Selfish to Selfless

By Reverend Glen Eagle

George Carlin said that we should make the journey of life in reverse: We should start with death and end as an orgasm.  There may be some truth to the direction he is going. Life should get better as we age. I believe the key to improving life is moving from selfishness to selflessness.

A baby is necessarily selfish. That child has to cry to survive. It needs food, comfort and security to grow. The parameters of the baby’s world are very small and it is in the center of its own world. That’s okay. The journey begins with the focus on ourselves.

As we grow, there is much emphasis on developing in a certain way. We are taught to “colour inside the lines”. We are taught to be possessive of our toys and the things we own. We are taught that the journey of life should include success in the form of a large bank account and many possessions. While it may be true that it is easier to cry in a Mercedes than on a broken two-wheeler, there shouldn’t be crying at all. Jesus said that, “If you try to save your life, you will lose it”. In other words, if you focus on yourself you will miss the value and joy of life. The journey will become dull. Someone else said, “If you want to be miserable, think about yourself”. This doctrine of selflessness of existence forms the essence of the Buddha’s doctrine of emancipation. And every major religion has a version of the Golden Rule.

 As we grow, we have to move ourselves out of the central position. This is not a recommendation to put someone else in that place, because then you simply become subservient, and that has a negative history all of its own. It is a call to place unity or harmony in that central position. To do that, we must become selfless. In other words, we must recognize that others have the same life values and needs as we have. We must give equal value to all.

When we realize that we are all one, then we move from giving to sharing. We no longer give things away, we simply make the circle large enough that others are included. We move from having our possessions own us to us owning the possessions.

We move from selfishness to selflessness. I believe that that is when live improves with age.


Glen Eagle has been a United Church minister since 1979. His writing includes articles, poetry and songs, and his inspiration includes riding horses and motorcycles.

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