Jewels from the comment box (2)
A few weeks ago, Heather at Skipping Stones posted this:
Maybe I should start thinking about myself, being selfish and not really giving a shit about anyone else but me. Because as far as I can see it seems to be working out fine for everyone else. I grew up being taught to always put myself in someone else's shoes and so far in life I have been cursed to do that all the time and almost everyday. The catch to that lesson was that not everyone else does that and it hurts more than anything when they don't. Right now it feels like my whole life is falling apart, not just at home where I can feel it most, but here at school in my closest group of friends where I would go to escape everything. Now I have no where to run and few people I feel like I can trust. Betrayal is the most painful.
I responded as below:
And for a while that's true, and you think, right, damn the world, I'll play it your way, and become as selfish, self-absorbed and monomanical as the rest of them.
And for a while that's fine, until one day something happens. Which it turns out that only someone else can fix. Except that you probably drove them away in your damn the world anger.
Keeping an open mind is hard; keeping an open heart is harder still. But worth it because the riches you offer are generally payed back tenfold.
An example. Nine years ago now, I was involved in a bizarre love triangle with a girl, and my best friend. She picked him, and I thought my world would end. And for a while it did, and it felt (and I reacted) like I was grieving, physically so; at her, at him, at his *betrayal*.
But what I came to recognise was that it had hurt him to hurt me. And that in acting like he had, well, he'd found a spot of happiness of his own, at a time when his life wasn't so good. And what sort of friend would I be if I objected to that?
Martyr-ish yes, but not for nothing is there some dignity in noble suffering, and not falling to their level (I only realised this once I had fallen to their levels, but these were in truth more the lashings out of an emotionally-drowning man.)
And the proof that this method ultimately works? He's still my friend. Separated by time and space now, but still he's there. I bought him a beer in New York last week, and it felt like forever, like everything had happened between us, and nothing had happened between us.
And that depth only comes if you keep holding on to the hope and idea that to help yourself you have to help others to.
More perspectives: you celebrate a holiday this weekend, where the work and the sacrifices of others are explicitly recognised. People work for selfish reasons, but the pooling of their efforts benefit us collectively.
And consider this, from a profile of Andre Agassi in one of the British papers this weekend. He was a champion, but a selfish one, a paragon of image over substance. And then he decided to remake himself as a man. Here's why:
"When you start out on the journey you think it's all about taking in experiences to fulfil yourself. But it's not. The greatest experience is changing someone else's experience of life. And once you realise that, it becomes your foundation, the ace in your pocket, who you are. It's the opposite of what you think it is. When you see the world through the lens of others, that's when you find yourself."
Which you can only do if you matter to somebody. And you only matter to somebody if you put them above yourself.
Be open, and the world will open itself up to you.
Happy Labor Day.