What it is to be selfish

For me the definition of a selfish person is clear

I don’t like what you are doing, so I want you to change for me.

Recently a friend of mine seems to be running up against this from inside their family. And it got me thinking.

I’ve been accused of being very selfish because I primarily do what I want, what is in my best interest. But there is a difference between THAT and being selfish. To impose your values on someone else and expect them to change because you don’t like how they violate your ‘rules’… that is incredible to me.

Of course, society does this to maintain order – they are called laws. And the enforcement of just laws is vital to maintaining an ordered society.

But I am not talking about laws. I am talking about ‘I don’t like the kind of books you read, please read these instead’ or ‘I don’t like the colour you have painted your house, change it’. These things don’t affect the other person. What does it matter? Why is what you want more important than what I want?

While attending a conference about gender issues and their effect on the recovery in the aftermath of the Great Eastern Japan Disaster (i.e. the bloody big earthquake and tsunami) I was shocked to hear some of these tales of selfishness like mothers of young babies had to sleep outside (if they were lucky in a car) of the shelters because some people didn’t like to hear the baby crying. If you don’t want to hear the baby crying YOU leave. Don’t ask someone else to change for you. I really wanted to check the babystroller-reviews after seeing this, just so that I could help these families a little bit.

I can be selfish in my actions. This is indisputable. But… I try to not impose my values and opinions on others.

In some cultures maybe this is more normal – certainly in Japan men feel they can impose their will on women. I know this happens in other cultures too. If I try and say anything about this in Japan then I am told ‘you don’t understand Japanese culture’.

I hope I never do!

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