“and…from selfishness to selflessness” – a personal reflection on human behavior, part 4

Like most behavioral traits, indeed, states of being, I became selfish over time. (By “selfish”, I mean a self-centeredness that rises above or, better, more accurately said, falls below that common human element of enlightened self-interest that manifests itself, for example, in taking flight in the face of danger, adopting a healthy lifestyle, or planning prudently for the future.)

Now, being selfish wasn’t my nature, for I don’t believe I was born that way. It was more a product of my nurture; though not necessarily by intent, nevertheless what I learned along the way.

My God-believing-and-fearing father and mother sought to instill in me the Christian value of self-sacrificial care for others. However, my parents, born in 1911 and 1915, respectively, came to maturity during the Great Depression and the specter of unmet want and need, I believe, continually clouded their vision. Despite the Christian gospel’s bright and daily call and challenge of the liberty of life abundant, my folks practiced a theology of scarcity. There never was enough. Money. Time. Ability. Opportunity. Anything. And whatever one possessed needed to be held, clutched lest it get (or be taken) away. As an outward manifestation of this worldview, my parents were hoarders or, using the more polite term, collectors. My father died in 1996. In 2010, I moved my mother into a care facility. Clearing and closing the home they had shared since 1952 was an arduous, weeks’ long exercise in trash disposal. And though rejecting their penchant for collecting everything, tending toward simplicity and neatness, I developed a strong me-first sensibility and a hyper-sensitivity to my wants and needs.

I now behold within my soul the long flowering and continual ripening of the healthy seeds of compassion and care, verily, love in kindly affection and altruistic action for others. This, the counterbalance to what I call my Pablo-centricism, also took time to develop. Principally through the grace and mercy of God and through the competence and benevolence of therapists, pastoral counselors, and spiritual guides and through my vocation (sometimes I muse that God called me to be a priest so to assure that I would be compelled to recognize and respond to the needs of others!) and through many, many charitable souls who, akin to God, in the words of the song, “looked beyond my fault and saw my need”,[1] loving me to death and to new life.

More to come…

 

Footnote:

[1] He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need, Dottie Rambo (c. 1970)

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2 thoughts on ““and…from selfishness to selflessness” – a personal reflection on human behavior, part 4

  1. This post gave me great pause because I had to focus on my selfishness too. I used to collect lots of things, but now I’d rather give away. I think because I’ve cleaned out belongings of my sister’s house in MD almost all by myself, then my Mom’s apartment and most recently many of my husband’s things. The pain associated with each of those processes has convinced me to start to clean out now and not leave it all for loved ones to do. I believe it’s the unselfish thing to do. I still have wants and needs but I try to focus more now on how what my wants and needs of today (and what I collect) will impact my loved ones when I’m gone. Thanks for this it will help me to stay focused!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A wonderful focus, Loretta – “I still have wants and needs but I try to focus more now on how what my wants and needs of today (and what I collect) will impact my loved ones when I’m gone.” I, too, day by day it seems dwell on my legacy (more than my identity and destiny) as I ponder what am I leaving – not only in material things, what little that will be, but in moral fiber and content of character (perhaps that, too, will amount to little) -for those who live (and come) after I die.

      Like

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