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Selflessness

I welcome any advice on how to teach selflessness.
What are some instances that awakened you to another's demonstration of selflessness?

Donotbelieve 9 Apr 17

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18 comments

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1

I'm not selfless, I try to be emphatic, in my relation to others, I try to use as little plastic as I can but I'm still in the center of my own world. But I can imagine situations that selflessness would occur, like saving of someone that I love, at risk of my own life. It has nothing to do with a conscious decision, it would be an act of instinct. I guess.

Gert Level 7 Apr 26, 2018
1

Showing compassion and kindness for someone who can do nothing for you in return. Hospitals, homeless shelters, and nursing homes are a good place to start.

Deb57 Level 8 Apr 25, 2018
1

[parentingscience.com] For me, selflessness is synonymous with empathy. It's getting a kick out of helping others. I don't think selfish is the opposite of selfless. To me, the opposite is self-centered. A matter of semantics.

0

I literally made enemies by the very people I thought I helped the printer says people bite the hand that feeds them and out of these bitter experiences I'm going to be good to me I can understand what people do these things that you try to help and people complain about our representatives to our president or whoever that is her fault because we're such bad shape it's everybody's fault one way or the other just my sick opinion

1

It’s hard to teach an innate trait, but empathy helps it, as does kindness and sharing.

1

The expectation of selflessness, I think, backfires into resentment. We're told that only if some act has no value or benefit to ourselves can it be considered to be a morally pure act of charity or altruism. Invariably, this tends towards a dynamic where not only do we not personally benefit from said act, but it ends up costing us something.

What that sets up is a circumstance where we either feel guilty for benefitting ourselves or resentful of the effort we make for others. I have a better idea.

Recognize that you commit charitable acts for YOUR benefit. You help others selfishly because you know that it will either benefit you in the long run or immediately in feeling good for doing it and making the world just a little bit more like YOU want it to be.

What this means is that the transaction is complete upon commission of the charitable act. There's no unconscious expectation of quid pro quo and no guilt over that expectation or resentment when it isn't forthcoming. You've paid yourself for your act WITH your act and the recipient isn't even part of the equation, really. Done.

Imagine how many more people would be charitable or kind if they knew they could do it selfishly...

Torq Level 5 Apr 18, 2018

I agree and completely admit to being selfish. I am fairly certain that all "good" acts are done with ulterior motives, even if those motives go unnoticed by the person enacting the deed.

I also accept that selfishness is a survival skill and not completely negative. It has received bad connotations, which I disagree with.

I definitely could have phrased my question better.
I am basically attempting to foster a better sense of communal benevolence among my children.

Perhaps I am incorrect in attempting that. I refuse to heavy hand or force them into it. Maybe they are already better set to lead content lives, if they remain less selfless towards others?
In that case, I want them to be as aware of their instincts and comfortable in their assertions as possible.

It would be a bit more pleasant if they were kinder towards each other, but I would choose for them to be content in their lives over kind.

I think the point here is to change the context of kindness, @Donotbelieve . Make it such that they see the value, to themselves, in kindness. What we value is a matter of association, neurologically speaking. Associate kindness with benefit and the rest comes easily.

@Torq Good point.
I need ideas on how to enact that plan.
Hmmm...

Leading by example is the best way to go with kids, I think, @Donotbelieve . It's all associative, as I said, and kids are little sensory sponges absorbing all (yes, ALLLLLL) they see and assigning association to it.

@Torq I understand. I do lead by example, but their father does not. It's a house divided.

Ah. That's shitty, @Donotbelieve. All I can suggest is that you attempt to be an overriding influence and hope for the best. Parenthood comes with no guarantees, unfortunately. Best of luck. : )

@Torq Thank you for the advice and encouragement.

The argument is that you cannot be altruistic because there always is a benefit, be it personal enrichment or reputation boost, so if you prescribe to that definition no one can be altruistic, or you can view that definition as wrong and believe in altruism defined differently.

Can you expound further, @ScientistV ?

@Torq sure, but so did Ayn Rand (as defining altruism as unattainable). If you modify the definition to be about the greater improvement of otherscwith marginal gains for yourself (eg your ego boost or thing for the résumé etc.) but at a greater cost than gain you can mathematically suck out any joy you had and boom— altruism again.

1

I think selflessness comes from empathy (and genetics like everything else LOL). I grew up dirt poor in Georgia and saw lots of instances where people with very little shared what they had. It had a huge effect on me. I'm not selfless but I try to do good and I'm empathetic.

2

I think it is best to start young and demonstrate what you want the child to do. My parents taught me what it meant to be selfless when I was a very small kid. They showed me how my actions even small ones can have a big impact on others lives. It is a lot harder to get that point to truely sink in later in life, but you can try by showing a person the suffering people have and how your actions can help them. As a parent I am only batting a 250 (1 out of 4), but my daugther always thinks of how things affect others. Based on her grades she will probably struggle in high school and college, but she is a very brave kid, as she stands up to bullies even to the point of having lost freinds. My three boys think about others a bit, but never really in a truely selfless way.

