Today in my afterschool martial arts program, all the kids were taking their snack break in the commons area, when I heard a sharp shout above the din of talking and laughter: "I'm in 8th grade! For gosh sakes! I'm not some baby ya know!"
I stopped the class. "Whoa, what's going on?" I asked, while the shouter, an 8th grade girl, stomped away to another part of the commons area and plunked down in a chair with her arms folded and a grumpy look on her face.
After speaking to several boys about what happened, I learned that one of them asked her why she was giving away her snack.
"Yeah, then she started to get all mad and we asked 'why are ya mad?', then she started screamin'"
I was surprised at her reaction to whatever upset her, because a bit earlier, she offered her snack to me, saying "I'm not into animal crackers...you can have them if you want...its called 'unselfishness'. I heard you say earlier that you were hungry even though you had lunch not long ago..."
"Well, thank you! Unselfishness, eh? Sometimes, we can use the word "Altruistic"..."
"I like to not be selfish. But what's that 'altruistic' mean?"
"Well, it kind of means that you're concerned about the interests and welfare of others, and may often offer your service, time, or asstance to help other attain whatever goal or desination they're going for or hoping for....all without expectation of reward or recognition. Kind of like that!!" I answered.
"So selfishness and altru..."
"Yeah, Altruism...so they're kinda like opposites?"
"Yeah, you could say that", I smiled. "Actually, I'm not into animal crackers either...maybe you may share with the others??"
"Sure! Its all about altruism, right!" She said, as she walked back to the group.
Fast forward 10 minutes later, after the shouting scene. I walked over to her and found out that she was upset that she wasn't highly commended or complimented or thanked by the kids on her selfless act of sharing.
"Remember what I said about selfishness and altruism being opposites?" I asked. "Sometimes though, we may tend to be so caught up in our own thoughts or our own needs and wants only, work so hard to makes these needs and wants happen that we forget to at what others need and want."
"...But I'm always helping people and sharing. No one really appreciates it!"
"Then, that's not being truly altruistic. If you are looking for recognition and awards for helping others, that's a kind of selfishness." I said.
She looked at me and nodded. "So...I'm being sefish by wanting people to recognize me as a good person?"
"No, not sefish....but maybe wanting to be important maybe. Think about it...do you do good things so people say 'oh! Helen is such a good person!', or, do you do good things just because it feels good or because its the right thing to do?"
"Aah...I guess a little of both" She said. "I like doing the right things, but I want people to know I'm doing it for them".
"Aaah", I said. "Then that isn't really selflessness or unselfishness if you do things just for the gain of recognition. Or, when you're older, if you the do right things only for fame or profit."
She nodded. "So what now?"
"Go over there and apologize to screaming at them. They didn't say anything to make you mad....you allowed yourself to interpret things differently and you got yourself mad. That's the right thing...go say 'sorry'".
So ask yourselves...."Am I doing right and good, and doing service for my community out of good feeling, love for fellow people and compassion? Or am I doing this for fame, recognition, money, or other profit? Am I doing this for only my personal gain?"
No one would want to think of themselves as someone who is so egotistal. But, you'll probably be surprised, that one time or another, we've all given service for the ulterior motive of being recognized as "that great person" or for personal gain. I've been there....and will struggle for a long time with that question of "Am I really all that and a bag of chips, expecting fame and fortune from all this? Or am I doing good for the sake of doing good?"
There's nothing wrong, of course, if people recognize you as a great person, a great leader, or even a selfless altruistic person.... but don't let it go to your head and don't allow ulterior motives guide your decisions. If you do, you'll only end up make everyone happy *except* for yourself!
Train the mind, strengthen the spirit. Train well!