Wednesday, February 28, 2018

On Freedom And Selfishness

One of the great joys of being an American is the concept of freedom.

Freedom, at its core, is the power of and respect for self decision.  The power to decide that I will do this or that and the corresponding acceptance by the government (who makes the laws, ultimately) that my choice to do this or that will be respected.  Think about it:  the ability to speak or not speak, worship or not worship, write freely, and a host of other rights are all ultimately grounded in the fact that I, the individual, am free to do so with the confidence that I am able to exercise such freedom without interference.

However, we are now living in an age where freedom has in many ways turned into its pale sibling, selfishness.

Selfishness is the belief that I have the right to do what I wish to do, no matter what the consequences, so long as it is the best possible outcome for me.  It is tangentially related to freedom in that both involve the choice of the individual; it is not the same in that it involves a can involve a level of immaturity not found in freedom.

Mature people exercise freedom.  They review their choice, not only the context of what they wish to do but also in the context of what those decisions will mean to themselves and those around them.  Every decision has an impact; the true practitioner of freedom knows and practices that. 

Immature people exercise selfishness.  They review their choice only in the context of how it makes them feel and pay little attention to the larger world and society around them.  In their world, the only decisional impact that matters is the one that occurs to them.  The ramifications to the larger group around them are only important in the sense that they may or may not impact the person making the decision.

You will notice that I have carefully excluded the words "adult" and "children" from these definitions.  This is done intentionally:  I have seen 60 year olds who would completely burn the world down to satisfy their whims and 12 year olds that make the wisest of decisions. 

Can any society survive the large scale rise of the selfish?  I suspect the answer is no.  Ultimately, selfishness if not checked by maturity will lead to a society where every person makes the decisions of life based purely on what is best for them - and what is best for them is just as much based on the feeling and emotion of the day as it is on larger ramifications of decisions which leads to people and people groups bouncing off each other in the vain pursuit of their own personal agenda. 

Selfishness ultimately says that the person that fulfills my desires is the one I should follow, regardless if it is good or destructive.  In such a world the very fabric of society and lives is destroyed and torn up - only to discover that in fact the person  promising us fulfillment had an agenda of their own, that in fact they in turn are victimized by the selfishness of someone else.  It is only then that many realize that maturity brings freedom and true self empowerment and that selfishness ultimately only brings destruction.

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