3

I honestly don't know what I did, or if I even did anything, but my kids are my heroes in this department.

I guess the best you can do is be an example not a lecturer. Impress on your kids (I assume that's the goal here) that it is rewarding to help someone who needs it.

As a plus you can point out that if you do something good because you expect a reward or fear punishment, it's not really good.

JimG Level 8 Apr 17, 2018
1

When you can score a goal but pass to someone in desperate need to get on the score sheet. Figuratively speaking ..

1

I think it starts with small things like letting someone with fewer items go ahead of you at the grocery checkout and stuff. That builds into a habit. I'm pleased when it seems like a big deal to someone. One time I had to take a bathroom break while getting work done at the dental school. I had the gear all in my mouth still but took time to hold the door open for a dental student whose hands were full with her equipment tray when all the other students coming and going through the double doors ignored her. She looked at me exasperated and said loudly, "Thank you!," and looking around to the other students, "What's so hard about that?!?"

What it needs to be combined with is the understanding that some people become users and take advantage of the good natured. Clueing them into that dynamic is also important. Usually with the small stuff, it doesn't matter as the actions and lack of appreciation of others in that regard shouldn't direct your own behavior, but one must also be on guard when their own disregard for the burden on others can have consequences too severe to be justified.

I missed the part about noting incidences of others. The observation in that regard has to do with the ripple effect. Being considerate of others can be its own reward, but so often in my life I've had others do something really thoughtful and generous for me above and beyond any particular courtesy I had shown them. I like to think that it felt important to them to respond with such graciousness. We have the power to build each other up, and bring out the best in others, and have that resonate beyond the interaction of just those two people. Kindness, generosity, and selflessness can be infectious.

0

My dad driving to my cross country meet to see the start and finish of a 5 mile run and then returning home to be in support

1

Can something like selflessness be taught? How far does selflessness go? Is it enough for me to be selfless, because doing so makes me feel good or must I be so selfless as to ignore damage to myself? Food for thought.

Great. You just made me hungry.

1

I'm not sure of the circumstances of your teaching, but I would suggest A) by example (and I swear I'm not being flippant!) or B) through charity work or charitable giving?

Thank you. I appreciate your comment. You make good points. I should look into community volunteering options.

2

There was a story I think it was Schopenhauer, about a policeman who saw a man about to throw himself off tower bridge and into the Thames - In that decisive moment he saw that he would not be human if he did not attempt to rescue the man .They both survived .

When I was living in hte lake district there was a school sports day after the rushbearing walk beating the bounds; and then gingerbread and ginger beer; the last part of the sports day post races etc. was a race up and down the nearby Fell . My partner and I climbed up it first in order to cheer the children on - one boy had asthma and wasnt supposed to run and he collapsed at the top I picked him up and walked down with him in my arms he was a heavy lad but I couldnt let go; even when help appeared; I couldnt hand him over it was as if I was in an altered state and could only hang on in there. When the rescuers talked to me I came out of that state but I think there is an element of altruism in all of us that can be tapped into.

1

Altuism has been shown to be a perfectly reasonal evolved survival tactic.
Ten of you can be hunted down and killed by a saber tooth tiger, but if ten of you stand together and protect one another it tiger stew for supper.

Hmmm...I'm gonna need a tiger.

0

To be purely selfless, you need to first recognize that self is an illusion. If you have that moment when you realize you are a piece of life which is just a part of the whole universe and everything, greed, fear, anger, joy, happiness, is within your subjective realm, you can almost transcend yourself and can distance yourself from your ego.

2

I think it's a huge mistake, personally. I believe the key to happiness and fulfillment begins with taking care of your own needs and desires first. Everything else, including acts that are considered selfless, will follow.

That is possible. If that's true, my children will be the very happiest and most fulfilled humans ever!

😉

Exactly what my mom taught me. She's right.

I agree. Reminds me of what I consider to be the best lesson taught in Army basic training. It was during a first aid class - how to dress field wounds etc. The presenter’s final talk (that he introduced with "I don't even really want to tell you about this because this is absolutely a last resort and you will kill everything on the outside of the heart if you use one" was the tourniquet at the end he asked us what we would use to build one. Someone suggested "my belt?" The instructor shouted, "WRONG!" You do not use your belt. You need your belt. If you give it to someone else, you become a causality." I found this an eye opening realization as it applies to more then just your clothing. If you wish to help people, you must first be sure you are strong and maintain strength to be able to help others. You must look out for your own needs first. The definition of selfless is: "concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own; unselfish."

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