Can anyone really be selfless?

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Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Metatron » Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:38 pm

What is a selfless person? Do we really do anything without any personal gain? I mean, no matter what we do, ultimately, there is always some kind of a reward for an action. I have seen today on TV a grandmother who is taking care of her two orphaned grandsons, and it's not really selfless, is it? She gains quite a lot of things through this: she is given credit for what she does, she is loved by two great kids and thus she can have a more special connection with them than in a normal situation (like I did with my own grandmothers), she isn't "pushed aside" like many other older people, she is needed, she isn't bored or alone... Yes it does come with sacrifices but if we look at it more closely, the personal gain is greater than the sacrifices made. It makes her feel good, which is something most, seemingly selfless acts provide us with.

And I don't think even people who sacrifice their own lives in orderto protect others could be called selfless.

I have lost a grandmother who was very dear to me and I still remember the last thing she ever said to me, only a few days before her death: Don't forget me. She was under strong drugs to reduce her pains, and she was quite deluded in her last days, she was paranoid and all and didn't make a lot of sense, but still, she made this request very clear to me.

If she really was selfless, why would she care if she is remembered or not? Especially if there is no afterlife, she wouldn't find out and if there is and she saw me forget about her but be successful, she should still be happy that she made me a good person. Obviously I haven't forgotten about my gran so this is all hypothetic, but you get the point.

She wasn't the only one who said this to me. Plus she was quite melodramatic most of the time (sorry granma), so maybe she is not the most objective example lol. My other gran has alzheimers and she is only a faint shade of what she used to be. She was also a great person but she wasn't melodramatic, she was more realistic, I'd say. She asked me not to forget her maybe three or four months ago. It was so sincere and so "serious" that I didnt have any doubts that it was one of those moments when she regained control over her mind. So she used that one little moment to ask me this...

So all in all, is anyone really selfless? Especially for a person who doesn't care about material rewards, isn't asking to be remembred or just the secret need for fulfillment simmilar to a materialist who wants a million dollars or pounds or euro or whatever for something he did?
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Ryan » Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:52 pm

Nicely said... I have the same thoughts when it comes to those that say one must get rid of their ego... Is that even possible? Isn't just the simple act of continuing to breath and exist about ego... or as you say about the self? And if so and one wants to change that... doesn't that act become about the self or ego as well? Isn't every act originated from a personal thought and evaluated as what is either right or needed to happen based upon the self's beliefs and therefore become something to have to do with self?
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Metatron » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:14 pm

Yes, that's exactly what I mean. To further the thought, I think the results of one's action, and I mean those that affect the wellbeing of others would be less successful if there wasn't motivation in it. Even if our goal is to make someone else's life easier or better, the overall outcome will still be filfillment of a goal, a good feeling that we have helped someone. If there wasn't this personal gain, would we really be able to maximize the success of our actions orinted at others?
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Sabina » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:17 pm

Metatron wrote:So all in all, is anyone really selfless? Especially for a person who doesn't care about material rewards, isn't asking to be remembred or just the secret need for fulfillment simmilar to a materialist who wants a million dollars or pounds or euro or whatever for something he did?

Ryan wrote:Nicely said... I have the same thoughts when it comes to those that say one must get rid of their ego... Is that even possible? Isn't just the simple act of continuing to breath and exist about ego... or as you say about the self? And if so and one wants to change that... doesn't that act become about the self or ego as well? Isn't every act originated from a personal thought and evaluated as what is either right or needed to happen based upon the self's beliefs and therefore become something to have to do with self?


selfless
having little or no concern for oneself, esp. with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish.

Unselfish = selfless. Selfish is the opposite of selfless and unselfish.
The self is in the middle, between selfless and selfish.
So you could say that selfless and selfish are simply the two extremes of self.

__1__

A short digression about selfishness.
Just because it is about "the self" doesn't make an action selfish by nature.

By definition selfish means...
"devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others."

And it is actually as simple as that.
Does the act benefit only you and you alone? Does it possibly even harm others and you are aware of this?
Then it is selfish.
Is the benefit you reap merely a side-effect of something you do for someone else, then yes, it does benefit you as well, but it is not selfish.

__14__

The problem is only that some people take things to extremes and distort the original meaning. Like, someone extensively talking about the ego.... like it's a bad thing.
Ego = I
Nothing bad about that..

Selfishness, on the other hand, being egocentric... those are the "problematic" issues.
There is nothing wrong with a healthy ego, nothing wrong with loving yourself - again, as long as it doesn't make you blind to your shortcomings and things you need to work on.
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Metatron » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:30 pm

But what determines whether our action of helping someone primarily benefits me or someone else? How do I even myself determine this, if I am, so to speak, biased by my own self when determining the amount of personal gain from an action?

