Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reflections (1): I've Been a Selfish Asshole


How can I put this delicately...I've been a selfish asshole.


I've been a selfish asshole to certain people in my family.

I've been a selfish asshole as a lawyer.

I've been a selfish asshole to countless anonymous and not so anonymous women.

I've been a selfish asshole to people I have loved.

I've been a selfish asshole to people I love.

I've been a selfish asshole to complete strangers.

Even when it looked like I was anything but selfish the asshole in me was, somehow, being selfish and self-serving.

[Reflections introductory post]

29 comments:

microwave said...

Being an asshole is part of being a human. But I think it's true humanity to recognize and feel remorse (well, in some cases...) about our asshole tendencies.

By the way, I burnt my hand on a frying pan about 20 minutes ago and called that pan an asshole. So I guess being an asshole isn't totally relegated to humans...hmm.

jquaglia said...

I think that being a selfish asshole actually ends up with you causing more harm on yourself than anyone else. The old saying "karma's a bitch, ain't it". Therefore, being a good person is actually way more selfish, and a win win for everyone involved.

Debbi said...

The fact that you can say "I've been" rather than "I am" is a good sign.

Anonymous said...

It's a cliche to say, out of the original context, that the first step is recognizing that you have a problem. But this is one cliche that's actually true, and very hard to carry off. It's tough to take a hard look at yourself, and I commend you for doing that.

And I think jquaglia is right to some extent. Being a selfish asshole certainly does hurt other people--but they can walk away, and the person being the selfish asshole is stuck with him- or herself.

Jack said...

@Microwave,

Maybe the state of assholeness is universal and extends to objects as well:)

@jquaglia,

Great point. If only there was a way to get every selfsfish asshole on board...

@Debbi,

Absolutely. I couldn't have written this a couple of years ago. Maybe even a year ago.

cindy lee jones said...

Give yourself some credit here now, you weren't a selfish a-hole to the helpless little pooch that needed shelter and a way back home recently... That's a beautiful first step. Being one with the elements in nature opens us up to the deeper realms of our self, I think you are on two journeys here, I really admire your openness and honesty.

Dreamer said...

Jack I dont agree, and you are far too hard on yourself, none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.

Linda said...

We're all being selfish assholes.

I think selfishness is the "curse" of humanity. Christianity says "original sin", Buddhism says "the ego", but I believe it's the same thing. We choose to bin empathy and sympathy in pursuing what our egos want.

It's not easy going against our selfish wishes, but I think it's an important (but hard) lesson to learn.

Not many people are prepared to aknowledge their selfishness. I think you should be proud of yourself for what you accomplished, and how far you've come (in miles as well :)).

kate said...

ah, jack. and you'll be an asshole again, if you are anything like me. i used to think that realizing i was a selfish asshole must have somehow cured me. i got over that pretty quick :-)

the good news is, i get better at it....not being a selfish asshole.... but at recognizing and making amends for behaving badly. sometimes i actually recognize the behavior or attitude as it's happening, and that makes rectifying it all the easier. and every once in a while i see it coming in time to head it off at the pass! that's growth, and it feels good!

it is so healing to take something negative from in our hearts and show it the light of day. it leaves a little vaccuum that allows love and forgiveness to rush in and fill the void. good for you, jack!

Bon vivant said...

BTDT. Good to hear you can acknowledge this. One foot in front of the other, daily. Check out Isha.com. It's difficult for me to grasp but . . . La culpa es una ilusion, nunca has hecho nada malo. -- Sankaraisha

Basically, there is no 'wrong'.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

Thanks for the kind words. And agree with you re jquaglia.

@Cindy Lee,

I don't think coming to terms with the person I was (past tense) is necessarily being hard on myself. Being truthful, in the middle of all this beauty, just seems appropriate.

@Dreamer,

See my response to Cindy above. Everyone does make mistakes, but for me it is good to acknowledge them every once in a while.

Jack said...

@Linda,

I appreciate your intelligence and insightfulness. Here's the bigger question: where will these journeys ultimately take me?

@Kate,

Your comment is the first where I said "yes, that's how I am feeling." Being more aware of those tendencies should lessen these episodes going forward. So far, it is definitely worth it.

@Bon vivant,

You are one of several people who recommended that sight. I'm coming to agree with your last sentence. Thanks.

Meg said...

As I like to say, the two keys to happiness and being a good person is 1. be appreciative (of what you have AND who helped you get it), and 2. be compassionate for other beings, no matter what they have or don't.

Much harder to be a "selfish asshole" then!

Still, I'll admit that I have my moments, too -- I'm only human. And not one of us is perfect. The reason you have earned my respect is that you ARE willing to examine your life. You've already realized that life isn't about STUFF, and now you're learning that life isn't about YOU.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in a certain amount of selfishness. I've seen people (my mom included) be too self-less at times -- and I've seen that it can hurt them AND others, too. We do have to protect our own interests and nurture our own selves, too. Otherwise, we leave ourselves less able to help others. Or worse, we become dependent on others for things that we should be taking care of, like seeing that our health is taken care of, making sure we have money to live off of, loving ourselves enough that we don't cling to bad relationships, etc.

But, when you foster appreciation and compassion, you realize how interconnected and interdependent we all are -- and that you don't HAVE to be a "selfish asshole". The world isn't all win-lose, like in court. In most cases, there is a win-win solution if you're willing to look :)

breathethenexhale said...

you sound as human as the next person.

My opinion is your unselfish unasshole moments outweight the selfish asshole moments.

And this is so silly but this post reminded me of an episode of Friends... I know... eyeroll... but bear with me... two of the characters were debating whether anyone does a good deed without having some of the goodness come back to them from the deed itself. The characters set out with examples of 'good deeds' and always found that the person doing the good deed always has some positive result too. hm.

