Self-centeredness can never be workable

There are those claiming to be holding certificates of higher learning in the field of business studies. But such certificates are of no significance, as long as not in the business of catering for the needs of customers, more than profit-making. There is no magic formula to succeed in any business enterprise.

The opposite of survival is generated by self-centeredness. The easiest way of measuring whether one is surviving or succumbing is by gauging between altruism and self-centeredness. The way toward hell is as simple as pursuing the principle of self-centeredness, just as the way towards survival is altruism.

Altruism is the idea of considering the survival of other fellow humans, ahead of one’s survival. A successful business considers the benefits of the clients, more than the interests of the business owner. Any business succeeds, as long as paying attention to the needs of customers. Profits should be factored in after the consideration of the interests of the customers.

Providing for other people’s needs does not need to be limited to business. It is a way of life that leads to survival instead of self-centeredness, leading to succumbing. Self-centeredness refers to the consideration of one’s interests, as a means of survival. This implies focusing on personal interests, ahead of others.

Exciting answers can be obtained from infants when asked about their future ambitions. The question would be what those pre-scholars would like to achieve when having grown up. Rarely do those children maintain what they would have blurted out during those infantile interviews. They would soon forget ever having responded that way, within a short space of time.

Adults appear as enjoying to listen to such childish responses. Children’s choices are often motivated by what they observed as exciting in their surroundings. Those choices would not be premised on serving other people, necessarily.

I remember my grandson, at the age of three, stating that he wanted to be President Robert Mugabe. This idea may have been spurred by President Mugabe’s regular appearance on the ZBC television screen, viewed as fascinating to the infant. I am not sure what exactly had attracted him to want to become President Mugabe?

Children get attracted by what would not normally attract adults. However, a careful analysis reveals that even adults behave similarly. They get attracted by what benefits them, rather than what benefits other people.

The majority of scholars prefer pursuing professions with higher remunerations, ahead of benefitting other people. Scholars are ordinarily attracted by high-paying professions unless limited by incapacity. In a self-centred environment, rarely do people think in terms of benefitting other people.

That mentality is not only dangerous; it portrays what has led our country to its current chaotic condition. The value of any profession ought to be measured by what benefits other people. Jesus’ services could probably be the only example with the highest degree of serving others more than self.

Many people are known to have displayed selfless service, but none has ever reached Jesus’ level. The entire humanity had been exposed to endangerment until Jesus reversed that condition. It was Jesus’ service that kindled humanity’s hope.  Humanity was granted a choice between accessing life and choosing not to survive.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

Jesus did what those of this world can describe as very unwise. How could a person sitting in an advantageous position expose himself to a disadvantage? This can be calculated as dehumanizing. But Jesus showed that exercising the opposite behaviour is what was unworkable as leading to dehumanization.

Let us consider self-centeredness in a family setup of a couple with two teenage children. A good income-earning man, engaged in employment, but unwilling to share his income with anyone. The wife may be one having engaged in activities, considered as providing to her sensual needs. Both husband and wife pursue lifestyles that make them happy, without considering the interests of the entire family members.

Teenage children pursue interests in their lifestyles. Everyone focuses on pleasing the self, leaving the house in disgusting disorder. Each family member wakes up to engage in activities that encroach on other family members’ activities. Each would be blaming the other for not being considerate.

What could be the envisaged life expectancy of the entire family in that household? The husband might have become an alcoholic. The wife would have engaged in some intimate relationships with other men, considered more reasonable than her ‘inconsiderate’ husband. The teenagers could have fallen into drug patronage, or irreparably hooked up with some dangerous criminals.

That scenario could describe what is common in our environment. This has got nothing to do with the professional backgrounds of family members, necessarily. Both husband and wife may be professional personalities, although failing to cater for the social needs of the family. Their children could have been accorded with best opportunities in upper-class educational institutions.

This describes a scenario of an unworkable family unit. When a considerable number of families lead such lifestyles, one can picture a degraded society. The entire country could be characterized by uncollected rubbish dumps. The rate of criminal activities, including murder cases, would be high, but accepted as normal.

Interestingly, in that scenario, the described family members could be dedicated church-goers. The same church-goers would not be bothered by what happens in the environment. In their self-serving mentality, ordinary people are happy to be served, but without concern for those leading dangerous lifestyles. They fail to recognize the possibility of getting affected by the dangerous behaviour of other people in the environment.

How long can a nation in that condition, last? One doesn’t need to be a prophet to predict that nation’s annihilation, within a short period. When humans normalize conditions of; “each man for himself”, as a kind of lifestyle; that spells the demise of a civilization. The Holy Bible carries stories of nations having gone to oblivion, due to such self-centred ways of living.

