All of us have experienced the relationship gone south. You know that gnawing, twisting sandpaper on our psyche type inflammation that asks “why do I care or put up with these people, when they don’t even care about me?” I know I have been there. In a funny twist of sorts it’s likely the person I was thinking about was thinking the same of me.
So I’ve been thinking about the concept of selfishness. Oh yes, selfishness. But I don’t think about the problem perhaps as you might think I should. The conventional response would be that because we are all selfish, or at least our friends are all selfish, then that is the reason we have these difficulties. Or put in another way, how can they pay attention to me if they are always thinking only of themselves?
I think maybe the clue lies 90 degrees from that conventional thinking. It is important to be selfish.
Yes I think so. But I want to redefine the sort of selfishness I mean. I’m not talking about self absorption or pompous behavior that denies the existence of all others around us. I’m not talking about greed or malice normally wrapped around our definition of selfishness.
I’m talking about a type of selfishness that I want to re-define right now in this little essay just to make myself less confusing. Let’s call my idea of this trait ‘self-awareness.’
In most western spiritual indoctrination we are taught to practice self-denial, abstinence of pleasure and denial of our individual importance. I saw a ground sign at a church this week that read 'Servant's Entrance.' It was pointing to the main entrance of the sanctuary.
Practice of that doctrine sets us up for certain failure in human relationships. Only by understanding self can we hope to bring good relationships and friends to our open doors. Only by using every resource available to create our internal awareness can we summon the love required that will transform our feelings from mere acceptance of others to love of others.
How should we interpret the spiritual teaching that “the kingdom of heaven lies within?” By understanding that we must love ourselves before we can hope to love others we smooth the way for the use of the Creator’s natural law, and bring the powers of the Universe and Creator to our personal relationships.
In my mind we need always understand that we must love those around us in order to receive love in return. No one is more toxic than the individual that does not like herself and leans ceaselessly on others for emotional support and negative absorption.
Within this idea lies the paradox that we must first love ourselves before we can gather love to us. To love ourselves requires a great deal of inner awareness, a glimpsing of the kingdom of heaven within. The paradox is that this selfishness of looking inside for our truth, or our ‘self-awareness’ is exactly what frees us to love in a way that draws love back to us.
There are toxic people among us. Some of our husbands, wives, friends and relatives may well be toxic to us. This becomes the largest challenge we face in relationships, the question of how to separate ourselves from the toxic individual and continue to love self.
Separating yourself from the toxic individual does not necessitate that you feel bad or become sadly grim. We only need continue to love and let that toxic individual learn at their pace; if they will. But they are not meant to be our burden. Instead, our job is to find the selfishness to accept the love at our core and then set it free around us. This includes showing that love to the toxic without accepting their poison.
We should search for a degree of love of self and inner awareness that can withstand the tug and strain of those that do not love themselves and therefore sand away at the relationship you offer them.
We must separate ourselves from the toxic individual, continue to love ourselves and find our own inner-awareness. Without inner-awareness and love to project, nothing will return to us and we become the toxic one.
We cannot love ourselves by depending on others to do the task for us. This is the myopic approach of the toxic. They say to us, “please love and nurture me because I don’t have the strength to do it myself.” There is a key to life and happiness in exercising a degree of selfish behavior. Turning the phrasing of a famous song writer upside down, “Don’t be looking for love in all the wrong places.” It lies within, and when we find it then it becomes a light we can shine for others. Then we become the best friend anyone could have. We become a friend that needs nothing, except another selfish friend.
Embrace the paradox.