Anonymous said...

we all have. why do i feel like i knew you would say and experience that sentiment at some point on this journey...?

And stop posting pics of the wild west...you're making me sooooo homesick :o( j/k

Anonymous said...

Jack,
The approach of some of the people commenting here is very new to me. The person who does good deeds is actually a selfish one?! FYI people, whatever good you do, will come back to you in some form sooner or later, and not because you are a calculating asshole.

Cheers

Meg said...

@Anonymous,

Were you referring to my comment? If so, please note that I called my mom "self-less" -- not selfish. I just believe that sometimes people focus soooo much on being self-less that they don't do enough for themselves, and that can be bad. I do NOT think that means that they should turn into selfish jerks and stop doing good deeds. I just think they need to find a balance so that they're taking care of their own needs, too, while they're helping others. That way they can continue to help others.

If you are referring to breathethenexhale's comment, I think that's true -- at least in most cases and maybe all. Reminds me of an episode of House, actually. But anyhow, I think in every case you'll find there is some benefit to helping others, whether it be promoting your business, networking, making friends, getting a tax deduction, clearing your home of junk, being seen as a good person, impressing someone you like, seeing yourself as a good person, etc. I don't think that's bad at all! Those are win-win situations, whether you think about the benefits ahead of time or not! As you yourself said, "whatever good you do, will come back to you in some form sooner or later". Well, some people just know which form they're hoping for and using that as motivation.

Anonymous said...

Jack:
You can't change the past. No use beating yourself up over it. You could make amends to those you can, and you could keep looking and moving forward in the direction you want to go (both in your mind and on your bike). Good luck!

Anonymous said...

@ Mag,

I was actually referring to jqualia's and breaththanexhile's comment.I totally agree with your point of view.In his post Jack wrote about being selfish in relationiships with people close to him and I kept my comment in the same context.I rather thought about little things that we do everyday for people we love than about tax deductions, promotions etc.I call the latter business or barter rather than good deeds.I might be an idealist, I admit it.

Linda said...

Thank you. Compliments on my intelligence are always welcome :)!

As for insighful, well... I'm mostly confused. Change is confusing, and when one changes the whole outlook on life, there's no telling where the journey will end. It's just a mess :). Hopefully, the threads and thoughts will untangle eventually.

This may sound "hippyish"; but I think the journey's end is a greater love. Love of others, of oneself, of the Earth and of God (or "a higher power"). In the end, I belive that love is the simplest thing there is.

Jack said...

@Meg,

"You've already realized that life isn't about STUFF, and now you're learning that life isn't about YOU."

How true. And, btw, I don't consider taking care of the basics for yourself and your loved ones to be a selfish act at all. And even if it were, the term "asshole" modifies the first and transforms it into something rather indefensible.

@Breathethenexhale,

"My opinion is your unselfish unasshole moments outweight the selfish asshole moments."

Frankly, I don't think that was true a couple of years ago. But today things are different, and for the better.

Don't ever stop referencing Friends on this blog:)

@Anonymous,

I might have a problem stopping:) But maybe you can come back out here and stop feeling homesick.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

I guess the argument is that in a world where Karma rules, a person who does good deeds is actually "selfish" because good things well follow. I'm still not a believer in Karma, but I can see the theroretical argument in there.

@Meg,

Thanks for clarifying my comment to Anon above.

@Anonymous,

I don't think I am beating myself over anything here. I'm just stating several facts. Getting them out there makes sense at this point. In any case, thanks for the comment.

Meg said...

@Jack

I think karma gets misunderstood a lot -- or maybe there are just multiple definitions.

The way I see it and have been taught, karma isn't some magical/supernatural force delivering divine justice. It's simply the idea that everything has a cause and everything has an effect -- and, indeed, many causes and effects. And, though we should try to do things that have good effects, anyone with some foresight will see that any deed has both negative and positive effects (as we judge them -- and we can judge them differently). And there are always effects we can't see. But we have to do the best we can.

On the flip side of karma is the cause(s). Now, the cause might be someone's will, but I think too many people people ask "Why?" when something happens but then focus on finding some grand plan/intention in things while ignoring all the other causes that aren't so direct. And karma doesn't mean that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people. It's not guided by divine force, it just is.

Anonymous said...

what I posted before-

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/eminem-misogyny-and-the-s_b_211677.html

and

http://violenceunsilenced.com/

these aren't links. they're URLs. You have to copy and paste them in your browser.

breathethenexhale said...

um breathethenexhale here... if you notice I put 'from an episode of friends' ... not WHAT SIGH THINKS! lol It was what I thought of when I read the post and like everyone else wanted to share something rather funny (in my mind) on a sitcom about the idea of giving and being selfless...

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

That actually puts things in better perspective for me. Thanks for the clarification.

@Linda,

This is not BS. I happen to think you are right. I am nowhere near a place where I can say for sure. But the more I continue on this journey the more that becomes a reality.

@Anonymous,

I definitely tried to cut and paste them the first time around. They now appear to work. Not sure what your point is. This stuff is definitely interesting.

Jack said...

@breathethenexhale,

Hard to know for sure given your comment but it sounds like you are defending your ealier Friends' reference. No need. I rather liked it.

Anonymous said...

Study- Men who make sexist jokes are more tolerant of violence towards women-

http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http://prensa.ugr.es/prensa/campus/prensa.php%3Fnota%3D5520&hl=en&langpair=auto|en&tbb=1&ie=ISO-8859-1

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

I find this all very interesting. Not sure what to do about it though. Any argument/counter-argument discussion would probably focus on censorship and free speech issues vs. a post-modernist view of feminism. Happy to have that discussion if you like.