Today, I gave $5 to a gas station clerk and instructed him to apply it to a guy named Bradford (Army reservist?) in fatigues.
A few days ago, I was offered money to retract public criticism I’d made about a local tech company’s owner. Instead, I told everyone I know about it.
If you’d just met me, you’d think I was some sort of philanthropist who likes making people happy, exposing evil doers and was supportive of the arts. You might think my acts were a form of altruism, as the above actions don’t directly benefit me in any way. You’d be wrong.
I did every single one of those things because I’m selfish. Absolutely, completely and totally selfish. And I think you should be too.
I’ve never seen a situation where giving out of guilt or obligation satisfied both sides. Everyone, from volunteers during catastrophes to the people running free events, should be honest with themselves about the exact reason they do what they do. I’m tired of everyone claiming that they’re doing if for others, as if helping others is in some way going to make everything better.
We should be leading by example. We should communicate, over and over, that it’s perfectly okay to do things for other people for completely selfish reasons. I gave that $5 because it made me feel good. I wrote about Jason Hope because the attention and thanks from people who dislike him felt great. I give money to cool groups because it feels awesome to support someone’s dream.
Each of these little actions, taken together, make me into a better person. And because of this, I’m able to do more, be more, teach more, learn more and achieve more. I like the feeling the aforementioned acts give me.
And that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned: it’s better to give out of want than need. Eventually, this will all come back to me.
This is not to say selfish actions serve much purpose. There’s a time to hoard and a time to share, but it’s the reasoning behind our actions that matter most.
Be selfish. People will love you for it.