I was planning to write on a different topic but was greatly struck by a discussion I had with a friend earlier. It came randomly, initially centered on faith, then finally jumped into something more generic but turning a bit philosophic. We were studying then and maybe we were just stressed out. But as we continued to talk and share some personal insights, I became intrigued and even spent a night thinking about everything we had talked about.
That discussion was all about selflessness. It stemmed from talking about how society demands that we should be selfless, that we should be giving ourselves to serve, to give everything that we could for harmony. We are both Christians so we also observed what kind of life a Christian is expected to have: one that does not think of himself but instead tries to help others, emulating what Jesus Christ himself had done.
Even though there are many passages in the Bible that talk about this, we can best relate it to what Jesus said when a rich asked him about how to enter God’s kingdom. That man claimed that he lived a righteous life, after the commandments. Jesus reply was,
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Mark 10:21
But the concept of selflessness is not limited to the Christian faith. Islam values altruism, saying that this is a true sign of faith. Buddhists say that selflessness is a path to enlightenment, taking away our cares for the world. Mahatma Gandhi, the great icon of democracy, said this famous phrase on service: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Given these, we now have this idea that selflessness is not limited to just one faith or one group of people. It is a universal truth, believed by people to pave the way for peace and excellence. However, most of the time, we feel battered by serving other. We feel fatigued, even betrayed when we feel that we have exhausted most of what we have. How can you be selfless if you have nothing left for yourself? How can you find happiness in selflessness?
In the Time of the Selfies
News stories and blogs would often refer to the people of our time as the “Selfie Generation” because of the rise of narcissism evident through the constant sharing of personal photos online. This has even come to a point where doctors have diagnosed those who are so into selfies as people who have personality disorders. However, to call the people in this fad as a generation is a misnomer because of the practice encompasses several generations.
This further extends to another coined term in the 21st century: the millenials. Millenials are defined as those who were born in the 1980s or 1990s, who became young adults in the early 2000s. It is said that a millenial would take about 25,000 selfies in his or her lifetime which, for many, is a testament to the apathetic and narcissistic qualities of this generation.
The overwhelming view of those from the older generation is that millenials do not find happiness in selflessness. The statistics mentioned above are often brought up to say how this generation would opt to follow their own desires and forget all the norms in this world, which would include helping others without any compensation. Millenials online were quick to debunk this notion and all the other views on them.
On the other hand, maybe millenials are just great overthinkers. Can we ever find happiness in selflessnes?
The Great Overthinker
But this problem is not centered on the millenials alone. People tend to overthink nowadays. The spread of information technology may have eased our lives (and enabled you to read this piece on various platforms), it also brought anxiety and chaos thanks to the loads of misinformation you can find online.
Overthinking has been much of a mental health issue and you can find many resources on line on how to battle this. More than anxiety, overthinking can also affect how we feel about finding happiness in selflessness.
In this present age, it is not unusual to know many things by yourself due to the availability of information everywhere. When you gain many skills and have a great bulk of knowledge, you often tend to strive in improving that skill. Many people would see you as a “jack-of-all-trades” but sometimes even this is discouraging.
Armed with your knowledge and skills, you would accept every favor asked of you resulting to more tasks for your part. Knowing that you have the resources, you accept these favors. You tell yourself that you love taking these favors yet sometimes you just think that you have had too much.
The world would tell us that an ability requires from us an equal responsibility. These can also be applied to other things than favors. But as the moments pass, you would think that you already have too much.
So, how to find happiness?