Selfishness is Boring

From time to time, I get tired of writing.

I think I stopped writing in February because I got it in my mind that I was going to write a book, but I never found time to write a book and so for a month I just haven’t written.

I was going to write a book about all of the horrible things I do because I thought that if someone wrote a book like that, it could change the world. (I was on an honesty kick. It was inspired by some of my friends’ kicks which include but are not limited to: sincerity, innocence, desire, rationality. All of my friends have kicks.)

I have a friend who believes that we are all selfish. For a long time, I resisted that. I thought that was a tragic idea.

I’m pretty sure she is right, though. And I don’t know that it’s all that tragic anymore. Most of the time, being selfish helps me make decisions. When deciding what I want to have for dinner, for instance, it is easier to simply consider my own desires rather than how my business going to a certain establishment is going to affect their monthly profits. But when I interact with other people on a personal level, that’s when selfishness starts to be a problem. Unfortunately for me, interacting with people is approximately 99% of life.

I hate it when people play favorites. But I play favorites, too. I hate when I can see how funding is affecting an organization, but if I ran an organization and another organization gave me money, I have to say that I would act favorably towards my funders.

Selfishness is not really that big of a deal. People wanting power is not something that is worth talking about. The real issue is when we let the conversations about selfishness and power and greed consume us – when we spend all day pointing fingers at other people.

Jesus once said:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:42)

A lot of people think this means that after we judge ourselves, that we can judge other people. Some people think this means that there is such a thing as moral high ground.

There isn’t. We all always have the plank in our eye. That’s the issue.

I think real change comes when people stop talking about selfishness and power and greed and start talking about how we can love people where they are. I know that sounds hokey, but I don’t know how else to say it.

A Confession About My Romantic Notions

I need to level with you. All of my brain energy that is left over at the end of the week, after all my responsibilities have been met, goes towards thinking about and obsessing over romance. I don’t share that with a lot of people because it makes me sound like a fourteen-year-old girl. It’s not something I’m proud of or want to continue doing. And I want you to think more of me than that. But I’m on this kick where I am trying to be a little more honest about things so we are going to work through some things today.

I don’t know the first thing about love. I have no idea. I’ve had my share of relationships. I’ve used the l-word sometimes. But I have absolutely no clue.

A while back, I decided that love was a choice – that all of these ideas about “falling” for someone are romantic fantasies. That’s not to be mean or pessimistic. I don’t think that love is any less intense because of that. I just think it’s a choice.

I also don’t think there’s one person out there for everyone. Yes, usually you are in a committed relationship with one person at a time; that does not mean that person is the only person for you. I think we construct stories about people to deal with the horrifying reality that is “till death do us part.” It’s freakin’ scary.

I was working Interview Day for my college a couple of days ago. A mother of a prospective student asked me if my college was my first choice. I grimaced. It’s not a fair question. The answer is no. It wasn’t. I didn’t get in to my first choice. And had I gotten into my first choice, I would have gone there. I tell people that it would have been a hard decision, but I know it wouldn’t have been. I would have gone in a second to the school that rejected me. But if I was given that decision again and this time I did get into my first choice and I was told exactly what my life would look like had I picked the pathI am on now, perhaps the decision would have been harder. I like where I am now. I like what I am doing with my life. I like the people I know. And so when people ask me if this school was my first choice, I usually answer that I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Because I can’t. I love it here.

So we create a narrative in which fate brought me here or destiny picks our soul-mates. Because it’s comfortable to believe that. It’s horrifying to think that we could have made the wrong choice.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a terrifying moment where my idea of love as a choice and my idea that there wasn’t one person out there for me came crashing together. How, then, do you determine the person you spend the rest of your life with? I have annoyed many of my close friends with this question over and over again. “You just know,” they say. Or as my parents like to succinctly put it, “It’ll come when you aren’t looking for it.” I think these statements are little more than tautologies. They aren’t helpful. They don’t serve as practical advice.

But then I started thinking about these statements differently. I read something recently that compared finding a significant other to finding a career, a life-mission. I thought that was stupid at first. Finding a career is easy. You just do and work until you find something you love and then you do primarily that one thing. And when I took the time to write that thought out, I realized the comparison to romantic relationships wasn’t that stupid. Because how do you explain to someone what finding something you love looks like or feels like? You can’t. It’s impossible. It just happens.

That’s the difference, then. I have always assumed I will have a career. I assumed that I was going to college. And so when it came time to make that decision, I made it with the best options that were open to me. But sometimes, I don’t assume I am going to have a family. And I wrongly think that the best way to finding my future spouse is through a string of committed relationships. Committed relationships are good, I guess, but they’re kind of like spending your adolescent years spending time at different universities until you decide to commit to one. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You need the information from high school before you can go to college. But when it comes, you are ready to make that decision.