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Inner Beauty: Selflessness



Want to change the world? I believe most people would say yes. For many, this compulsion is the driving force behind career choices and even day-to-day activities—a deep desire for purpose, the opportunity to leave a legacy. However, all it takes is one night of watching the news to go to bed feeling completely hopeless about the state of our world.

Many of us seem to approach life with a deep disregard for the welfare of others and a propensity for self-focused motivation. I recently read an article supporting this, stating that “Americans born in the ’80s and ’90s are more selfish and greedy than the baby boomers and generation xers who came before them.”

In our own home, my husband and I are continuously fighting an uphill battle against our children’s attitude of entitlement, as their friends amass more high-end electronics in their bedrooms than we have in our entire house.

Generation Y isn’t solely to blame for this shift in cultural attitude. I remember growing up with slogans such as “Have it your way, right away”; “It’s my world. you’re just living in it”; and “It’s all about me,” not to mention the phrase, “I want what I want, when I want it! Spoiled Brat!” which I proudly wore on a T-shirt—proof that a sense of entitlement in our culture has been brewing for many generations.

So how can we turn the tide on this cultural trend? I believe the answer is found in the words “selfless serving”. Selflessness is defined as “the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others”. To put it simply, it is putting the needs of others before our own. Sound appealing? If we’re honest, probably not at first. But I believe it is the key to lasting life changes, for us and for those we have the privilege of serving.

A few years back, an insurance company ran a very inspirational ad campaign wherein one person helped another, and that person or a person who witnessed the kind act went on to help someone else, and so on. The idea behind this is that when we act in a selfless way and serve those around us (or witness others doing so), it inspires a chain reaction of these “pay it forward” acts, which leads to the better world we say we want. while the ad definitely stirred my emotions, it also caused me to wonder if what they proposed was true. Was it that simple? Could one person’s kind act really create a chain reaction as the commercial suggested? If so, just how far could it go? I began to imagine this never-ending scenario in which the whole world was touched through the act of one person’s service, and although it seemed far- fetched, I was inspired.

I discussed these thoughts with my husband, and we agreed. we could start this in our own home, then carry it with us to our jobs and communities. Simple things, like getting up early and doing something for your spouse or loved one that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, or letting someone in front of you in traffic, led to greater acts of service, like buying strangers coffee, or handing out restaurant gift cards to the homeless man you pass by every day on your way to work. We then decided to challenge ourselves further by making sure we did these things without fanfare, without anyone knowing who did it, and without any expectations of return kindness. We’ve spent the last six years making this one of our family’s core values.

Has it changed the world? Well, I think it depends on how you define “changing the world”; it’s certainly changed ours. And I can’t help but think that no matter how far-fetched it may seem, if selflessness became the dominant influence in our culture, it could create a lasting impact on our world: one that would transcend beyond our lives here on Earth, because selflessness is at the core of all lasting change, where true purpose is found. I know you’ve got it in you. Now go change the world!

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