Everyone hates the cocky, selfish person. We see someone constantly trying to take from others so that they get more and more, while others get less and less.
We all like generous people. We think highly of the person who gives more and more to others.
From a systems standpoint this is interesting because some people are able to be extremely selfish but hide their selfishness. They convince those around them that they are very generous. The reality is that they are both. Trying to judge people as being one or the other is actually fruitless because they are both.
I enjoy watching documentaries. I recently found a series of documentaries that present famous mafia and gangsters in the United States. I keep seeing a theme. Regardless of which organized crime member is being outlined, it seems like people in their community thought highly of the individual at times.
They thought they were generous and caring. They thought they protected their neighborhood. They saw them as standing up to corruption.
When you look at their actual behaviors you realize that they maintained this by doing certain things that people noticed, such as giving money to the community or attacking outside criminals that entered the neighborhood.
But they also committed crimes such as murdering those they disagreed with, stole from people in the community, and brought illegal drugs into the neighborhood.
So how can they do such positive and negative things? We all like to see things as black and white. We ignore large parts of the system to focus on something that simplifies how we should feel.
This is called linear thinking. We ignore large parts of the system and focus on a few specific elements that align with our emotions.
But systems are almost always more complicated than that. These individuals are a good example of that complexity. Did they do some good things in their life? Yes of course. Did they do some horrible things in their life? Yes of course.
When it comes to your own life, realize that you do the same thing. You probably gloss over things about you that hurt others while you overemphasize the things that you do that are generous.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if we can just realize it is happening. Once we can see the full system, we can get a better understanding of this and then align our thoughts and behaviors with who we want to be.
At times we will have to be selfish and look out for our self. Other times we should look to be generous with our time and money.
We obviously don’t want to be as extreme as some of these members of organized crime. But we should put certain things ahead of others.
We should probably make sure we could pay our bills before we give a bunch of money to charity. But we should also avoid buying extravagant things if we aren’t able to help those around us in any way.
The key is to be able to understand the full system and then balance it so that we have control over it. This way we can avoid the extremes and make sure we aren’t deceiving our self into thinking we are something that we are not.