to affect you and the universe, God, heaven was not trying to harm you. You have a loss and you’re responsible to show up in the Truth around that loss, which is grieve it, and feel it, and talk about it, and experience any emotion you want to experience with it as long as you’re being responsible for the choices you make and the outcomes that those choices created, you can do whatever you like as far as feeling. But nothing is personal. Be responsible for that Truth.
- Am I willing to feel and show compassion for myself and others? Is the relationship better because I’m in it? That’s a good question. Am I willing to feel and show compassion for others? And then, inside that question, are the relationships I’m in better because I’m in it?
- Do I leave a space better because I’ve been in it? Do I clean up my stuff? Do I leave a space better? And as far as better, it just means is it orderly, is it clean, is it the way that I found it? Or maybe you found it a mess, you know, cleaning it up. Everybody likes a clean a space. Is the space or relationship better because I’m in it?
- Am I respecting my space or someone else’s space? So, for example, some people ask people to take their shoes off when they come in their house. Will you follow their traditions, their values in their space? Am I respecting the space of someone else or my own? Am I open to being taught? See another person’s perspective?
- What I’m reacting to or afraid of or wanting to control. Tell myself the Truth about that. What am I reacting to? What am I afraid of? What am I wanting to control? These are ways to recognize if you’re starting to go into control, you ask yourself these kinds of questions.
At what age do people become responsible? That’s a good question. Some people will say, “Well, they’re still really young, they’re not responsible for that.” And maybe that’s true, maybe they’re not responsible to go out and pay for the mortgage. However, at what age does someone become responsible, and what are they responsible for? Because the Truth is, the second you’re born, you are engaged in an act of responsibility.
Infants are responsible to be able to soothe themselves. At a certain point, they’re responsible to sleep through the night, barring there’s something wrong, if an infant is healthy, and they’re fed, and all their needs are being taken care of, they are responsible to be able to sleep through the night without having a parent come and soothe them. We’re teaching children responsibility, or we need to be teaching them responsibility all the way along, so that they become really capable, and they know they’re capable, and they know that they have the ability to take care of themselves.
I know a young man who lost his father, I think it was to cancer. His mom remarried. This is probably a story for many people. This young man, he was probably, I don’t know, maybe five or six years old when his dad died. So, he was still pretty young and he began to grow up and any time he was asked to show up or be responsible, he would kind of pull the “My dad died” card on people. And that’s why he couldn’t show up, or that’s why he was late, or that’s why he was sad. Everything he did in his life that he showed up irresponsibly around, he would play this card. “Well, you know, I’m still grieving the loss of my father, I was thinking about my dad the other night and that’s why I didn’t wake up in time.” And people would just back up from him because he would say “My dad died,” and people were like, “Wow, that’s a sacred cow I don’t want to touch.” And so, they would just let him do that.
I remember going up to him one day and saying, “That’s enough of you pulling that card on people. That is so selfish of you, to make commitments and not show up the way you commit, and then to throw that in their face, and scare them, and cause them to feel badly about requiring you to show up for a commitment that you made, that’s enough of that.” And he looked at me like I’d stabbed him in the forehead, like nobody had ever confronted him. And he and I were in conflict for a while, and I just kept confronting him around that. I’m like, “We all know your dad died. There’s plenty of time to grieve and feel loss, but not around the times that you made a commitment and you haven’t shown up, not those times.”
It took probably six, nine months before he stopped doing that, and I kept saying to people, “Stop reacting to the fact that he doesn’t show up and he brings up his dad’s death.” And they’re like, “Well, I just feel insensitive.” And I’m like, “He is manipulating you with that. And the thing that’s so sad is, he really doesn’t even care about his dad dying. He was so little, he doesn’t even really remember it. And he knows he can use it to get out of things, so don’t be enabling around that.”
And that’s hard because people want to be sensitive and he’s exploiting their sensitivity. It’s incredibly aggressive, incredibly selfish. Selfish, selfish, selfish.
So, selfishness, hopefully you can hear and see that it’s an outcome. It’s an outcome of fear, and confusion, and feeling, and more importantly, being out of control which all of us are out of control. On purpose, we are all out of control. We are born out of control, and selfishness is an outcome of me believing that I’m in control, or that I can be in control or I should be in control, or I ought to be in control, or I’m entitled to be in control—I get to be in control of you, or that, or them, or those, or these things, etc. This illusion of me being able to control anything or anyone other than my thoughts, my feelings, and my behaviors, is a lie and it will always lead to selfishness. It will always lead to pride, arrogance, self-deception, and all manners of distortion. Distortion comes in all flavors. You either, at any time, will be in Truth or distortion. At all times, you’ll be in one or the other of those two places. It’s your responsibility to keep looking at yourself and asking, “What is my motive? Am I in Truth or am I in distortion?”
So, that kid that kept pulling the my dad died card, you can see the distortion he was in, right? The Truth is, is that his dad die, but his dad died years ago. And even if it was six months later and his dad died, and he kept making commitments and breaking them and he’s using his dad’s death as the reason, that still would be inappropriate and it still would be selfish because his dad’s death has nothing to do with the fact that he’s making commitments and not showing up. If he’s in that much grief, he needs to stop committing. But I don’t get to commit and then throw something out that scares you or manipulates your emotions, so that you back off from holding me accountable. I don’t get to do that. Ever. Ever.
