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Overcoming selfishness

March 19th, 2010 / 5 Comments

Giving does not come naturally to me. My husband is much more generous. Maybe it’s because I have the motherly nesting instinct that goes along with the tendency to hoard. On the other hand, being a mother is  the biggest factor that has taught me to be more generous.

I knew that if I want my children to grow up as generous, giving people, I would first have to be an example. As I work on this area of my life, I realize that at the core, I am very selfish. How do I overcome this narrow-mindedness of thinking of myself first?

Here is what I am learning about overcoming selfishness, and what I try to teach my kids along the way:

1. If I wait till I “feel” like giving, I don’t think I ever will.  Giving is a decision and a commitment, i.e. making it a habit of writing a check for $___ every week for offering, rather than giving spontaneously when I feel moved.

2. Giving away old clothes and toys is just a start, but that’s not the true spirit of giving. Giving away what we don’t want does not require sacrifice. Work on giving away something that requires a bit more – your time and money, and new toys.

3. The initial feeling of giving can be painful. You might be thinking that $100 could buy you a new pair of shoes instead of giving it to the homeless shelter. Don’t let this hesitation stop you from giving. Remember point #1., and see point #4.

4. You really don’t need a new pair of shoes. Take stock of what you have. We have enough, more than enough. It’s much more satisfying to give away that $100.

5. You can never be too generous. Children in their innocence can be very generous, maybe too generous in our view. I’ve found that my kids teach me a lot, and often serve as my example.

The more we practice giving, the more we learn to be less selfish. And isn’t that something you would want your child to learn from you?

How do you overcome selfishness?


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  1. Wow! It’s hard to look in the mirror to see our faults, isn’t it? And I find my kids are my biggest mirror. There is no escaping yourself when your kids are around. Kelly (age 17) and I belong to a mother-daughter philanthropy group that has taught us both what it’s like to give and how blessed we are while there are so many without. Thank you for the reflection!

  2. hard isn’t it? Selfishness is a curse, but often people are driven to selfishness by their own generosity, and feel that, once they’ve given themselves utterly, they must change themselves and be more selfish.
    Like with everything, it’s a question of balance. It;s ‘give and take’ – literally.

  3. Good insights. I think selfishness is so much a part of our nature that we will always find areas where we fall short.

  4. Hello there
    Overcoming selfishness is a difficult process. It means going against the natural desire to not exert your energy, or to be self centered, very human traits. To acquire any growth in life, especially internal/ emotional growth, we have to put in the internal effort to overcome limitations. This is a process that means engaging with your life, and a lot of reflecting – without negatively judging yourself. Regarding getting the balance in life, it is important to have true respect for yourself, to take care of and have an understanding of your well being is important if you are to truly show unconditional love to your family and friends.

    There are books and places to learn about this stuff.

  5. I have been and am working to overcome selfishness, and it is really tough. I try to take a spiritual approach and understand that anytime I am being selfish, I am not being very spiritual at all and yet giving and being “self” less is one of the main things we were brought here to do. It’s tough but it is also our ability to overcome it that determines the whole course of our lives. One of the greatest things of all.


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