Compassion For The Selfish

Before we judge a person for their selfish beliefs and behavior, we should consider the bigger picture of their support system or lack thereof.

Some people are only out for themselves, looking at every situation and interaction from the perspective of personal benefit or personal loss, and never from what is best or even good for the group they interact with. These people will fight for, demand, or even take what they want from their relationships, with little regard for how their decisions affect others or even themselves in the longterm. As a way of justifying their selfishness, they will be the first to tell us that everyone else thinks and acts this way too, and that those who do not are either naive or lying.

It is easy to assume that a selfish person’s outlook and behavior is intentionally egotistical, malicious, and destructive, but it may not actually be their fault. It is likely, that, somewhere along the way, these people had a traumatic experience or series of experiences that convinced them that no one was going to help them, support them, or look out for them, and that the only help they would receive help in life would be if they helped themselves. Over time and with enough justifying evidence, this seemingly benign ideology that one must help oneself became twisted into believing that one must only help oneself and damn the rest.

Instead of condemning others for their selfish ideas and actions, we are all better served by stepping back and considering where they are coming from, what led them to this place, and what keeps them there. Perhaps they truly feel as if they have no support from family, friends, or colleagues, and maybe they are correct. When a person is blinded and bound by the belief that they are alone in a world of scarcity, that no one will help them and they must, therefore, help themselves and only themselves in spite of others, sometimes the only help we can offer them is compassion, empathy, and consistent evidentiary behavior to the contrary of their beliefs.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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