I grew up learning that the world was divided into two kinds
of people: the selfish and the selfless.
The selfish ones were the bad guys who thought about their
own gains over and above the benefit of the rest. They were manipulative and
greedy people who were scheming and plotting the downfall of others.
The selfless ones on the other hand were noble generous
people who cared for the good of all. They put the needs of others, even those
of strangers, above their own. They sacrificed for the sake of the less
It didn’t help that I was reading the kind of fables that
were reaffirming these beliefs.
But then, a few years ago I first came upon the phrase, ‘selfish
Whoah! Was this a union of the selfish with the selfless? These
were until then seemingly very exclusive words (and worlds)? How was this even possible?
I found my evidence – in text and in the live examples
around me. So I made my peace. That was the beginning of my understanding that
the world was never just black or white to begin with.
You cannot however read, observe, make your peace with life
and discount your own experiences by not framing an ideology of your own!
The voice in my head once asked me, ‘What of self-respect?
Where’d that lie in this gamut of grey?’
On second thoughts, it seems like a legit question.
truly respects themselves, they’d stand up for their own sake. Would that make
If one respects oneself, s/he is capable of respecting another,
right? Wouldn’t that make them a better being?
Add another layer of complexity – can a self-respecting
individual choose to prioritize oneself over others? In other words, can an
individual choose to ignore the rest of the world to tend to their individual
Or should the individual choose to deprive themselves of something over
an equal if not more important need of another – be it family or friend?
Notice I imply the exercise of choice – which may not always
be of one’s own free will.
In this gamut of greys where do the lines get drawn? More
importantly, who draws these lines?