It reminds a bit of how I used to deny my sexuality. It's a weird analogy so let me elaborate. The thought was there, but I was still thinking of it as something that doesn't concern me, like just an idea, it was like "I don't like guys" while checking out my classmate lol. So when I say to myself "I'm doing this for others" while I am somewhere subconsciously thinking about the personal gain from the situation... Do you know those thoughts? When you know something is in your head but you actively reject it, almost as if not to embarrass yourself before yourself? You know you're gonna love the outcome of a situation, in some cases even if the initial desire to help fails in praxis, but "you've at least tried"and you're gonna be thanked for trying.
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Ryan » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:45 pm

Oh... well... there's my problem... I thought "selfless" strictly meant with no concern for one's self... I didn't realize it also include being of little concern for one's self.

So when is a little not so little or at least more than a little?
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Sabina » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:56 pm

Fair question.
The first thing to consider is that there are definitely different levels of selfishness or selflessness.
The self is still the center.. the golden middle. And like I said, it is ok if there is a benefit to you personally as well, but not for it to be just about that, nor about that primarily.

To take your example from the opening post: "a materialist who wants a million dollars or pounds or euro or whatever for something he did"

Anything we do where an extensive amount of money or a high position or fame are the actual desire is fairly clear-cut. It could still be argued, I know... but people show what they are about, you just need to look.

The same rule applies to yourself or oneself. You can try to fool yourself, but the truth has a way of always eventually rising to the surface. You can try to drown it all you want, but truth is a good swimmer. You eventually learn, if you are smart, that trying to drown it is a waste of time, so why bother.

Being authentic is one of the most important things to be!
Be who you pretend to be, or in other words, no pretense about anything.
Whether it means that you will be judged by others, or disliked or killed... be yourself at any cost, while always (and this is important/crucial) striving to be the best you can be at that time.

Regardless of all the advice and wisdom... some people live and die fooling themselves til the bitter end. For those who do, everything I wrote above doesn't really matter, does it?
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby mirjana » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:07 pm

Ryan wrote:Oh... well... there's my problem... I thought "selfless" strictly meant with no concern for one's self... I didn't realize it also include being of little concern for one's self.

So when is a little not so little or at least more than a little?


Selfless behavior happens in the situation when doing something for another is not connected with a second thought. Saving somebody's life in a moment when there is no time for the second thought and later it becomes clear that it was even dangerous, for example.
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby Metatron » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:16 pm

Alright, you said I should be who I am no matter what it is. Everything that we want, that we think determines what we are, what I call Me. But then, here's a paradox for you... What if my desire is to change myself? If it isn't pretentious; a genuine desire to change an aspect of my self. How do I remain true to who I am and yet fulfill my desire, which also belongs to me, which is also who I am? And to return to the OT, if this change concerns the wellbeing of someone, or a bunch of someones, how do I make sure I change for the sake of others while still being a person whom I can love? This, however I look at it, seems to be a selfish change, even if it concerns others.

Here's an example. I am a serial killer. I have murdered because I had a certain need, that need is a part of me, it defines me. Just as the need to eat and rink defines me as an organism, a mental need defines me as me, among others. So how do I change myself? I don't want to kill anymore, so i give up the method I used for satisfying my need (which was a personal decision, which also defines me as me), I do this for others because obviously, through this decision others may live. But it still will be a selfish act, because I am going to chose a new personality that I can still live with. Plus it gains me other goods as well, like freedom, forgiveness for my deeds etc. Well? Which is more important, or primary in this case? My life or the life of others? For myself my own life is the most important; if it wasn't, then after such a troubled and bad life I should decide to kill myself, which I think would be the only truly selfless option in this case.

Mirjana wrote:Saving somebody's life in a moment when there is no time for the second thought and later it becomes clear that it was even dangerous, for example.


Is it really? It is I think true that not everyone would decide so, which means such an action would require a personality where a decision like this would happen on a subconscious level. So if we believe that we have free will, we have developed such a personality in a long process, we're probably already aware of who we are. Such decisions may include ones that are very similar to saving a life, yet they have happened for selfish reasons, like not wanting to be alone (which can be a strong, subconscious part of one's personality).
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Re: Can anyone really be selfless?

Postby mirjana » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:47 pm

Metatron wrote:
Mirjana wrote:Saving somebody's life in a moment when there is no time for the second thought and later it becomes clear that it was even dangerous, for example.


Is it really? It is I think true that not everyone would decide so, which means such an action would require a personality where a decision like this would happen on a subconscious level. So if we believe that we have free will, we have developed such a personality in a long process, we're probably already aware of who we are. Such decisions may include ones that are very similar to saving a life, yet they have happened for selfish reasons, like not wanting to be alone (which can be a strong, subconscious part of one's personality).


As the need to be loved is an universal need of humans, then it seems that with that in mind everything we do is because we want to be loved. So it is not selfless but motivating to be more self. 80S
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