Why Selfishness Is A Virtue

Guest Post By Randy Gage

The room is filled with the smooth, sensual sound of your favorite music. Candles are burning, as the sweet aroma of your chosen incense wafts to your nostrils. You step into the glorious steamy water and sink down into your new hot-tub. The jetting water massages all your aching joints, teasing the tension of the day into a distant memory. You smile and close your eyes letting the steam and heat envelop you. The phone is turned off and the evening is yours; you won’t be disturbed by anyone. It’s the perfect end to a brilliantly rewarding day. 

Isn’t it deliciously wonderful to be selfish? 

Actually, if you’re like most people, the mere thought of doing something selfish for yourself leaves you consumed with guilt. In fact, selfishness is your moral prerogative. 

If it feels so good to be selfish, why does the very word make us flush with guilt?  Ayn Rand wrote a book titled, The Virtue of Selfishness. When asked why she chose to use a word that threatened so many people, she replied, “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.” 

Like Rand, I also use the word to describe virtuous qualities of character. The dictionary definition of selfishness is basically “concern with one’s own interests, without regard for others.” That means you value yourself first, regardless of what anyone else thinks. There is no good or evil implicit in the definition. “Without regard for others” does not mean you are doing harm to others. It simply means that you are well adjusted and sensible enough to meet your own needs first. But that’s not what most of society, or ‘the herd’ would have you believe. They tell you that your moral imperative is to sacrifice yourself for the “greater good.” 

 This idea is very dangerous to your self-esteem and your life. Relinquishing your happiness for the sake of others, known or unknown, verifies to yourself, and others, that you are small and unworthy of even your own attention. It’s actually anti-humanity, and it makes you mentally sick. 

Your survival and your pursuit of happiness must form the foundation of your value system. Anything less than that is harmful to you. And anything harmful to the individual is actually detrimental to society. 

The herd tells you that it is your responsibility to take care of the less fortunate. Sounds innocent enough.  But how does it really play out?

I just got off the phone with a friend who is a general manager at a restaurant. He had just fired a waiter who was his friend, who had worked there for nine years. The waiter was supposed to be at work at 6 a.m. on Sunday. He called at 5:50 to say he was sick. He was supposed to report Monday morning at 7. He never showed up, or even called. He arrived for a staff meeting on Tuesday and was disrespectful and disruptive. It became apparent that he had gone back to using drugs. So my friend fired his long-time friend.

Many people would say this was cold and uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my friend was sick over having to fire this guy. But it is this kind of tough love that has the best chance of getting this individual to turn his life around.

A businessman who keeps a terrible employee because he feels sorry for her causes his other employees to take up her slack. They begin to feel resentful and angry. Performance suffers. Even hardworking, dedicated employees start to slack, because they see that they are not treated and rewarded in respect to the effort they contribute. Customer service and sales decline. Soon everyone’s job is threatened. 

But let’s say the businessman had done things differently – selfishly – for the betterment of himself and his company. He calls the errant worker into his office and after explaining why, he lets her go. This could be the wake-up call she needs to re-evaluate her life and approach.

Self-sacrifice is more than the root of low self-esteem; it is anti-free enterprise and consequently anti-humanity. When the living energy of productive citizens is sucked from them by the parasitic herd, what incentive is there to remain productive?

In a free society, where the needs of the individual come first, people are liberated from guilt and anxiety. Every man and woman of integrity should earn a living in the free trade of value for value with others. This means no free rides.

Today you have everyone telling you to be selfless, and take care of others. If you buy into this craziness, you are doomed to a life of lack, misery, and frustration – of unrealized dreams and settling for mediocrity. Adopting self-sacrifice as a virtue enables others to take complete advantage of you and, practiced long enough, selfless behavior ultimately destroys you.

True happiness, success and prosperity begin with your core values. The things that are the most important to you spring from your central purpose in life and drive the actions you take every day.

Have you ever thought about your purpose in life? If not, you may have to dramatically alter the view you have of yourself and your role in the world. If you’re like most people, you define yourself by your roles (husband, engineer, board member, etc.), and you view your purpose through the eyes of servicing others, contributing to the greater good, or looking after the people around you.

But if you define yourself by your roles, then you have no personal identity. If your main purpose in life is to “serve others,” you will experience a tremendous amount of lack and limitation in your life.

People who spend their existence worrying solely about the needs of others and not themselves are not noble, benevolent, and spiritual. They are just crazy. Because they don’t look after their own needs first, they really can’t help others in a healthy way. They can console them, participate in their drama, or enable their co-dependence, but they can’t offer real, meaningful help. 

To repeat an oft-quoted line from a character in The Fountainhead, “To say ‘I love you,’ one must first know how to say the word ‘I.’”

You know that to love anyone else, you must first love yourself. But are you really aware of what that means on a practical application level? Ayn Rand taught that you must live your life by the fundamental values of:

  • Purpose.
  • Self-esteem.
  • Reason. 

I believe your highest moral purpose must be your own happiness because this is the only healthy, sane way to live. You must not sacrifice yourself to others because that is depravity. And likewise you shouldn’t ask others to sacrifice for you, for that is no less depraved.

When you have your own happiness as your highest moral purpose, you have a productive – and moral – reason to exist. If everyone did this, the world would be a much better place!  Instead of dysfunction, depravity, and codependence, we would have healthy, functional, value-for-value relationships.

Running your life by reason means that you make decisions based on what serves your highest moral purpose, the perpetuation of your happiness.

If you live your life by the principles we are discussing, you very well may help others and contribute to charity. Personally, the number one deduction on my tax return for the last ten years or so has been charity. And I anticipate it will remain so for the rest of my life. I have often helped others with support, even though no one else knows of it, and I don’t get a tax credit. Here are the three criteria I use:

1)     The person or organization is worthy of the support.

2)     I can afford to do it.

3)     It brings me happiness to do it. 

That alone is what determines how I spend my charity dollars. It certainly has nothing to do with who is the “neediest,” or what causes are politically correct. 

I support the opera, symphony, my church, wildlife funds, disease prevention and cures, homeless and runaway shelters. I have bought computers for aspiring entrepreneurs, stage clothes for upcoming singers, and martial arts training for foster kids. I have funded academic scholarships, sponsored more amateur sports teams than I can count, and bought holiday presents for hundreds of kids who wouldn’t have gotten any. I have done this for selfish reasons – for the happiness it brings me. 

You know exactly what brings value to you and furthers your purpose. It means accepting that you are supposed to be happy and working towards that end, without guilt, rejecting herd thinking and refusing to give in to guilt rackets.

We are not inherently weak and helpless; we just become that way when we refuse to use our minds. You can do great things, and do them for the right reasons. You can be bold, daring and imaginative, and live a life of health, happiness, and abundance, all while leaving this world a better place because you were walking on it for a while. You can do all this and more, when you live your life with purpose.


About Randy Gage: Randy helps audiences recognize and reject roadblocks to wealth and prosperity with warmth, wit and wisdom drawing from his rags-to-riches story. A former high school dropout, Randy rose from a minimum wage job and spending time in jail as a teen to become a self-made multi-millionaire who has inspired millions of people around the world. He is the author of eight books on success including Prosperity Mind and Accept Your Abundance that have been translated into more than 25 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Follow Randy on Twitter at: http://www.Twitter.com/Randy_Gage and learn more about him at his public website: http://www.RandyGage.com and on Prosperity TV: http://www.youtube.com/randygage.


Posted on May 17, 2011, in Featured Authors, Personal Growth, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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