Ever feel like you’re in a position to make a decision where there can be no reasonably useful or positive outcome? Ever feel like the the choice in front of you will simply lead to misery (or at very least, be anti-climactic), regardless of the path you take?
We are all selfish in our own little (or not so little) ways. We have all said, done, and been involved with things in the past that has shaped us into the individuals we are today. Everyone at some point will regret some of the decisions they’ve made. At the same time we understand that, in most cases, we would not have acquired the wisdom of experience gained by making those decisions in the first place. Wisdom aside, we may never again have the opportunity to engage experiences we have always quietly longed for.
I, of course, am not a God fearing man by any means. I don’t believe that chosing whether or not to consume pork or beef will have any major karmic consequence (aside from what can naturally occur health-wise if proper diet isn’t maintained). I believe that whatever happens to us in our lives is the result of either a) the decisions we have made in the past, b) the decisions that others have made which happen to affect us by consequence, or c) cascading events over time, including genetics and environmental changes. Any moral conflicts which stir in my mind are the result of my own experiences and what I’ve come to see as good, bad, or taboo.
Having said that, “let your conscience be your guide” becomes a double-edged sword. Taking your own feelings into account is just as important as taking into account the feelings and wishes of others (isn’t it?). One day you may find that the very thing you’ve avoided in order to “do the right thing” – to be the best model of a good person that you can be (from the perspective of your current society/environment), could very well end up being your biggest regret.
There is of course a significant portion of our population that, by default, will put their own feelings first, before the feelings of others. Lets call this group the “me first” group. This type of person will consider the feelings of others as an after-thought, and usually in a reactive manner, should their general lack of consideration put them in an uncomfortable situation.
I am not one to be inconsiderate of the feelings of others.. for the most part.
On the flip-side, there are those who feel that their desires and feelings should always be considered first, in any situation. I guess these people also fall squarely into the “me first” group. Many of these people have a knack for twisting culture, tradition and social norms to support their “me first” mind-set.
But isn’t making your own feelings an equal or greater priority over the feelings of others place you in the “me first” group as well? It depends.
It’s all about patterns – how often do you do it? How regularly does it occur? To what extent? I would imagine that the “me first” group are “me first” people most, if not all of the time. Whereas, those who have to consciously think about putting their own feelings first – who generally put others first, and themselves second (or last) don’t necessarily get lumped into the “me first” group. Of course, a single selfish action can cause you to be labelled one way or the other. I suppose also, over time, people can shift in and out of the “me first” group depending on their current life situation.
But anyone capable of using the space between their ears can understand the difference between an intermittent, irregular behavior, and that of behavior which is regular, recurring, and often predictable.
So.. does a selfish act committed by a generally un-selfish person, make that person generally selfish? Everyone is selfish to some degree. Understood. However there are extremes that need to be taken into account, extremes that most people cannot (or will not) acknowledge. Practical wisdom to the rescue.