Posing a question

My friend and co-author of the Mystical Hexagram, Gary Vasey posted a link to a response to an article on his blog,  Asteroth’s Domain. It doesn’t take a lot to set me off, sometimes… I occasionally feel the urge to respond in detail 🙂

Gary, after writing his thoughts with his customary openness, had asked the question, ‘where does selfishness begin and end?’

As it deals with a theme that I have found recurring in discussions lately, I thought I would re-post it here in case it strikes a chord.









I have often wondered if there is any such thing as a truly selfless action. I have spent a lifetime doing all I can for others, those I love and especially those I do not. Yet, I came to realise that while the conscious intent was genuine, there were, ultimately, ulterior motives. Whether it was a subconscious seeking of approval, a justification for my own existence or simply the desire to make someone smile… even that smile is a reward and therefore, in some ways, negates the selflessness.

Then I came to understand that the almost universal desire to protect those we love and care for from hurt, sorrow and pain, to shoulder their burdens and wish to carry them on their behalf, is also potentially fraught with the danger of selfishness. For by what right can I judge what is ‘best’ for the progress of another soul? In my desire to help, was I denying my loved ones the opportunity to learn and grow?

And yet, of course, there is the obverse side of the coin. Can I stand by and watch while a fellow creature suffers? Should I keep the life lessons I have learned to myself for fear of denying the opportunity of growth? No, of course not. What one has learned for one’s Self, can and should be shared.

As a parent, one gets no handbook. So we do the best we can and try to equip our children to the best of our ability, with the life skills they will need. Yet there comes a point when we have to step back and allow them to make their own choices. If that leads them to make mistakes, we pick them up, if they will let us, and help them through. Yet the choices they make must be their own. No matter how much we try and teach, only they can choose to learn.

As a partner, we can give and give… only to find that by doing so we have defined our own role as giver and our partner has been forced into the role of taker. Then when we need them, the relationship has to be redefined once more, with huge effort. It reminds me of DF’s comment on stopping the gears of the universe before one can change direction again. People, and relationships, can break under that kind of strain.

Or perhaps we try to ‘do what is best’ in our relationships. But again, the gap between desire and need can be a vast chasm. Stripped down to the basics, our true needs are both very small and yet all encompassing. Desire is personal, and can be based on a real desire to attain a goal, or merely a wistful longing, a daydream or a desire for change. That change may have no real correlation to the object of the desire, but may signal a desire to change a seemingly unrelated situation or relationship.

It is a minefield, of course 🙂

In a nutshell, my own belief is simple. All one can ever do is follow the dictates of heart and conscience. Our lives stem from the crossroads of every step we take, every decision and choice. Each choice leads us down the path of our own choosing. We cannot control circumstance, but we can always choose how we will react. And we alone are responsible for those choices.

It won’t mean we always get things right, but we learn from our mistakes, so the experience is not wasted. After all, if we were not still wearing our spiritual ‘L’ plates, why would we be here?

I had a conversation recently regarding Fate and predestination. His belief is that our entire lives are mapped out in advance and all we have to do is live them. So our choices do not matter as they have been made for us by Fate. To me, this seems a sad and pointless existence, and the more we learn about this universe through science, the less it seems possible that anything at all can exist pointlessly.

For myself I believe we choose the circumstances and broad outline of possibilities that will provide the soul with the learning opportunities we need. Once incarnate, it is up to us to choose what to do with those opportunities. If we fail or ignore them, life has a way of spiralling round to re-present them to us until we face them. In this respect, we truly are the architects of our own lives and we alone are responsible for the results.

So I reiterate, what is the line between selfishness and selflessness? Choice, intent and responsibility, I think, guided by experience, understanding and love. All we can do is follow where our heart and the still small voice within tells us it is right to go.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Spirituality, The Silent Eye and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Posing a question

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, I really enjoyed reading it. I have a similar outlook to your own regarding the soul’s journey. The selfishness is a difficult one. We have to be ‘selfish’ insomuch as we have to totally love ourselves in order to be a light for others and to be in our highest vibration where even our presence is of benefit to another. One school of thought believes that we are all responsible for our own journey and choices, as you say in your post. Its very hard to stand by and let others live their lives in their own way, isn’t it. But why do we feel a need to even suggest our views on how others lead their lives. That is selfish really, as we are imposing our opinions. If someone asks for help, then that is different although ultimately the biggest help we can give is helping others help themselves.
    Thanks again for this though-provoking post :o)


  2. prewitt1970 says:

    Question#1:So I reiterate, what is the line between selfishness and selflessness? Personally I don’t believe as the nature of our bio chemical beings that their is one all things in nature(as a physical being we are animals) there is push and pull give and take regardless of intent or purest of heart and soul. I want to give,heal,protect.. It makes me feel complete.
    As to the statement of universal predetermined road map: yes and no, genetically and sociologically speaking some of the outcomes of our lives will be predetermined to a point. Spiritually or speaking to our enlightened conciseness I believe that path is open, yes effected by the mentioned physical factors but far from determined. Sorry to take up so much space.


    • Echo says:

      Benjamin, take as much space as you like 🙂 there is no point in writing if no one thinks, challenges, agrees or debates things 🙂

      I think you would probably like Running Elk’s reply ( the guy with the bear..) Watch him though… he has a warped sense of the ridiculous 😉 (Probably why we get on so well…)



  3. Running Elk says:

    It’s a bugger alright.

    Been involved in these kinds of discussions before, and gets especially convoluted when dealing with kabbalah-ists. I fear that we risk over-thinking it, overcomplicating it, and, by denying our ability to act for purely altruistic reasons on the physical plane, over emphasising the potential (real or otherwise) of endangering our spiritual fulfillment, we deny the very humanity of our existence in the moment.

    Is there a line? Does it matter where it is drawn?

    Standing back, watching others die is hardly a price worth paying in the pursuit of an existence free of egoic desire. If saving one starving child feeds my selfish nature, damning me to return again, I think I’m good with that… since the alternative doesn’t even bear consideration.

    To me, anything done without expectation of return defines the act. I don’t need, want or expect anything… and it would appear that this opens up a rather significant grey area, which may engulf the entire scale we are trying to define. For really, what is the difference between the smallest kindness offered a stranger, and the gargantuan task that the Gates Foundation is attempting to undertake?

    Some would decry the one, whilst applauding the other. Others, in their rather self limiting ego-conscience, would decry both. Yet, the significance of each can only speak for themselves at the weigh in… it is hardly for us, with our rather limited vision, to judge.

    As you have indicated “All we can do is follow where our heart and the still small voice within tells us it is right to do”. I only add the codicil, that under no circumstances should we ever interfere with another’s beliefs, rights, or desires… then it becomes something else entirely!

    Bugger! I think you hit my sore spot too… 😉


  4. Very deep thoughts in this post.
    I think that the love we give is a personal choice. We CAN love without any expectations, we can give and help and care. Many could do many things, but they don’t care, they simply choose not to care.
    You are a fantastic empath and your destiny is to give/heal/help. So know that you are doing what you were meant to. Life is often very harsh with empaths, because many take advantage of them and at some points they find themselves completely alone. But know that the positive part is that you have inside your heart an endless resource of hope and love that will heal you as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.