The Words of the Poor Family

Is Selfishness Good or Bad?

Ed Poor
August 2, 1999

Selfishness is not good. It is evil by definition.

The "self purpose" on the other hand, is good.

This is an extremely important point, and is essential to understanding the Divine Principle and Unification Thought.

Some people, mistakenly, consider only "altruism" to be good. Even in our church, I have heard this mistake made many times, possible due to semantic confusion. The textbooks we use don't make this point sufficiently clear, so I shall now do my best to straighten out all these terms.

Good: giving a benefit to someone, even at one's own expense.

Evil: hurting another person for one's own benefit.

Altruism: concern, and especially action undertaken for the sake of others.

Self purpose: legitimate care and service to oneself. Example, eating breakfast before going out fundraising.

Whole purpose: combination of "altruism" and "self purpose."

Our movement's books and sermons rarely if ever mention the term "altruism" but often mention the related term "whole purpose." The terms differ significantly in meaning. The whole purpose is said to guarantee (or include) the self purpose. This means, for example, while making dinner for the entire family my wife also is feeding herself. Serving those other than herself (altruism) is combined with serving herself (Self Purpose), thus making a Whole Purpose activity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A common mistake is to assume that altruistic activities can entirely take the place of the Self Purpose. This probably comes from linguistic confusion over the phrase "whole purpose includes the self purpose." Buying shoes for all the other members of my fundraising team (but not for myself) is NOT a "whole purpose" activity but rather an "altruistic" activity. I am not "serving the whole purpose," because I am leaving myself out. I am denying the Self Purpose for the sake of the larger whole, which may be supremely good but also may be utterly foolish if I develop a foot injury from fundraising on city streets without proper footgear and have to lay over for several weeks recovering.

Don't get me wrong, the self purpose is indeed good, it is God-given, it is in fact the only means by which other people can do "good" deeds because they have to benefit SOMEONE.

The Self Purpose must be contrasted with "selfishness" which I think means concentrating too much on one's owns needs. Taken to an extreme, selfishness is the very apotheosis of evil. As Father said in one of his Bicentennial speeches, "Satan is absolutely self-centered and absolutely out for himself." You don't want to be like that, do you?

Me neither. 

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