Be Better Than Unselfish!

In this age of moral relativism, where “tolerance” is the watchword of the day, taking a strong stand has become taboo.

But one of the few virtues most people remain willing to endorse (verbally at least!) is unselfishness. If you told Jay Leno’s “man on the street” that he should live a selfless life, he would almost certainly agree. And you and I probably would agree as well. Unselfishness is noble, and the selfless life desirable. But my question is this: “Is unselfishness enough?”

In his book “The Weight of Glory,” philosopher and theologian C.S. Lewis addresses this question and concludes that we can do better. According to Lewis, the ideal of a selfless life focuses “not primarily on securing good things for others, but on going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.” Lewis suggests, and I agree, that love should replace simple unselfishness as our goal.

A fair question right about now would be “What’s the difference?” Glad you asked! Love is a positive that serves the recipient; unselfishness, alone, has no recipient. Love gives; unselfishness gives up. Instead of celebrating our lacking, let’s seek out ways to bless those around us. Rather than denying ourselves for the sake of self-denial, let us turn our energy toward meeting the needs around us. Imagine the beauty of substituting the affirmative act of loving those around us for the negative non-act of simply going without ourselves!

To be fair, loving others starts with putting their needs ahead of yours, which requires a selfless approach. But the attitude (unselfishness) only has an impact on others when followed by the action (love). A selfless mindset only gets us halfway home; the next necessary step is to love. It’s then we learn that not only is it better to give than to receive, it’s also better to give than to simply give up! God bless and have a great week!


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