Are We Intentionally Selfish?

Photo @ 2007 by Charles Hutchins[CC by 2.0]

Photo @ 2007 by Charles Hutchins[CC by 2.0]

We try to make those around us be impacted in a way that’s positive for us. However, this could be a negative or positive impact for them. Most people do not actively seek out to better the lives of others and only take on opportunities that’ll benefit them as well. These benefits often come at a cost to the detriment of others. Is this selfishness a part of human nature? Is it even selfishness?

As we’ve seen in the past for example in the book the night. Jewish victims of the Holocaust struggle to survive in camps designed to work them to death. Families are separated and others struggle to stay together. Some simply give up, but others fight for their lives. Elie Wiesel, the protagonist, is taken to Auschwitz where his mother and sisters are separated from his father and him. By lying about their age, Elie and his father are able to be transferred to a work camp in Buchenwald. On the death march to Buchenwald, he encounters a rabbi that is looking for his son. Elie tells him he has not seen him, but in reality he knew the son had run to the front and tried to separate from his father. Elie asked God for the strength to never have to do what the boy had done. He appeared glad to have not told the rabbi the truth. It wasn’t selfish of him to withhold the information and instead he gave the rabbi a sense of hope.

Elie’s father succumbs to the work conditions. His illness brings Elie memories of the death march. He has an internal struggle between keeping his father and himself alive or taking both rations so he would have a greater chance. Is it selfish of him to try keeping his father alive when his organs are turning inside out? His father begs him to take the sole possession he had: a metal spoon. Elie risked losing his inheritance by telling his father that his father should keep it.

Our actions need to have a middle ground. We don’t have to give away our happiness to others who need it. We can be happy ourselves and reflect this onto others. We could be successful ourselves and give to others. Utilize our abilities, knowledge, and experiences. An unselfish person would plant a tree and knows that they will not be around to sit in its shade. All people are selfish in a sense. They help others in order to feel good about themselves. By the definition of selfishness, we are all participants. What sets people apart from others is how they control the different aspects of human emotion.



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