Introduction: Self-Interest

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

My experiences of the last few years have given me important lessons about the course of my life.

A major Lesson: people are self-interested, which means that they are willing to follow thoughts and structures that they believe best help them navigate life.

That was a lesson I didn’t fully understand until a few months before Mary and I filed for divorce. Allow me to try to explain.

First, I had to learn that others navigate their life by their own self-interest. To do that they will make decisions that they believe are right for them, whether education, career, religion, or family.

Second, I had to learn that in navigating their life by their own-self interest many downplay the reality of navigating their life by their own self-interest. Since they are primarily interested in their own self-interest, they provide guidance to others not only from the perspective of their own self-interest, but also from the perspective of protecting their own self-interest.

For me, that made a personal quandary, a perplexing situation that I had no resolution to.


Because, I was taught by self-interested people who would also deny that they were being self-interested. Yet, when confronted, several willingly admitted that they thought everybody acted in their own self-interest.

As one who was brought up in a religious setting, I was taught by family, friends, and the Church to not focus on my needs, and to not focus on my self-interests.

To do that they would appeal to passages like Jesus and his teachings about not worrying about the needs of life (Matthew 6.25-34).

All the while, they would establish their present and their future with all kinds of self-protective mechanisms, which would also mean that they expected the community of family, and/or of friends, and/or of the Church, and/or of the Society to yield its self-interests to the supposed greater needs.

It was only later that I learned, the previous was often personal self-interest guised as communal interest. In other words, the individual masked that they were seeking their own self-interest.

At times, communal interests require the personal self-interest to take a back seat. Other times, the personal self-interest requires the communal interests to take a back seat. In other words, the personal self-interest cannot always sacrifice communcal interests, and the communal interest cannot always sacrifice personal interests. Finding the balanace is difficult.

But I had to learn -and it was a difficult lesson but a freeing one- that I was permitting families and entities within SCECS to place their expectations about me, and for me, upon me. Therefore expecting me to sacrifice my personal self-interests for the community.

In essence, in my naiveté, I allowed them to lead me to believe that certain things are to my benefit; all the while they themselves would choose avenues for their own self-interest, protecting their own self-interests many times to the detriment of my and/or other people’s self-interests.

As an example: families and entities within SCECS taught me to be honest and tell the truth. But in practicality, something different was taking place. I came to learn that on occassion, they used all manner of reasoning to not be honest and to not tell the truth in order to advance what they believed was their own self-interest.

In application, what that does is: on me they put their expectations, instructing me to be honest and truthful, while reserving for themselves the avenue of advancing their own self-interest while demanding that I remain honest and truthful.

Of that, the practical results are for me a detriment, while the practical results are for them, a benefit.

That lesson culminated in this: I had to choose to limit SCECS from having a driving influence and force in my own life with specific applicability to my personal relationship.

With that, I have come to a place where I have learned to accept that SCECS has a way of managing itself, which in and of itself is neither good nor bad, because, by its very nature, individuals, families, and entities within SCECS have their own self-interest in mind.

Therefore, in making my own decisions for my own self-interest, I have come to see that SCECS allows people to make their own decisions, but that SCECS also maintains its right to direct its own self-interests.

In life, that seems proper: I want the ability to make decisions for my own self-interest, others have to have that ability as well. Others have the ability to make decisions for their own self-interest, I have to have that ability as well.

Therefore, I have come to learn that I must make decisions that are in my own self-interest, things that are right for me and those that are currently in my immediate association, those being Mary and our children.

I have also come to learn that making my own self-interested decisions has put me at odds with family and friends who believe that SCECS has overriding influence for determining a person’s course of life.

Some individuals within SCECS have counseled me conveying that each person is free and must make their own individual choices, but that individuals, families, and entities within SCECS do not have to like or accept that individual’s choice.

The interesting thing is that counsel works in reverse, meaning that individuals, families, and entities within SCECS are free to make their choices, but I as an individual do not have to like or accept their choice.

That creates a type of interesting dichotomy, the struggle of self-interest, which goes a long way in explaining why there is much turmoil within the United States.