Conversely, a family setup with the reversal of the above scenario exudes life potential. Both the husband and wife would assume their respective roles, energetically. They also take interest in what is happening in the environment. Their teenage children would not only help maintain order in the household but would also influence their friends to do likewise in their families.

This describes an ideal family, promoting an altruistic environment. Through the influence of that family, the entire neighbourhood could be a hub of a safe environment. With families that are cultured in altruistic behaviour, a sophisticated civilization could easily immerge, although everything would have started small.

There is no reason to succumb to despair when existing in a degraded environment, where everyone assumes corruption to be the way of survival. There is more to life than just feeding, clothing and surviving, with one’s own family.

A degraded environment needs hard work. But, there cannot be any greater work, than was carried out by Jesus. True believers take interest in doing their part, rather than assuming being incapacitated. Life can only be exciting when granted the opportunity to be of service to other people.

Today, opportunities exist in abundance. There are many ways to serve other fellow humans. The starting point is to know oneself. One cannot be a driver when created to be a sweeper. It takes only the self-centred civilization to think in terms of the best remunerations when pursuing careers. The purpose of life has little to do with other people’s perceptions, but with what God perceives of that individual.

Professionalism matters most. Admirations can also be attracted to those whose professions are considered lowly. Other professions may be regarded as esoteric and more involving. But what makes any job more valuable than others is professionalism. Without professionalism, nothing works.

A professional cleaner is different from an ordinary cleaner. A professional gardener is different from an ordinary gardener. A professional tea brewer is different from an ordinary tea brewer. The list goes on, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, no words of wisdom could be aptly put, on this topic, more than what Solomon proffered in one of his writings:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).

A person of character asks himself the question: “How can I be of service to other people?” Rather than: “How can I be able to manipulate other people, to get the most from them?” The last question is the caption that leads to disaster. But the first leads to happiness, not only towards other people but more so, to the individual concerned.

Parents should not just enjoy listening to young children stating what they would like to be when they grow up. Parents should use that as the best opportunity to engage infants in good communication. What makes them choose the profession that they would have indicated? The adults should help those infants to realize that life is about providing service to other people, more than self-serving.

That should trigger a discussion concerning the value of making other people’s lives better than currently prevails. There is no other purpose for living physically. As Solomon affirmed, there is nothing one can do when having died. But one could be remembered for the best service in this life, regardless of whether considered esoteric or common.

Each person has got a role to play in society. Others are professional musicians. Others are sportspeople. There is no need to envy other people’s talents, but to pursue what one can comfortably do with dexterity, as being of service to others. Not all talents are readily admirable to ordinary people. A person can be engaged in some activities that are spurned by the very people that one would be desiring to serve. Jesus’ services were ordinarily spurned by His peers.

The worst thing any person could do is categorise fellow humans. Other people can be regarded as more important than others. This is a result of ignorance or possibly false information as peddled by Satan, who Jesus said was the father of falsehoods. Nothing can be as foolish as categorizing fellow humans according to class.

This false information is spurred by a failure to appreciate the origin of humanity. If all humans were created in God’s image, how could a sane person assume being better than those scrounging for food leftovers in dustbins? The responsibility of catering for those one sees picking up leftovers in dustbins is vested on the observer.

Jesus perfectly illustrated this condition, using the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan did not entertain excuses for not helping a desperately injured robbery victim. The injured person had been subjected to that condition by self-centred robbers, unknown to the Good Samaritan. Those robbers left the injured person for dead, having stripped him of his valuables.

The victim could not serve himself anymore. It took a responsible Good Samaritan to cater for his needs. Excuses can be as many as can be imagined. But, guided by compassion, the Good Samaritan put himself in the shoes of the victim. He realized that there could not be any excuse, overriding the life-serving medical care.

The Good Samaritan did not think of attending to questions about the causes of robberies in that area. Someone else could be responsible for that. His immediate task was to cater for the injured person. Whether there would be another Good Samaritan to serve, the yet another robbery victim, was beyond his imagination.

He went away convinced that he had helped a victim out of a precarious condition. Using that parable, Jesus taught the principle of making a difference in the dangerous world that we live in. Imagine if more Good Samaritans were found in our country? Jesus ended by advising the legal expert who had asked the question, regarding neighbourhood significance, to go and do likewise (Luke 10:25-37).

Our nation is in a very bad state. It is only the irresponsible people who sit in the comfort of blaming the wicked people, having brought it to the current state. The responsible ones are those who focus on solutions, like the Good Samaritan. He answered to the needs of the injured, without necessarily worrying about the prevalence of the robbers in the area.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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