Editorial: Selfishness
February 1971

“Editorial: Selfishness,” Ensign, Feb. 1971, 81



A young boy, perhaps seven or eight, asked his father to spend a few minutes in conversation following a bedtime prayer. The father was tired. He had many things to do that evening and wanted to relax for a few minutes with the newspaper. His response to his son took the form of an excuse that he was too busy and too tired to talk that night.

It is not likely that this father would readily accept the assessment that he had shown selfishness in this situation. He was merely seeking the brief respite to which he was entitled following a full day’s work.

Yet a careful and prayerful review of this kind of incident should suggest to us that it could very well be an act of selfishness. If we were to think a little further, we might also agree that our selfishness causes more grief, pain, and human misery than any other defect in our character.

The story of the boy and the father illustrates well the consequences of even minor acts of selfishness. That boy observed a father who went downstairs and read a newspaper. Too busy?

In the heart and mind of the same little boy were troubles and difficulties that he had hoped to share with his father that evening, but the opportunity was denied. Too tired?

So a precious little youngster was tucked into bed without the reassurance and comfort that could have come from a father or a mother who did not give in to their own self-interest. A child was left with doubts and unhappiness.

Very few of us would care to admit that we are selfish, but even a superficial examination of our life pattern would reveal numerous acts of concern for self before others. Now the intention in these few lines is not to talk about the “great” acts of selfishness and greed. No purpose would be served. Those who are selfish in a grand style are not likely to be reading a religious magazine, or if they are, there is little likelihood that they would be moved by mere words.

No, our purpose is to focus on the smaller acts of selfishness that do so much damage to potentially rewarding human relationships.

Consider for a moment the beauty and joy that would come into our lives if the majority of us were to think first of others before we think of ourselves. The ill-tempered words, the ugly thoughts, and the vindictiveness that well up when we are hurt would all be done away with.

There is a multiplying factor in a selfless society, too. Small sacrifices that may be made on behalf of others are returned manyfold by those who deal with us in like manner.

It is much easier to preach a sermon than to live one, of course, but the personal rewards inherent in following the Savior’s injunction concerning love are so great that it ought to be easy to cast selfishness from our lives. We all know, though, that it is not easy. The solution may rest with approaching it a single step at a time.

Today may we all commit one less selfish act than yesterday.