Unselfishness definition essay
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The Value Of Selflessness
By Avi Feldman
MyLife Essay Contest
It’s no secret that change is hard. But imagine if you knew that there was one trait you can work on, which would cause so many of life’s struggles and difficulties to slowly disappear. It would make you a happier person, it would give your life more meaning and it would enhance your relationships with the people closest to you; you would become a more sensitive spouse, a more caring parent and a more giving person.
Perhaps this is the quality that can change your life so much: it’s called selflessness. It doesn’t sound very appealing, right? Let’s explore what it really is all about and then come to your own conclusion on whether this indeed is the key to so many important parts of your life.
In March 1981, gun shots were fired at President Ronald Reagan, in an attempted assassination. Shouting and chaos filled the street in front of the Washington Hilton Hotel. Many panicked, while others ran for cover. One secret service agent jumped into the line of fire to shield the president. The trigger was pulled, and the agent intercepted the president’s bullet; it was an act of absolute selflessness.
Selflessness is when your care for something is so strong that you would do anything for it. It’s when you’re so impressed and in awe of a person, that when in his presence, your own needs don’t feel so significant anymore. It’s when something is so special and dear to you that your very existence becomes secondary.
“For to me the people of Israel are servants; they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; I am the lord your G-d 1 .” To be a servant of G-d is a fundamental part of Judaism. Together with the birth of the Jewish people, G-d has chosen us to be his servants. A servant is someone whose entire life is devoted to his master. Indeed, G-d wanted a people whose entire existence would be one of dedication; to Him and to the mission He has entrusted to them.
Chassidus adds a deeper dimension to this concept. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya 2 that G-d cannot rest in someone who is egotistical. G-d only feels comfortable amongst those who are nullified to him. Hence, it could only be through our selflessness that we bring G-d into our lives. Since our life’s task is to make this world a home for G-d, we need to bring G-dliness into ourselves in order to bring it to the world. This is accomplished through developing a feeling of selflessness.
Nevertheless, as important as it is to lead a life of selflessness, to so many it’s nothing but a theory. You can learn about it, think about it and even preach it, but when somebody cuts you off on the highway, you don’t feel very selfless. Our nature doesn’t allow us to feel that way. Instead, we think to ourselves, “I don’t care to be selfless. I’m not ready to inconvenience myself for another. Even if it makes sense to me, I’m not willing to give up my own comforts for someone else’s sake.” These thoughts are very natural. People are inclined to do things from which they benefit; they’ll do things once they see what’s in it for them.
So is it fair to ask, “What can I benefit from being selfless?” Well, it’s normal. Is it a contradiction? Probably. Nonetheless, Judaism is like climbing a ladder. Even if you’re not at the top and following Judaism one hundred percent correctly, it is not a reason to quit the climb. The Torah teaches us to start climbing slowly: first do it for your own sake and that will lead you to do it for G-d’s sake 3 .
Being selfless is a mindset. On a simple level, it’s about putting someone else before you. It’s about doing somebody a favor even when it hurts you a little. It’s about realizing that life isn’t just about your own needs and preferences, but rather looking out for another’s as well.
Believe it or not, it’s an attitude that will ultimately make your own life a better one. Here’s how: in a maamar 4 , the Rebbe Rashab demonstrates how your own happiness is in your control. Have you ever wondered how somebody less fortunate, can be happier than you? A person who is egotistical can never truly be happy with what he has. It is his habit to expect more since he holds himself in such high regard. “A person like me deserves all of this,” he thinks to himself. Whereas, a person who is more humble, is thankful for all which is given to him. It’s similar to the difference between a salary and a gift: when you get your paycheck at the end of a month’s hard work, there’s no reason to celebrate; you deserve it. A gift however, is a surprise and often not something you deserve. That makes you happy.
When we reach a certain point in life, we realize that a selfish life is a meaningless one. They tell a story of a wealthy man who prepared two wills. The instructions were clear. The first was to be opened immediately after his passing, and the second, only a month later. The sad day came when he passed on. Upon opening the first will, his children were shocked. “Bury me with my socks,” was the entire message. Obviously, even after much negotiation with the burial society, the children were unable to fulfill their father’s last request. A month passed and the time came to read the second will. Nervously, the eldest child opened it. “My dear children,” it read, “you’re all undoubtedly still confused about my first will. It is an important lesson that I wanted to teach you: no matter how much wealth you accumulate, you won’t even be able to take your socks along with you to the grave.”
When you put yourself aside, when you think about the contribution that you can make to others and to the duty of making our world a more G-dly place, you allow yourself to start behaving in a way which brings purpose into your life. You feel needed in the effort of making G-d’s will materialize.
Studies show that adults keep grudges, but children don’t. They say it’s because adults choose to be right over happy, while children choose to be happy over right. Putting others before you will enhance your relationships. Think about a spouse who’s self-centered; small things that are not to his/her liking will easily cause disagreement and strife. By being extra sensitive to your spouse and making him/her feel that his/her feelings are just as important, if not more important, than yours, it’ll bring a tranquility into your marriage and happiness to your home.
Being selfless will make you a better parent. Sometimes we’re too caught up in ourselves that we don’t do what’s best for our child. We may think, “What if sending my child to the school which is best for him, is one that will hurt my family’s reputation?” If you can put yourself aside and fill the needs of your child, eventually you’ll feel good about your decision, since every parent ultimately wants the very best for their child.
Lastly, the Rebbe explains that someone who is haughty can never admit that he erred and he will always find ways to blame others for his wrong doings. Years can pass, while living in his bubble, not being able to accept even a constructive kind of criticism. Someone who is more humble, on the other hand, will occasionally think of ways to improve himself; in his family life, as a human being and as a Jew 5 .
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Okay, this makes sense, but can I really become like this if I’m not a selfless person by nature?” The good news is that making small consistent steps in this direction is a possibility for everyone. The Rambam writes that a person can slowly change his character by training himself to behave in a certain way. Through every now and then, viewing your own self as secondary to others and to G-d, it will eventually become your second nature 6 .
Some people think, “I’m G-d’s gift to the world.” Instead think, “I have the ability to make others feel like they are.”
Choose to spend time with people who have these positive traits. Think of people you know who have these qualities, so that you can emulate them. And after a while, you will find pleasure and satisfaction in doing people favors. You’ll feel inner joy and content in your life being about something bigger and greater than yourself. People will enjoy being in your presence. Your family will learn from you and acquire these traits themselves. Before you know it, the arguing and fighting in your home will turn into friendship and love.
Try it for yourself. The results are guaranteed.
Generosity is a quality that’s a lot like unselfishness. Someone showing Generosity is happy to give time, money, food, or kindness to people in need.
Generosity is a quality — like honesty and patience — that we all probably wish we had more of. When you show generosity, you might give away things or money or put others before yourself. But generosity is about more than cash and stuff. When you’re forgiving and gentle to people, you show generosity of spirit. If you give others help or credit, that shows generosity. The world would certainly be a better place if more people showed generosity to others.