[special]Written as part of Dustin Stout’s Blogging challenge or as I liked to call it, a Blog-a-thon.[/special]
One of the ideas I came across on a few bloggers and podcasters mentioning is that in order to be Self-Less or generous you first need to be a bit selfish. This was usually framed in the perspective of “In order to do hard, thankless tasks which I don’t really want to do and don’t really benefit me I need to get out of my system the tasks I love [usually writing or some other creative endeavour]”
As it’s something I’ve been hearing a lot about it made me think, how true is this? Is this something that Christians can/should believe in? What about deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me? Or that he who wants to be the greatest should become the least/servant of the rest? Well here are some thoughts on whether you should be Selfish in order to be selfless.
When selflessness is Bad
You know when you meet that person who says they are trying to be a servant and serve others but really they aren’t (if you say no then I’m REALLY glad for you!). Sometimes people like being a servant for others because it put someone else in their debt! After someone does something nice for us our culture is that we should do something nice back, we owe them a debt. Sometimes people will help others out and then later say “After all I’ve done for you.” or “remember when I did X”. That isn’t serving someone, a servant could never demand something from their master.
Not Looking after Yourself
Imagine that you were so reckless that you gave up everything for other people, you sold ALL you had, you gave ALL your money away, you never saved anything for yourself…it’s not sustainable is it! If people were truly completely selfless then they would probably die and not be able to help people in the long run. In fact, you might even go as far as to become an inconvince to other people as they then have to help you too.
When Selfishness Helps Others
The main argument that I’ve heard from these people advocating a bit of selfishness is that when they get to do that one task they love, that one goal they really desire then they feel happier and can serve other people with more gusto. Convexly, when they don’t get that time or the opportunity to invest in doing the task they love, then they feel worse and this is taken out on the other people around them. There can certainly be some truth in this and if we look back at the example from Health Tree, if a person didn’t look after their health then they won’t be able to help others, mental health is a similar mater and so we need to invest in our own health.
But what about our own Christian Walk? Well taking the perspective of Pipers “Christian Headonism”, he would argue that we should “Glorify God by satisfy ourselves in him and enjoying him forever.” That certainly sounds like a selfish motivation with a selfless outcome. In fact the practical outworking would look like insuring you spend time in his presence so that you can share that presence and take it with you. It might look selfish to spend those 30 mins, hour or two in the morning, but maybe it is more selfless than just heading off and helping people.
The fine line and motivation
The real challenge comes from balancing things and honestly, I’m willing to bet most people edge too much on the selfish side. The need to feed ourselves well can easily slide into gluttony, the need to spend an hour exploring our creativity can over run into hours spent away from your family or not serving others.
There is a need to look after ourselves but when we look at the bible we usually see that God tries to push us more to self denial.
I’m not settled on this one myself, I think there is some truth that being a bit “selfish” ultimately helps us to be more selfless but I feel it can be an easy excuse.