I learned a little bit about selflessness yesterday while walking my dog. I normally pick up after my dog, but that day I also picked up some other dog’s poo. It was horrible, all cold and covered with flies.
Why did I do it? Because the day before, my dog had gobbled up some dried poo when I wasn’t paying attention. Apparently they are attracted to the smell and that’s how they pass germs to each other. I was determined that it wouldn’t happen again.
Selflessness happens when the self grows
I was able to pick up that awful stuff, with my nose scrunched up and leaning as far away from it as I could, because in that moment I was bigger than myself. My ‘self’ had expanded to include my dog. This bigger self was able to do things that the smaller self recoiled against.
While thinking about this (picking up disgusting leftover poo is something that messes with your brain for a while) I wondered just how big the self could get.
The biggest possible self
The more people we love, the bigger a person we are. In theory therefore, if we loved the whole universe then the Self would be as big as God. If this is true, then the way to transcend our little egos is not to become self-less, but to be self-more. When you are your biggest possible self, you become truly selfless.
Levels of Self
Yesterday while I was walking my dog, I saw another poo pile. This time I left it alone and just made sure my dog didn’t get near it. So maybe my self became smaller again. Is it so easy for the self to ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’ like this?
Perhaps the self is a little like the waistline. It can expand and contract, sometimes all in the space of a day. Perhaps God (whatever you understand this to be) is like that too, able to be as big as the universe one moment, and as small as an individual person the next.
Selflessness is the natural result of growth
Many people hold selflessness as an ideal and try to deny themselves in order to be a ‘good’ person. Instead of denying ourselves, why not try to expand the self to include as many people as possible?
We are more than we think we are. When we realise that we are part of a larger Oneness and that our Self is much larger than we think, selflessness becomes natural simply out of love for this all-inclusive, magnificent self.
29 replies on “Can We Grow into Selflessness?”
[…] Can We Grow into Selflessness? – My answer was “not necessarily.” What’s yours? […]
Great point about people acting selfless for selfish reasons – to feel better about themselves for example, to appease a low self-esteem etc.
I’m amazed that I actually posted about dog poo too! Yes, self-love is important if we want to love others, and selflessness comes from that love. Thanks for your cheerful comment!
“We extremes” is a nice way of putting it! For one period of my life I tried to be selfless because of idealistic reasons, and it killed me! Figuratively of course. You’re right that there’s probably a halfway point, or maybe we’re not extreme enough? When we love ourselves so much more, perhaps we become selfless too. I’ll head over to read your posts, to see things from a different perspective.
I read some of the comments about people being selfish, including you ;), and it relates to some of my recent posts. I come from a position of selflessness to almost the extreme of forgetting about my own needs and placing the needs of others ahead of my own… this too is not a position to be proud of as I would often attempt to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and sacrifice my own health and well-being in the process.
The thing we extremes need to find is the balance of selfishness and selflessness.
Thanks for the wonderful read,
Wow…I didn’t think that picking up dog poo can provide so many interesting lessons! Great post!
I agree with what J.D. has shared. I used to beat myself up over being selfish to others! Then, over time, I realize that I should start with working on a relationship with self first. When there is inadequate love for self, the love for others is also impacted.
As I was reading the part where you said, “Many people hold selflessness as an ideal and try to deny themselves in order to be a ‘good’ person. While this has merits for the people around them, I’m not sure that a contraction of the self is necessarily the best way to go.” it reminded me of how some people will act selfless, but often it’s because they have a lack of self worth and believe they don’t deserve better.
Daphne, this was an excellent article. So unique and that’s what makes it so good!
This whole idea of making the self bigger to make the self selfless is a very intriguing idea. Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for your comment, Stephen. Good to know you found it unique, and I appreciate your being specific about what you like.
This article was so good. I had to go back and re-read it as soon as I was finished. This statement floors me each time I read it:”Perhaps God (whatever you understand this to be) is like that too, able to be as big as the universe one moment, and as small as an individual person the next.” I think this is so true and it is how I want myself to think and to be.
That Chinese proverb about each of us sweeping in front of our own door and the whole world will be clean… what you said is so true – if we all do just a little bit more than our part, the world will be better than clean!
Thank you so much for this affirming comment. That thought about God was awesome and humbling, wasn’t it? I almost didn’t dare write it… it was such a big thought to me that it felt almost sacrilegious. I’m glad I did though, because it made such an impact on you. I am grateful that you appreciate the post.
