Four Ways to Transcend Selfishness


It’s true that selfishness is part of human nature — just like selflessness and goodness are also part of human nature. The challenge we face is not overcoming human nature, but choosing which attributes of our nature we want to cultivate within ourselves. Selfishness seems to come easier to us than selflessness because:

  • It doesn’t take much effort to take care of your own needs, and ignore others.
  • “The world” is selfish. You see selfishness all around you. Why then should you be different?
  • “Survival of the fittest” demands putting yourself first.
  • You’d have to separate yourself from the world in order not to be selfish — or you’ll be taken advantage of.
  • Selfishness is commonly understood as being synonymous with “human nature.” Why fight our very nature?

The fact that arrogance and greed feel “natural” is a reflection of the narcissistic culture we live in. And yet, all self-growth is predicated on transcending what we’re used to — getting out of our comfort zones — and growing into what and who we want to be. If you are frustrated with your own selfishness and you want to develop selflessness instead, the following four tactics, based on Kabbalistic principles, should help you nurture the better aspects of your nature.

Pursue Knowledge

Our reflective and objective minds allows us to transcend the subjective interests of our impulsive emotions. This is the essence of healthy knowledge: being able to see things from a perspective that is not driven by self-interest, and the exploitation of others. Learning about things that refine life counteracts selfishness. In order to go outside of yourself and your own interests, you need to know what options are outside yourself, and how you can access them. What does the world look like beyond the sphere of your prejudices? How have other people transcended their own setbacks? Expanding your knowledge base — in a humble way — will allow you to shift your focus from yourself to others, and to the greater good and infinite world around you.

Give Charity

Giving money to charity is a sure way to free you from the tentacles of your self-interest. Money epitomizes self-absorption. When you give money to charity, you are giving of your efforts, your abilities, and your time. When you give to charity, you receive something important: You fulfill the fundamental human need to share what has been given to us. Fulfilling that need — within yourself — brings you into contact with, and closer to, your attributes of selflessness.

Practice Faith

The ego is a voice that covers up the free and pure voice that we were born with, also known as the “still small voice”, the “inner child”, and “the soul”. True faith, not blind faith, is not the absence of reason, but a transcendent force that is beyond reason. It allows you to travel within yourself, to a place that is beyond the conventional personality you project, to a place where your still small voice is doing the talking. When your still small voice speaks, you experience no ego and only connection to the infinite world around you. When you focus on the now, you take your selfishness out of the equation.

Love Unconditionally

True love is unconditional love. With superficial love, you love the other in order to have your own needs met. With true love, you love the other unconditionally, whether they meet your needs or not. When you practice unconditional love in your personal relationships, you are exercising your “selflessness muscle”. You are simultaneously overcoming your own selfishness, and making selflessness your default mode of operation.


Go deeper into this subject: Storming Heaven, Two Floods, Money: A Blessing or a Curse, Predetermined Choice, Unconditional Love, Fear Is Really About Loneliness, Chanukah: An American Holiday


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7 years ago

I stumbled across this website this morning and read this article. It’s so true! It’s also short and concise so I actually have time to read it and reflect on it. I also like the fact that I can print it. (Some websites make it impossible to save their articles on the computer to read again later.) Right away I subscribed. Thank you for this helpful inspiring counsel!

Paul Pragsam
6 years ago

i found this very useful.
This organized my thoughts
Thank you and praise the Lord

5 years ago

Great article as a reminder for us to practice the Godliness inside of us. But this could take a whole new level if it were validated with scriptures along the article, at least one or two. 🙂 Thank you!

Lyone Fein
3 years ago

I have been a long time reader of your wonderful emails. So I hope you don’t mind my feedback. It seems to me that these four methods are somewhat long distance, in either time (pursuing knowledge, having faith, loving unconditionally) or space (giving charity). Surely there are ways to overcome selfishness that are more immediate? Such as: lending a helping hand to our spouse; allowing others to have their way/say; yielding to the next car in traffic; etc. Simple and practical, very close to our every day lives and actions.

1 year ago

Amen! This is amazing!

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