Why Selflessness and Selfishness May Be More Similar Than You Think + the Beautiful Truth That Teaches Us About God

by | Apr. 27, 2018

Mormon Life

I was sitting in the St. George Utah Temple baptistry recently, looking at a painting of Christ. He’s kneeling by a little boy and smiling at him with the kindest expression. The little boy is holding Christ’s hand and trusts Him.

It struck me that God’s aim is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and that God is completely happy and selfless while carrying out this task.

I’ll repeat that in a different way: God’s aim is to have kids, raise them spiritually, then raise them physically, and then see us through to the end—to the greatest capacity of happiness we each can reach. And He does this all because it makes Him absolutely full of joy.

I don’t know how it is in other people’s heads, but in my head, there has always been (unless I’ve been out of my mind and running around hugging everybody) at least 1 percent of selfishness manifested in everything I do and think. (Most of the time, it’s more like 100 percent).

In all the gifts and hugs I’ve given, in all the most “selfless” things I’ve done, there has always been an element of what’s in it for me? Think about it. Even the most Christlike people you know are probably doing things because they want themselves and their families to receive eternal life.

Which is a good goal, to be sure. But consider that there’s still an element of selfishness about it. Would these people work equally hard for a homeless man on the other side of the world they’ve never met to receive all these blessings and everything life has to offer? Probably not. No one is that Christlike. We all have limits.

Now, can you imagine what it would be like to actually consider another human being as yourself? Perhaps this is what parenthood gives us a taste of.

In that moment in the temple, I finally understood something about God on a deeper level that I hadn’t previously reached before. And that is this: God doesn’t get bored. He can’t. How could you be bored when you have limitless material (or intelligence) with which to create new children and watch them grow and progress?

Now I’m sitting here writing this and I’m finally realizing what parenthood is all about. But not just that—what love is all about.

I used to think that to be selfless would be painful—that to love someone or consider someone as yourself would be excruciating. Because the worry would pop into my head, what about me? What about my needs? Well, what if taking care of someone else’s needs actually was taking care of your needs?

That is what God is doing.

His ways are much higher than our ways. That is how Christ could go through with the Atonement.

In that painting, the love and warmth with which Christ is just drinking in the sight of this little boy says it all. He considers each one of us—one by one—as Himself.

God the Father keeps on doing what He is doing with absolute joy because He has limitless opportunities of reinventing and loving Himself. That’s who we are. We are God.

Perhaps selfless isn’t the right word. That word denotes that you are without a self. God isn’t “losing himself” to take care of us—not at all. Perhaps He’s found a way to fuse the opposite ends of the spectrum together. He is, at the same time, both the most selfless and the most selfish being in the universe. He is doing everything He does—loving us completely—because we are a part of Him. Isn’t doing everything for yourself the very definition of selfishness?

So, maybe that’s the key. Give yourself permission to be selfish, but only in it’s highest form—which is the way God is selfish: by being the most selfless. God is both selfish and selfless at the same time, to the umpteenth degree. Perhaps a new word needs to be coined for this—God’s selfselfness?


Nicole M. Hilton

Nicole M. Hilton is a passionate writer who uses her talents to advocate change. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of General Studies—English Literature emphasis. Having experienced bipolar disorder, she hopes to be a voice for change concerning mental illness. She credits all her healing and every good thing in her life to her Savior.

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