Unselfishness vs. Selfishness

Pouting woman

Did you know that you can be selfish and still be someone who demands nothing from others and yet is constantly giving time, energy and money?

Did you know that you can receive many things from many people and even ask for them – and not be someone who is always giving to others – and NOT be selfish?

Confusing, isn’t it?

Through a wide variety of experiences beginning in childhood, we knit together belief systems and perceptions regarding relationships, money and spirituality. We try to live as best we know how – based upon those beliefs and perceptions. What we forget at times is that our perceptions and beliefs are built on shaky sand – and that sand is the millions of other beliefs that other people have told us.

A wise friend asked me if I knew what the call of God was on my life. I answered enthusiastically, that yes, indeed I did. He paused and then asked, “Is this the call of God on your life – or is it what YOU NEED?”

I thought back to the many hours of serving in the church, of answering phones all during the night as a pastor, of giving my last dime and then my possessions, of putting off important tasks in my own life, to tend to someone else’s emergency. For years, I’ve been Shannon-on-the-spot, always ready when others called or needed something.

Yet, my heart was in a constant state of grieving, I prayed to God, “Who will encourage the Encourager?” “Where are people when I need them?””Does anyone love me?”

Surprising to me was my own discovery that my going without, serving others at all costs and giving all that I had, was actually a very selfish thing to do -because it was motivated by fear and “law-based-thinking.” (I have to do it to be accepted, worthy, loved or respected.)

To understand our true motives, there are two sets of “noticing” that are beneficial to do in regards to your “unselfishness” vs. your “selfishness.”

Unselfishness (masked)

  1. Emotional motives: When you are being ‘unselfish’ do you feel pressure to be that way? Is there a stress level that could be described as a desperation to ‘do this’ or ‘give this.’?
  2. Expected results: When you are being ‘unselfish’ do you have a desired outcome? (this requires truthful noticing) That might manifest to you as thoughts of “If I give this, do this or say this, they will love me, notice me or see worth in me?”

Unselfishness (true)

  1. Emotional motives: When you give, are you giving out of your abundance and with great joy? Are you in a state of peace and wisdom when you give?
  2. Expected results: You give without strings attached because you have it to give. That your expected results are consistent … the results are peace, and joy?
When we are in a state of “law-based” thinking, we are being driven by a set of rules that have no mercy. Law is limited. Judgment is certain. But when we are in a state of “love-based” thinking, then we are in a state of abundance and all that comes with it. Joy, peace, love, patience, gentleness, kindness … we are in unlimited supply because with love, there is no end – it is eternal. 
Shannon Parish is the Founder of Sarah’s Tent and President of Living Stones Center. She is an award winning cartoonist and graphic recorder who, after more than thirty years of ministry and as a Life Coach utilizes her artistic talent to teach and Illustrate You.

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