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Think of some of the great difficulties that you have experienced over the years - ones that you invited into your life on some level or another. This applies to financial dilemmas, dysfunctional relationships, speeding tickets, lawsuits, time-wasting arguments, health problems, and family feuds. For good measure, you can add any other predicament that you could have bypassed in some way or form. Wouldn't it have been easier to avoid these situations than trying to get out of them later?
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer concluded that we forfeit three fourths of ourselves to be like other people. One of the reasons we do this is to try to please everyone. As is to be expected, wanting respect and approval from others is natural for human beings. The problem isn't our desire for respect and approval from a few friends and acquaintances, however. What gets us in trouble is the desire to please the whole world. "I cannot give you the formula for success," claimed American journalist Herbert Bayard Swope, "but I can give you the formula for failure which is: Try to please everybody." These words, indeed, are ones to ponder carefully. Way too many people squander most of their time and energy trying to please others instead of focusing on their own hopes, plans, and dreams. Don't be one of them.
A fireman is lamenting his fate to an acquaintance at the bar. "One day I had to fight a house fire and I saved a family's two dogs. Do you think anyone remembers? Another time my colleagues and I suffered severe smoke inhalation saving an old church from severe damage. Not one person ever mentions this. I also risked my life entering a burning house to save three children. I almost died. Does anyone remember this? Not that I am aware of. "But the only time lever cursed and kicked a barking dog, it turned out to be the mayor's dog," continued the fireman. "Someone saw me do it and told everyone in town. Do you think anyone has forgotten this?" The moral of this story is straightforward: Good deeds are seldom remembered and bad deeds are seldom forgotten. The ideal, of course, would be the converse. No such luck - reality intrudes again!
A scorpion, who wants to get across a pond, spots a friendly frog. The scorpion says to the frog, "How about a lift to the other side of the pond? I can't swim and I would appreciate your helping me out." The frog replies, "No way. I know what scorpions are like. You promised not to sting me one time in the past when I gave you a lift. Yet you didn't keep your commitment and stung me. I almost died. This time you'll probably sting me halfway across the pond, from where I won't be able to swim to shore. I don't want to drown." The scorpion counters, "Don't be silly. If I am on your back, I am dependent on you to get across the pond. If I sting you, I will drown too.
As is to be expected, a large majority of individuals on this planet see themselves as a lot less selfish than the average individual. Upon dose scrutiny, however, this doesn't make much sense. Provided it was possible to measure selfishness, about half of the people would be more selfish than the average person, and about half of the people would be less selfish. The point is, it is to be impossible for a large majority to be less selfish than the average person. There is no need to measure selfishness, however. Truth be known, everyone in this world – including you and me - is selfish.
We live in a culture in which being a nice person is considered tantamount to being a good person. The result is that many nice people are mistaken for fine human beings, when, in fact, they haven't earned this distinction due to their serious character defects. On the other hand, many really good people are mistaken for having serious character defects just because they aren’t the nicest people around. So what makes a good person?
"A good head and a good heart," Nelson Mandela reminded us, "are always a formidable combination." No doubt at times it's hard for a lot of us to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.
According to Samuel Johnson, "most people spend parts of their lives in attempts to display qualities they don't have." Indeed, motivated by the desire to be popular, many human beings go out of their way to impress the world with their nonexistent qualities. They may use expensive clothing, flashy cars, big houses, the latest fads, name-dropping, and past achievements in attempts to claim attention from other individuals. Because we are social animals, the desire to be liked and respected is natural.
Un pájaro herido no puede volar, pero un pájaro que se apega a una rama de árbol, tampoco. Dice el proverbio hindú: "El agua se purifica fluyendo; el hombre, avanzando". El mundo está lleno de sufrimiento; la raíz del sufrimiento es el apego; la supresión del sufrimiento significa la eliminación, el abandono de los apegos. Hay un deseo común, que es el cumplimiento de lo que se cree que va a dar felicidad al yo, al ego. Ese deseo es apego, porque ponemos en él la seguridad, la certeza de la felicidad.