Word of the Day: Selflessness

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1. No concern for oneself especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish. 

Selflessness is the state of being unselfish: Anatta in Buddhism. Altruism.

Origin:  “devotion to others’ welfare or interest and not one’s own,” 1825.

First attested in Coleridge. Related: Selflessly ; selflessness.

(Source: Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper.)



“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of one’s neighbor that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man and Prison Writings


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Food for thought: If one possesses selflessness, do they think less about self, and more about others? Is selflessness congruent with generosity, kindness, and altruism? Or is it simply a term to explain the ability to give to others without looking for personal gain, such as giving time, money, or things to other people without expecting something in return? Do you agree or disagree that the world would be a better place if humans possessed more selflessness? Feel free to comment and share your perspective.

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