Selfishness is, as pointed out by Georg Eliot, a judgment readily passed by those who have never tested their power of sacrifice. It is the unhealthy attitude of being excessively or obsessively preoccupied with oneself in a manner that benefits the self even if it is disadvantageous to others. It is the unethical practice of seeking or concentrating upon one’s advantage, pleasure and well-being without giving that of others a damn. It is the act of overestimating one’s importance and underestimating that of others. To a selfish person, the self is the soul, the centre and the essence of the entire creation.
Selfishness is understood universally and needs almost no introduction. Unfortunately, despite being universally identified and, often, easily detectable, one does not make sufficient efforts toward warding oneself off this menace.
Given the fact that a person cannot and ought not forget oneself completely, selfishness must not be confused with catering to one’s own needs. Selfishness is not being concerned about a need; rather it is falling prey toone’s greed. It is not being cautious, but being inconsiderate, uncharitable and self-absorbed. In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."
Now, a few questions arise. Is selfishness genetic or is it acquired? Is it a choice or an accident? If one delves deeper into things, one is likely to find characteristics that bind all selfish creatures together. Among them, besides many other traits, are being good at manipulations, being uncaring towards others, being given to plotting and scheming against others, being conceited and self-centred, being difficult and uneasy at giving and caring, prioritizing one’s whims and wishes over the needs and concerns of others and being unreceptive to constructive criticism.
Why do people become selfish? Why do they prefer their interests over those of their fellow beings? Though there could be diverse responses and divergent opinions as regards what constitutes the ingredients of selfishness, yet it seems safe to claim that being over-ambitious and falling prey to one’s wants are among the main culprits and these are the things to ward off.
One must make sure that one’s wants and expectations do not overshadow one’s resources and estimations. In the words of Criss Jami, “Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”
Though it seems that being completely altruistic is not everybody’s cup of tea, being selfish can be injurious to the self and hazardous to others. It may lead to the destruction of families and disruption of peace. It is pertinent to mention that those who fail to gauge their selfishness, fail to listen to the voices within their conscience and, it is no surprise, that they tend to deprive themselves of the joy of being giving, helping and altruistic in a world where cut-throat and rat-race competitions are becoming an everyday matter. In the words of Richard Bach, “Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.”
History is witness to the fate of people who preferred their selfishness to altruism. The selfish are often made to taste doses of their own medicine, and they end up paid back in the same coin. Though the argument may be a slippery slope, yet selfishness is potent enough to lead to diseases of the heart which in turn may incite the actions of the hand. In the words of Stephen Kendrick, “Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves.”
The dispraise for selfishness must not cease. A universal distaste for selfishness is a thing to desire for. It is hard to overstate the joy and gaiety that dawns upon the self when one becomes contributing or symbiotic rather than parasitic. Selfishness is a curse equally for the self as for the society. It disfigures the face and corrupts the soul. In the words of David Mitchell, “In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”
One must make efforts to gauge how selfishness eats into everything. It impacts the other and destroys the self. Once the disease of selfishness invades a person, it is hard to get rid of. It soon becomes a part of the person. In the words of Jane Austen, "Selfishness must always be forgiven you know because there is no hope of a cure."
The Quran emphasizes the reward of shredding the selfishness of one’s heart by proclaiming that whoever is saved from the selfishness of their souls, it is they who are truly successful. In the words of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, "Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see -egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see."
(Firdous Ahmad Mala is Assistant professor, Government Degree College Sopore. Email:email@example.com. Rouf Ali is Sr. Assistant professor, Government Degree College Sopore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Box: In the words of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, "Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see -egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see."