What to Know Before Practicing Selflessness

Today morning, I watched a video in which a recovering patient meets his bone marrow donor. It was quite the emotional meeting, as these kind of meetings turn out to be. That was the intention of the video, of course. The subject under scrutiny today is the donor. I mean, what does it take to give away a part of yourself to a stranger and be at peace about it?! This last line is the idea behind the act of being selfless.

Mothers are selfless creatures of nature

This is where I have to intrude and bring to your kind notice that the mother cat is prone to eating up the weakest one of her own brood to recoup the energy she lost during the process of birthing. All I am trying to say is that a mother’s affection for her child is only natural because she is involved in the act of caring for someone who was a part of herself. When you look at it, giving your child a bath is just as natural as giving yourself one. And caring for our children is only a reflection of caring for ourselves. So we better be good at it, since we asked to have them in the first place.

In other words…

…Mothering is NOT an act of selflessness

Then what is?!

Giving away a part of yourself to someone who is not you, and doing it willingly, is the idea behind selflessness.

Let us look at the same idea of mothering and when it turns into an act of selflessness.

I have always believed that I am the best person for my son. The best person to nurture him and help him grow. Unfortunately for me, I also believed that I was the only person who could do the best for my child. Turns out that I was not the best mother, rather, I was his first mother.

The story began when my son refused to listen to me at times, irrespective of the kindness or discipline that I put into the act. In fact, he began to turn towards my co-sisters for advice on certain issues.

And I watched as he listened to them

Believing that I could do what they could, I tried to imitate their act. The more I chased my son with myself, the farther he ran away from me. Until the day I understood the idea of being a mother.

A mother is a creator, a teacher, a caregiver. This means that it does not take a person to be a mother. It takes an idea, a feeling to be a mother. The person who shares their umbrella with you is a mother, the person who scolds you for breaking the line is a mother, the person who pats you on your back for work well done is a mother. The only difference between a birth mother and the other mothers is, while one is a constant, the other is fleeting – too quick to be noticed or acknowledged as a mother. A teacher is a mother, as much as a mother is a teacher.

When this idea of mothering dawned upon me, I let go of the idea of being the only mother to my son. He is as much my child, as he is a child of the world. He is as much a son to me, as he is a son to the world.

I have let go of what was mine and allowed it to reach out to the world. Just as I let go of my thoughts and forwarded them to the world. And I am at peace with this thought. This, I believe, is my act of selflessness (insert, imaginary pat on back).

The bone marrow donor, from the beginning of this post, probably felt the same way. He let go of what was his to another because he felt that way.

So, what does it take to be selfless?

Acts of selflessness could emerge from the head – because of an idea coded into the brain by our parents or teachers through our childhood. Selflessness could also spring forth from the stomach – through the amount of emotion that we generate by experiencing other acts of selflessness. Another place for being selfless, is when it is the key requirement of our line of duty – a place like the army, a place where we are expected to stay selfless.

There could be a lot of places and reasons for being selfless. So, let us look at what it does not take to be selfless. What selflessness is not, is regret. The moment we give away something with even the tiniest bit of regret, the act ceases to be a selfless one. Giving away a toy that our child does not want to part with, is an act of clearing the house, and giving away what we don’t need to someone in need. Charity does not translate into selflessness.

How do I get into the act of being selfless?

I cannot equate the kindness and amount of time that my co-sister dedicates to caring for my father-in-law. Neither do I want to. Simply because I don’t feel the same way she does.

The point is, selflessness is not something that should be done just because of the mass perception that it is the right thing to do.

Selflessness is not about doing right. It is all about feeling right.

Be selfless only when you know that your self does not mind the less. If, indulging in selflessness takes you away from yourself by leaving behind a feeling of regret or emptiness, instead of a sense of fulfilment, then cease and desist.

For the best act of kindness is always the one that we show towards ourselves.

Here’s to understanding selflessness for what it is, and what it is not!

While you are here, take a few moments to read The Importance of Being Selfish