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Clarity in relationships – what is selfish and what is self-love?

For many of us drawn to Reiki, we are natural empaths – people who care for others, and sometimes this means we care too much about being “selfish”. This puts us in positions where we are easily taken advantage of, manipulated, and drained. It takes a huge amount of courage when you are a natural people pleaser to stand up for yourself and own your life. It is also fraught with misinterpretation!

So, I was delighted to come across the follow passages in Anthony De Mellow’s “Awareness” (thank you Adrienne!), he puts it so succinctly – this is really the simple crux of the matter! Italics I have added.

On selfishness:

“I’m a dictator, you’re a dictator. I want to run your life for you; I want to tell you exactly how you’re expected to be and how you’re expected to behave, and you’d better behave as I have decided or I shall punish myself by having negative feelings. Remember what I told you, everybody’s a lunatic.

Some of you ask me what I meant when I said, “You go ahead and be yourself, that’s all right, but I’ll protect myself, I’ll be myself.” In other words, I won’t allow you to manipulate me. I’ll live my life; I’ll go my own way; I’ll keep myself free to think my thoughts, to follow my inclinations and tastes. And I’ll say no to you. If I feel I don’t want to be in your company, it won’t be because of any negative feelings you cause in me. Because you don’t anymore. You don’t have any more power over me. I simply might prefer other people’s company. So when you say to me, “How about a movie tonight?” I’ll say, “Sorry, I want to go with someone else; I enjoy his company more than yours.” And that’s all right. To say no to people—that’s wonderful; that’s part of waking up. Part of waking up is that you live your life as you see fit. And understand: That is not selfish. The selfish thing is to demand that someone else live their life as YOU see fit. That’s selfish. It is not selfish to live your life as you see fit. The selfishness lies in demanding that someone else live their life to suit your tastes, or your pride, or your profit, or your pleasure. That is truly selfish. So I’ll protect myself. I won’t feel obligated to be with you; I won’t feel obligated to say yes to you. If I find your company pleasant, then I’ll enjoy it without clinging to it. But I no longer avoid you because of any negative feelings you create in me. You don’t have that power anymore."

On expectations:

"Am I implying, for example, that we shouldn’t make demands on our children? What I said was: “You don’t have a right to make any demands.” Sooner or later that child is going to have to get rid of you, in keeping with the injunction of the Lord. And you’re going to have no rights over him at all. In fact, he really isn’t your child and he never was. He belongs to life, not to you. No one belongs to you. What you’re talking about is a child’s education. If you want lunch, you better come in between twelve and one or you don’t get lunch. Period. That’s the way things are run here. You don’t come on time, you don’t get your lunch. You’re free, that true, but you must take the consequences.

When I talk about not having expectations of others, or not making demands on them, I mean expectations and demands for my well-being. The President of the United States obviously has to make demands on people. The traffic policeman obviously has to make demands on people. But these are demands on their behavior—traffic laws, good organization, the smooth running of society. They are not intended to make the President or traffic policeman feel good."

Such clear distinctions and examples – wonderful!


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