Is selflessness the ideal virtue? I’m sure you know someone who is generous to a fault. The type of person who will give even when it means that they have next to nothing left for themself. For some the emotion is rooted in genuine kindness, but for others it is a way to punish themselves.
Is there a thin line between selflessness and self-denial? The difference is in the resulting feeling and the lifestyle of the giver not the act itself. For instance, let’s say that you have lunch at work with a friend. As you sit down to eat, she realizes that her lunch is back at home on the kitchen counter. You offer to share your lunch with her so she doesn’t have to go without.
Here’s another example. A friend asks if they can borrow a dress because they are going out on a date. As she looks through your closet, she finds the one she likes but it also happens to be the new dress you just purchased. With a half-hearted smile, you hand her the dress and say, “It’ll look good on you. I don’t know when I’ll ever get to wear it on a date.”
The difference here is not the action. In both situations, the giver shared easily enough. But, the person who shared lunch is left with a feeling of satisfaction. The person lending the dress has just reinforced negative feelings about herself with her sacrifice. One is not the same as the other.
Selflessness in our character comes from a place of security. In essence, we are comfortable in our skin. Self-denial wells up as an answer to insecurity. We don’t deserve to be happy so we give away things as a form of self-imposed punishment.
Giving of our time and talents is also a form of selflessness. Our character is not diminished by the gift but we are uplifted because someone else will benefit from our generosity. We don’t have to put ourselves lower in order for someone else to feel better.
Self-denial is the opposite. With everything that is sacrificed, the person feels worse. It is a debt whose punishment never ends.
It is time to seek advice. There is a reason that you feel less than deserving of the good things in your life. It is not a mistake or accident which is what you may be thinking.
Denying yourself the right to live your life is a serious problem that stems from a past experience where you were possibly made to feel that way. In the absence of anything else to the contrary, you carried that character flaw throughout your life. And, it is a flaw to view yourself in such a negative light.
Are you giving out of your generous nature or to punish for past mistakes? Talk it out with someone you trust if your behavior stems from the latter.