Here’s some things that we say, and there’s a billion of these, so I’m just going to read five or six I’ve written down.
- So, people pass by on the street and somebody wants to talk to them and they go, “Oh, I’m busy.” And they walk right by them. So, they have to stop and go, was that Truth or distortion? Because if the person was busy, then that’s the Truth. But if they’re not busy, they need to say, “I’m not interested.” And not, I’m busy.
- If somebody’s saying “I can’t.” “I can’t ______.” Is that Truth or distortion? Maybe it really is the Truth that they can’t, like hey, will you come life up this 100-pound barrel? If I say I can’t, then that is the Truth. If they want me to take some flowers to the next-door neighbor and I really do have time and I want to go in and watch a soap opera instead of taking flowers to the neighbor, then that is a distortion.
- Another statement. “This always _______.” This always happens to me. This always is the case. You’ve got to look, is that Truth or distortion?
- “I’m better than.” Most of the time, that’s going to be distortion. Now, you may say, I’m better than you at playing the piano. The Truth is, I don’t have a clue about how to play the piano, so that is true, is that you are at better than me at playing the piano.
- So, you can be better in behaviors than other people but as far as I’m better than you as a being, that will always be distortion. I get to do this because I’m better than you. Like, I get to be this because I’m better than you. That’s distortion.
- “I shouldn’t have to or I should have to.” So, I should be more helpful to the neighbor who just had triplets and doesn’t have any family around. I should be more helpful. Now, let’s say that I’ve been helping her for three weeks and there’s nobody else that’s coming in. Her husband isn’t showing up, he’s kind of flopping and none of the other neighbors want to help. And so, I have this statement of, “I should be more helpful.” It’s not about I should be, it’s about I have given all that I can, and I need to take a break, and it is not my responsibility to take care of my neighbor and her triplets. And so, saying, “I should be more helpful” is a distortion in that circumstance.
So, everything you think, everything you say, everything you choose to engage in needs to be vetted by you, so you know why. You know why, if you’re in Truth or distortion, you know why you think, you feel, and choose the way you do. You are responsible for everything that comes out of your either mouth, or shows up in your head, or gets behaved through your hands, or any of your senses. You are responsible to know, is it coming from Truth or distortion?
If you choose connections, you can’t choose selfishness. Selfishness violates connection. Connection is an outcome of choosing to be emotionally honest, being responsible for your motives and cleaning up—which means repenting of—your motives that are in distortion, humble, be humble, be open, be willing, be teachable to see Truth versus distortion.
Connection acknowledges your vulnerability and accepts it. Accepts that you live in a state of being out of control. I saw the best movie yesterday. Oh, my goodness, I knew nothing about it other than people in line said, “Oh, we’ve heard such good things about this movie.” I didn’t know the people in line either, I just took their word for it. I thought, if it turns out to be raunchy or something inappropriate, I’ll just get up and leave. So, I went in knowing nothing about this movie, it’s called Collateral Beauty. And I give that name, not to give it a plug, but to give it a plug, because it was fantastic. It talks all about these principles. If you want to see selfishness in action, go watch Collateral Beauty, and if you want to see Truth in action, go watch Collateral Beauty. I’m not going to give any of the storyline away, it’s just that it’s a story about trying to control things that somebody can’t control, and how the person ends up being incredibly selfish because of the things that he can’t control.
And when I recognize that I’m out of control and then I refuse to accept it, I will immediately behave, and think, and feel from a selfish position, and when I do that, I need to have compassion for me and hopefully, have compassion from others. And Truth from those people needs to be shared with me over and over, so when I choose and if I choose, I can exit the trap of selfishness. My unwillingness to humble and accept my vulnerability is a trap. It’s a trap. My unwillingness to humble and accept my vulnerability is a trap. You get to choose whether you disconnect, and act selfish, and believe illusions of control, and fear and distortion, denial, anger, entitlement—or you get to choose connection. It’s up to you.
So, when life shows up and I make a choice and I have an outcome that I don’t want, be wise, don’t deny it. Accept it, move through it, feel it, don’t try to control it, because you can’t. You can use your brain and perceive it differently, so you can turn it and say okay, this is not meant to hurt me, nothing’s personal, though it hurts. That’s kind of a conflict, well it hurts but it’s not personal, and it’s not personally trying to hurt. That’s right. And if you’re willing to do that and you’re willing to stay vulnerable and feel the emotions inside the experience, and tell yourself the Truth about the experience—the Truth—and if you can’t find the Truth, then find someone who knows the Truth and listen to them and let them help you.
If you will do that and you will have compassion for yourself or someone else, tell yourself the Truth and feel the vulnerability of the experience, feel the vulnerability of the experience, tell yourself the Truth back and forth. Truth, vulnerability, Truth, vulnerability, Truth, vulnerability. You will exit selfishness. You will exit this illusion that you can control things, because you cannot. You will exit fear and you will exit distorted thoughts because your distortion will have no place to root its distortion in, because there’s no fear to play off of, there’s no illusion of control to play off of, so you won’t have them. You’ll just accept that you’re vulnerable and you’ll tell yourself the Truth of the experience and you’ll move through it. And you’ll be very gracious, like, you’ll behave graciously as you move through life, because you are the one that’s free to choose.
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