I loved your reminder that the self IS as big as God, if only we would reminder this. Perhaps we shouldn’t even try to understand selves and God in terms of size… that’s merely one dimension of things and we’re more than that.
Interesting question about taking responsibility away from other Selfs. I didn’t think about that, and don’t have an answer either. I suppose that some selves have decided to experience selfishness and so don’t pick up their dog’s poo? So that other selves can experience selflessness by doing so? And therefore these various selves complete the one great Self?
Wow, you’ve made me think about this one today. Thanks!
I love the message about selflessness. If all just do a little bit more than our part. We will all a little more selfless and just think the kind of world we will have. 🙂
Thanks for sharing.
Imperfect Action is better than No Action
Great article, Daphne! I think you hit the nail on the head … “the Self would be as big as God.” I think our true Self already IS as big as God … we’ve just forgotten.
In considering this, though, I also get stuck on the fine line of taking responsibility for others in our Self-lessness. In an ideal world, everyone would be responsible for their own dog’s poo. By taking responsibility for others, are we taking what’s rightfully theirs away from them? Are we actually lessening their Self as we expand our own?
I don’t have a good answer, by the way … just a thought that came up.
Hi Daphne .. you’ve certainly inspired everyone! .. I like John’s comment “This is a refreshing post on a quiet Monday mornin” .. I have to say I wouldn’t put dog poo in that category!
Though I understand what he’s saying .. somedays I’m good and some days I don’t do things I perhaps should ..
re babies .. I feel the same way re the elderly & their results .. never having had kids, I just thought ok I have to do it .. so I do.
So perhaps others’ mess is beyond my scope at the moment .. I have three to do every day .. me being one of them!, my Mum and my uncle when I visit .. love is all – it definitely is.
I really do not want to think about dog poo all day .. but I suppose I will!
Thanks – PS what have you called your fish?
all the best – have a good day ..
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
I wouldn’t exactly say the poo was inspiring 😉 Still, it did lead to some interesting (in my opinion anyway!) thoughts and I appreciate your kind comment.
Fully agree that your site focuses on practical skills and that’s one reason it’s so successful. Very true that selflessness comes much more naturally when our own needs are met, so that we don’t have to focus on those anymore. Thanks for being here today.
Believe me, if I had to pick up dog poo everyday to be a better person, I’d rather remain unevolved! I like how you say selflessness can be a non-issue if we focus on what’s important – self expansion. Lovely turn of phrase, thanks!
I’m not sure if ‘inspired’ is the right word, especially considering what the post started off with! Thanks for saying so though – you are sweet as always. There are good and bad days for sure – I like John Denver’s song which said it best: “some days are diamond, some days are stone.” And you’ve certainly had your fair share of both, and are doing so great.
Hi Daphne – “in that moment I was bigger than myself. My ’self’ had expanded to include my dog: – I love the way you have put this! Selfish/selfless becomes a non-issue if we expand to encompass all others – great stuff!
PS I don’t think you have to pick up all the dog poo to be a self-expanded person! (heh). – R
I like your growth model.
It’s true, growing up, means growing out. I think selflessness becomes stronger when you feel your needs are met, and interestingly, one of the needs seems to be service to others. As we expand, our ability to help ourselves and others expands. I remember my guiding rule was the better I could take care of myself, the better I could take care of other people … so I worked on becoming super skilled.
Well, there is clearly much to learn in this world when poo can inspire us!!! Seriously though, this is a great look into the self perspective and how to put others into that self is growing our selflessness. Nice.
I think selfishness is more natural than selflessness and actually an important survival tool. I do agree we can – and should – become MORE selfless, but not entirely so. I hope I’m making sense.
You made a great point about the difference between sacrificing (with its connotation of ‘less’) and giving (with the sense of ‘more’) and I think that’s a crucial difference. We cannot keep taking away from ourselves by denial, but can keep adding to ourselves and others through giving. Well thought out point.
I almost blushed to publish this ‘shitty’ post 🙂 Thanks for reading it anyway!
Thank you so much for your encouragement and being specific about which sentences you like. That was helpful for me to know.
Glad you like the post, though I had my doubts whether to publish something like this. Laughter is a great way to deal with some of the more yucky parts of life!
You hit the nail on the head. So many people try to be selfless by taking from themselves until they have nothing left to give. Giving to yourself is key – so much that you’re overflowing and can give that extra to others.
