I am no big fan of self-help books or of self-help columns, although the existence of this blog suggests it may be otherwise. Now and then I do read the insights of others and apply them to myself. Today I read an article on the Huffington Post by Susan Smalley, on "the biology of selfishness". She uses an instance of line-cutting as an example. And at the end she asks us to watch ourselves and the times we are tempted to cut in front of others in line, for our own advantage.
Most of the time I am well-behaved. I treat others with respect.
There are exceptions. When I am overly tired I might react uncharacteristically and pigheadedly deny any advantage I have rudely taken. And when I am flat-broke and wondering where the next meal is coming from I am more likely to seize upon opportunities to take money that are not honorable. If I found a wallet with money and identification in it I could not take that money and I would try to contact that owner or would turn it into the police department. But there are other ways when I will easily give in to temptation, with nary a backward glance at the sad eyes of my conscience.
If I am worrying about money and am in some big retail store and the clerk either charges me too little or gives me too much change I will walk away with the extra. I justify it by figuring the company is ripping off its employees and me anyway.
Sure, there are times I tell the clerk, "Did you ring this up?" More likely, I think, when the clerk has been nice to me, but on the other hand I often actually bring it up to the careless, rude clerk, as an example to him or her, perhaps to show that I am the better person?
There is no question that doing the right thing makes me feel good. That's the prime motivator and it's extremely selfish.