“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one’s neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man and Prison Writings
I was planning to write a long post on this subject, but Oscar Wilde sums it up much better than I can.
There was a time when I cringed when the word selfish was tossed around. Now I look up to see who is throwing it and what their intentions might be.
Yes, sometimes it’s used for legitimate reasons. Only thinking about yourself isn’t an appealing or helpful trait.
But at other times people use this word to push others into choices that they’d never make on their own. It’s even worse than being selfish to me because it presumes that other adults can’t possibly make good choices on their own. Their profound lack of trust and uncontrollable urge to micromanage other adults is deeply troubling.