Selfishness is definitely more natural, for me at least. And you’re one of the most sensible bloggers I know so you definitely make sense. Plus, you’re down to earth, real and honest, and I really like that in you. Thanks for this honest comment.
Thanks for this D. My sense is that, the more love I give to myself, the more I have available for others. When I try to be “selfless,” I’m actually trying to love others but not myself, which is miserable.
Great post. I love those lessons we can learn through laughter. I don’t have dogs but I’ve been in quite a few scrapes with my kids where definitely being selfless was mandatory. I guess we could be thankful for our kids or our dogs for helping us recognize what selflessness looks like so that we can expand it beyond those we care about to humanity at large. Thanks for this thoughtful post!
“to transcend our little egos is not to become self-less, but to be self-more. When you are your biggest possible self, you become truly selfless.”
This is so well put and so very true!
“This time I left it alone and just made sure my dog didn’t get near it. So maybe my self became smaller again. Is it so easy for the self to ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’ like this?”
I don’t think your lesson was to pick up the poo! I think it was to get these major insights and share them with us!
“When we realise that we are part of a larger Oneness and that our Self is much larger than we think, selflessness becomes natural simply out of love for this all-inclusive, magnificent Self.” You’re are on target with this as well.
Thanks for an enlightening post. Even if the poo was disgusting!
It’s funny how dog turds can teach you about yourself. Very Interesting.
I’m happy that you decided to pick it up no matter how potentially diseased it was 😉
This is a refreshing post on a quiet Monday morning.
Hi, Daphne! Dog poo… So many of my ideas come from off-beat everyday moments, too. 😉 You wrote: “Many people hold selflessness as an ideal and try to deny themselves in order to be a ‘good’ person.” I think you’ve hit on something. It’s important to make the distinction between selflessness as an act of sacrifice or one of giving. If we approach it as if we are giving ourselves in service, it no longer feels like a sacrifice. That’s such an agreeable state that we find ourselves seeking it more and more often! With intention, we can free ourselves from even the smallest nuance of negativity. Hugs to you!
Wow! I really do love what you’ve written here for all its insight, love, and laughable self-awareness.
To begin with, God bless you for picking up the poo! Had I been with you, my face would have mimicked yours as you actually did said picking up. (Egads!) That aside, I thought about mothers who clean up their children’s messes (some of them as disgusting as that pile of dog poo), and never even bat an eyelash. I guess motherhood must have that built-in “self-more” mechanism working from Day 1.
I love how you probed the idea of selflessness being like a waistline – some days we’re bigger than ourselves and some days we’re not. I experience this in picking up trash from the ground. Some days I pick up every piece of litter I see, while others I can overlook it… Why, I wonder?
Thanks for this great post and opening my eyes a bit wider today!
I can’t believe I just wrote a post inspired by dog poo either. The toxic fumes from that stuff must have driven my out of my mind! Thanks for your gleeful comment. Loved it!
@ Hugo and Roxanne,
Thanks for visiting and commenting. I am grateful that you stopped by, and look forward to seeing more of each other. Blessings to you two too!
I consider myself a pretty selfish person too, so we’re soulmates 🙂 Hey just continue with your blog and resolution to be a positive person, and I think that you’ll find that a side effect is you’ll become more selfless along the way. You’re truly one of the most positive people I know already.
If you had been with me, I’d have begged you to pick it up for me 🙂 Children’s poo (and I’ve cleaned a fair bit in my lifetime) is smellier, but I guess the equivalent is some other child’s poo from yesterday, and you don’t even know who! Now that can be really putting off… ugh my face is scrunching up again! But yeah, mothers are among the most selfless people I know.
The waistline idea fascinated me… I always thought that selfless people were that way all the time (not being selfless myself, it’s hard to know you see) until I realised that some days we can be less so than others. I’m really grateful for your wonderful comment.
Daphne, I absolutely loved this post. I consider myself a pretty selfish person and that’s not something I say with pride. I want to be more selfless and I really think it’s possible. Fabulous post!
We love your idea of being “Self-More.” Especially when you say…”When you are your biggest possible self, you become truly selfless.” So True.
This is our first visit to your blog and am grateful to have stopped by. Will definitely be back again soon! Look forward to getting to know you. 🙂
Roxanne and Hugo
I love how your soul sings even through the thunder! Thank you!
Only you can write an inspirational post about dog poo! :~)
You continue to amaze me! Hugs!