Haemin and I met up last night, and she started talking about how she felt that people should be able to answer questions about their motivations. One of the simpler examples she used was deciding whether or not you want a family (a question she’d put to a roommate).
It really bothered her that the reasons she heard all sounded selfish, even if you had to deconstruct the motive a bit before the selfishness revealed itself. So I’ve been thinking about it.
But all I can come up with is that these kinds of decisions are inherently selfish, it’s just that some are win-win, and others are win-lose. It’s especially stark when you consider the decision to have kids, because the hypothetical kid is not there to represent their own interests. Even if you adopt a child, there’s still an element of your own desire to raise a child, and making a choice to satisfy a desire, no matter how beneficial it may be to another person or even to a cause, is selfish because that desire belongs to you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If someone tries to be unselfish and choose something she doesn’t want, for example choosing to raise a kid when she has no desire to do so, it’s not just going to be a sacrifice on her part but it’s also going to hurt the unwanted kid. Kids still need to be wanted. They need to be part of the parent’s selfishness at some level.
Parents can tell their kids that they sacrificed so much for their kids, and it may be true, but it’s also true that the kids didn’t ask to be born into the family. I mean, this doesn’t mean that the parent should serve the child and can’t ask anything of the child. The kid should still appreciate whatever their parents sacrificed for them because appreciation at a certain level is probably good for the kid’s character. I’m just saying that if we’re being honest, the ultimate choice was the parent’s.
Just to cover my bases, I want to note that even if the decision is selfish at a deeper level, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter how many levels the selfishness is at. If the parent thinks they can just demand that their child fit into whatever box they ask them to, that’s obviously a terrible thing. From when the child reaches the age where he or she has a mind of his or her own to when the child becomes an adult, the child’s life is a dialogue between two egos. There needs to be negotiation, and the intention of negotiation has to be nurturing a mutual trust between parent and child.
Anyway. I guess you can’t totally escape selfishness but you can try for win-win outcomes as much as possible.
I know theoretically a Christian should be able to love selflessly with Christ’s love but I don’t think that my conclusion necessarily contradicts this. People inevitably hurt each other and commit sins. Because of Christ’s love, the new reality is that it is arrogance against God to say that anyone is unlovable or any sin unforgivable. If we tried to be completely selfless, though, we might say that because we don’t deserve grace and redemption, we should refuse it and suffer the consequences. That’s not the point. So at the right level, selfishness is inevitable and we should just accept it.