Moralizing Behaviors and Emotions

Statesmen No.34: Caricature of Mr AS Ayrton MP...

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Self-Care Tip #233 – Stop moralizing behaviors and emotions to be a real friend to yourself.

Responses to yesterday’s blog-post, I believe, revealed my point in time position in moralizing behaviors.  It is no excuse, but yesterday for reasons of my own limited perspective, personalizing behaviors, perceived judgment from myself and others, and cultural biases including some good old-fashioned well-intentioned holy roller atmosphere, I hooned in on that darned word selfish.

That word, selfish, reminds me of any class bully who hurts others but maybe not for the reasons assigned by observers.  It is more than that though.  Inherent to its own definition, morality is more than implied.  In efforts to destigmatize it, evolutionaries, such as George C. Williams, coined the term, “the selfish gene.”  We as well, in efforts to peel it off of us “self-carers” here at, have discussed some of the biopsychosocial reasons for behaving in ways that disregard the needs of others.  We have talked about freedom to choose and losing abilities to choose.  Because we believe in magic, or miracles, or yet unexplained science – however each of us prefers to describe the unknown – we claim some awareness that we still haven’t yet given over fair perspective, despite our intentions.

The wonderful, ever articulate, gentle writer, reader and commenter, Cindy Taylor, reminded me of this yesterday, saying simply,

I found that taking an adrenal supplement has improved my sleeping patterns greatly.

What a girl!  That one and only Cin.

Yet yesterday, somehow, I didn’t say much about those things.

Questions:  What does “selfish” mean to you?  Why and how do you extricate yourself and others from it even though they appear to be just that – selfish?  Please tell me your story.

35 thoughts on “Moralizing Behaviors and Emotions

  1. “….the reasons assigned by observers”.

    “Because we believe in magic, or miracles, or yet unexplained science”….

    Wow, liked those lines!

    This post really struck me. Can selfish be a disease? I do not work well with selfish people but attempt to set an example by avoiding selfishness in my self as much as possible.


  2. Love It!! Most of all George C. Williams’ term “the selfish gene”.

    I believe each and every one of us is born with it and it is a natural behavior. But now, for the purpose of this post, I want to rename it “the self-preservation gene”.

    Religions, believes, and cultural influences play an important role on how we perceive selfishness, and whether or not we want to learn how to modify our selfish behaviors. It isn’t surprising that some of us struggled more than others taming our own selfish instinct.

    We all remember our own selfish acts, and that of others. Just as well we have also either heard or witnessed heroic acts of people who have sacrificed their own lives for the benefits of others. If I see a gun, my “selfish/self-preservation gene” will tell me to run away as fast as I can. But if that gun is pointed at my kids, I will put myself before them and take the bullet… because I selfishly want to preserve my kids’ lives over mine.

    Do we really believe “the selfish gene” is a bad thing?


  3. you know when i was young about 7 or 8 at school there was a big box of sweets going round now everyone was taking one and i took a handfull and the teacher siad well done dont tell every one else now is that been selfish or is it getting more than you are entitled to


  4. Selfish. Taking something that you want when you know that, in doing so, you are taking away from others? I love Carl’s cake thing! It’s a perfect example and it made me smile. Haven’t done that a lot since we got back home. I knew we were coming home to demands and requests and pressure and expectations, but I had no idea it was going to be so intense so fast. The problem is that they are all legitimate, as far as those who make them are concerned, and I (not necessarily “we”) feel that I need to answer, fulfill, succomb (sp?) to them all…and we have, so far. The coming week or two are going to be worse. So selfish, in this case, is not completeing the already paid for Easter banners, not taking my friend to the doctor, not driving thirty miles to see my granddaughter’s new room, not attending a meeting I am expected to attend, not learning the music for the Easter service. But, if I didn’t do all of these things and the multitude more on our calendar, I’d be taking care of myself…wouldn’t I? Or would I be being selfish? Does the fact that I’m depressed and my teeth hurt answer that question? Does tearing up about not being in California say something? I don’t know what selfish is. I just would like to know when self-care becomes selfish…or when selfish becomes self-care.


    • oh nancy. teeth hurting makes this all too real! ouch! when does selfish become self-care? when does self-care become selfish? both excellent q’s!!! i wonder if any readers would like to answer?
      also, nancy, i’m wondering if u might b interested in trying to answer those again. (i’m just so arrogant about u. smile.)


      • I was hoping another reader would answer them. Right now I’m so overwhelmed that I can’t think the questions through enough. Remember “Stop the world! I want to get off!!’? That’s me screaming.


          • Well, duh! Meds, Nance, meds!!! Finally came out of what was undoubtedly a SELFISH funk long enough to think about upping my meds for a bit. Even just today. That and a good report from the doctor about my dear 86-year-old friend and a phone call from a very special California friend and things are looking up. Not quite so overwhelmed. I so appreciate not feeling alone thanks to this blog site, and I’m so happy that I can come to it hurting and figure out how to feel better. Blessings…and gratitude sent your way.


  5. Great post, and so frank! I love your ability to cultivate debate.

    There are those out there who take, and there are those who give. They are fairly easy to spot. What is less easy, is to divine the background to those patterns of behaviour. Whatever the reasons for being ‘a taker’, I still believe the givers get a better deal out of life. Life with an open heart has an edge of sunlight to it.

    Thanks again!


  6. I have been a daughter to parents that did not love me or each other. I’ve been a sister to an evil brother. I’ve been a wife, once against my will, and twice by choice, and I am a mother of two. I’ve been a soldier.
    Somewhere between cooking, changing diapers, fighting wars and doing what was expected of me, I find myself lost, erased and void. I fulfilled every role despite my needs and wants.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, and I do everything for them. I teach them to set goals and to dream, and go after them with everything they have.
    Yet, when it comes to my dreams and desires, I put them aside… I do not “lead by example” as we say in the army.
    Going after what I want, means leaving a loving husband and breaking up my family. And that to me sounds incredibly selfish. (notice I did not say I leave my children)
    The question I pose is this: do I sacrifice and stay, unhappy and unfulfilled, or do I go, and make others unhappy?


  7. I don’t want to moralize or give a blanket black and white definition for the word “selfish”. It’s different for everyone, I guess. In some cases, someone who doesn’t volunteer as much as someone else is deemed selfish. Or someone who doesn’t offer to help someone else with something is called “selfish”, or someone who doesn’t seem to donate to charities, or just someone who seems to have more than others think they should.

    This is such a complicated question. I say that if you think someone is too selfish, just don’t have them in your life. But don’t expect them to change because you tell them they are selfish. In all honesty, you don’t know anyone well enough to make that assumption. I don’t care how many fancy cars they have, how big their house is, or whatever – you don’t know their heart, and you don’t know what they’ve given up, and you don’t know what they’ve endured in their lives.

    A lot of people assume anyone with a high paying job is “selfish”, and anyone who doesn’t work in public service is “selfish”. Anyone who works to earn a profit is “selfish”. Anyone who doesn’t have any children is “selfish”. Anyone who has more than 2 children is “selfish”.

    I could go on and on and on…it’s personal definitions, and people just need to get over it. Just because you don’t understand their behavior doesn’t mean it’s not justified. And they don’t have to justify themselves to you.

    As long as they aren’t stepping on you to get what they want, I say to lose the word “selfish”.


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