A little over ten years ago, I got into a small debate with my then-boyfriend about whether people should put themselves first or others first. His take was that a person should always put him or herself first, because it is the only way to know that he or she is going to be properly taken care of. My take was that people should always put others first, because if everyone is always working toward the good of another person – everyone will always be taken care of.
While I realize that my position is a bit idealistic, I can’t help making the observation that as a society –a society where everyone is always “looking out for number one” – we are failing. My ex-boyfriend’s more realistic point of view may seem to have made more sense, but in practice it does not work.
I am so tired of repeatedly hearing about mass shootings, mistreated refugees, police brutality, and retaliation violence against police. I am so annoyed at the stereotypical ways in which we view the homeless or impoverished, those with special needs, or those with various types of addictions. I am so sick of the way in which different cultures and people groups are generalized. Mostly though, I am irritated with the fact that I don’t know what to do about most of it. It frustrated me that I don’t always know how to “be the change” that I would like to see. What I do know, is that our tendency as humans to put ourselves first is not working. It only causes distrust and resentment for one another in the process of looking out for ourselves.
I am not saying that we should not set boundaries for others in terms of how we expect to be treated. I am not saying that we should subject ourselves to abuse or set ourselves up to be taken advantage of – but the quality of our treatment of others should not be based on the quality of their treatment of us.
And though it might be a bit idealistic, I still have hope that one day we can repair our world by putting others first, and preventing the issues that lead to the tragedies we see in the world today.