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The enemy called ‘self’, By Chinwe Bode-Akinwande (CBA)



How did the word ‘Selfish’ come about? What does it mean for someone to be selfish or self-centered? Have you ever considered ‘self’ an enemy?

It’s rather amazing to discover that the person operating in selfishness sees it to be the right thing to do and possibly continue in the act. I recall reading an article by Dr. Raymond Nourmand, Ph.D. on the Importance of Being Selfish’. I personally do not agree to the angle it was taken. Yes, I agree that human beings have the tendency of being selfish and at some point exhibit it, however care must be taken to distinguish Selfishness from Self-Love.

I will align the article of Dr. Raymond Nourmand, Ph.D. to self-love.

Under self-love, we act to serve ourselves, eat what tastes good to us, befriend those who understand us, and do what brings happiness to us.

Are there times it is acceptable to be selfish? When and why?

I understand being selfish from the dictionary to mean:

  • Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
  • Characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself:

Despite the negative connotation of “selfish,” selfishness is not always bad. “Good selfishness,” is that which benefits both ourselves and other people. Harry Browne refers to good selfishness as a two-sided transaction, an exchange where two people willingly part with something in order to gain something they value. Because both people are winning something they want, Covey calls this a win-win transaction.


The opposite is the case for bad selfishness and neutral selfishness.

Neutral selfishness is not mutually beneficial but does not hurt another person. Here is how John A. Johnson Ph.D. in Cui Bono described it – Neutral selfishness includes looking after your own well-being in ways that do not directly and substantially involve other people. If I take five minutes to brush my teeth to avoid the ill effects of tooth and gum disease, this is a form of neutral selfishness. In looking after my dental hygiene, I am neither taking away from someone’s well-being nor adding to it. The same would be true if I take 10 minutes every morning to meditate.

Scenario where people benefit at the expense of others is bad selfishness. Take criminal acts for instance – obtaining by force, assault, theft, and fraud. Harry Browne refers to the use or threat of violence to take from others what they do not want to voluntarily give up a one-sided transaction. And this is simply bad!

Selfishness makes us treat our possessions as if they belonged to God. They don’t. He’s just letting us use them. But many times He requires something from us – possibly our time, our treasure, or our talent. Too often we say ‘NO!’ and keep it all to our self. At that point selfishness has set in.  We refuse to listen but God continues to plead with us through people, circumstances, and our own conscience to give Him what He requires. Martin Luther once said, “If I were God and the world had treated me as it treated Him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.” Aren’t you glad God is God?

Find a way to examine yourself:

  • Was there ever a time in your life when you had the choice to be selfish or unselfish?
  • What was the situation? What choice would have been the selfish option and what would have been the unselfish choice?
  • Was it a difficult decision for you? Why or why not?
  • What choice did you make?
  • How might the situation have changed if you made a different decision? Would it have created a better or worse outcome?
  • What do you believe is the greatest danger of selfishness?
  • Who is the most unselfish person you know? What qualities or actions have you seen in this person’s life that lead you to believe he or she is unselfish?
  • What causes people to be selfish? What makes some people unselfish?


Chinwe Bode-Akinwande (CBA) is the founder of Chinwe Bode Akinwande – CBA Foundation 

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