Most single adults are blessed with the opportunity to discover who they really are and what makes them tick. During this stage of life, it can be tricky to navigate the difference between becoming independent and thinking only of yourself and your needs. William R. Bradford describes it like this,
Suddenly the balance of service and being served is drastically altered. It is a period of adjustment and growth, when parent-child relationships undergo a transformation and we become involved in teacher-student or employer-employee relationships.
As brother Bradford shared, there is a shift in thought and we get to grow up a little bit. So, how can we recognize the difference between our self-sufficiency developing, and selfishness rearing its ugly head?
First, I feel it is important to clearly define what those two words mean. According to our good friend the dictionary, being self-sufficient is being “able to supply one’s own or its own needs without external assistance”. In a nut shell, we get to be a big kid now. As a single adult I believe being self-sufficient means being able to make decisions. It means being able to figure out how things work, and how to fix them. For example, if your car had a flat tire would you know how to fix it? It means not depending on other people or circumstances to create your own happiness. It may mean working so that you can pay for at least some of your expenses yourself. It means that you develop talents, abilities, and opinions on important topics. It means that you discover who you really are and come to accept that so that you can help other people.
What is Selfishness?
On the contrary, being selfish means that you are “devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, regardless of others.” William R. Bradford further defines it as “the holding to one’s self that which he has power to righteously share.” As a single adult, being selfish means that while you are developing your own interests you forget about other people. From my own experience I have seen this manifest in several ways. As a student, sometimes that meant being more worried about my own assignments then taking the time to help someone who seemed upset or sad. Regrettably at times it meant a feeling of entitlement that people owed me things simply because of who I was, or how busy I was. For example, maybe I would expect my roommate to take out the trash because I simply had too much going on that day and she didn’t seem to be as busy herself.
Neal A. Maxwell taught us to recognize the beginning stages of selfishness. He said, “The early and familiar forms of selfishness are: building up self at the expense of others, claiming or puffing credit, being glad when others go wrong, resenting the genuine successes of others, preferring public vindication to private reconciliation, and taking advantage of one because of his word”
There was one experience that I found myself in this week where I hit every single point of selfishness within a five to ten minute period of time. I was sitting at an activity at church where we began to debate who was better, the Red Sox, or the Yankees. At first it was just harmless teasing because the team that I prefer won the World Series and the other team did not play in the World Series. It was almost as though the success of the Red Sox became my success. Somehow it was my fault that they won, and in a weird way I began to take credit for something that I actually didn’t even do. (This may come as a shock, but I am not a major league baseball player) At the expense of the other gentlemen at the table I grabbed two other friends who also happen to be fans and we continued to taunt and tease. Every time the Yankees fan shared an invalid point (according to our own made-up definition of what was valid) I felt joy that those points were not being validated. When he actually made a valid point, I disregarded it as unimportant and silly. At every turn possible I began to take advantage of his words and how he said things just so that I could throw it back in his face. Literally everything Brother Maxwell mentioned came up in this conversation. It may sound silly and harmless, but reflection on the matter was a good reminder to me that Satan can also use small and simple things to practice selfish ways.
How to Avoid Selfishness
So that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation, I would invite you to ask yourself the following questions:
How have I built myself up at the expense of others this week?
What have I taken credit for that I really didn’t deserve?
Who did something wrong that I was happy about?
Who was successful that I wasn’t happy for?
How have I taken advantage of someone because of their words?
Remember thinking for yourself is good and important. Putting others before yourself will bring added joy into your life and is more important!
Bradford, William R. “Selfishness vs. Selflessness” Oct 1981.
Maxwell, Neal A. “Repent of Our Selfishness” April 1999.
Ashley Dewey is extremely talented at being single. Hobbies include awkward conversations with members of the opposite sex, repelling third dates, talking to boys about their girl problems and to girls about their boy problems. In her spare time she also has a very fulfilling school life, work life, and social life. Besides being a professional single, Ashley is also a BYU graduate with a degree in linguistics (Aka word nerd). She enjoys studying other languages, particularly American Sign Language, and finds most all of them fascinating. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Ashley works most of the time and has often been accused of being a workaholic. Currently she works full time as a merchandiser and supervisor in a retail store, and part time doing social media work. On her day off she works (really it doesn't feel like work) in the Provo LDS temple. The only kind of work she finds difficulty focusing on is house work. Her favorite activities in her free time are reading, writing, creating social experiments, and spending time with great friends and family. Specific activities with those family and friends include: going to concerts, plays, dance recitals, BYU basketball and football games, and watching sports on television.