Is selflessness dead?

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains mention of suicide. If you are feeling anxious, depressed or suicidal please ask for help. You are loved by more people than you realise. There are lots of services available to help you, many of them 24 hours a day. Below you can find a list of Australian services.
24/7 Kids helpline phone service 1800 55 1800
Kids Helpline online chat
24/7 Beyond Blue phone service 1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue online chat services
24/7 Lifeline phone service 13 11 14
Lifeline online chat services
Beyond Blue and Lifeline collaborative text service 0477 13 11 14 (this is a trial service in action as of October 3rd 2018)
Please look into your own local and national services if you could find use from professional help. TheHopeLine is an international service that provides support online and through their free app.

I think selflessness is underappreciated in society today. Helping a fellow human isn’t considered a valid reason for your own occasional shortcomings. The world seems to promote selfishness; take care of your own needs first before helping others. It’s a very cushy way to think: I need to help myself before I can help others. To some extent, I agree with it – but not completely.
Recently I made friends with some people online. One morning, I woke up to discover on the group chat that a girl had attempted to commit suicide. She was in hospital with minimal chance of surviving. I was pretty gloomy for the rest of that day – when I got home from school I found out she had died in hospital. She was gone. I cried a lot for this girl I’d never met in real life, but the few times I’d interacted with her, she was so kind to everyone.
One of girl’s friends was understandably very distressed and we poured out hearts out to them in the group chat, trying to support them in any way that we could. They cried that it was their fault and that they should have tried more to stop her. We tried to convince them that one person couldn’t necessarily prevent someone else from committing suicide. I stayed up with this person for a while talking and listening to them, trying to comfort them. Then when I signed off, I kept thinking about them and praying until the wee hours of the morning. This particular night, I’d already finished my homework by the time I started talking. When I went to school the next day, I was like a zombie. I drifted mindlessly through my lessons and spent most of my energy trying to act normal. At the end of the day though, I let myself cry as I was walking back to my locker. My best friend started chatting to me, not realising I was crying and I tried to hide my tears and choked up voice. When we hugged goodbye, she realised something was wrong and asked me why I was upset. I told her, and the one of first things she asked me was when I found out. I think she was disappointed that I’d waited so long to tell her something was wrong. I’d been crying on and off all day, and but no-one asked what was going on except for her at the end of the day; I hope that’s because I did a good job of hiding it.
So that’s the context of my gripe; what happened a few days later is what I’m worked up about. A few days passed and I was still sad. Then, this time BEFORE I’d finished my homework the girl’s friend reached out to me again. They were feeling guilty and hurting themselves, wanting to die too. I stayed up with them again and by the time we were done I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to do my homework. I worried about them as I fell asleep but my body wouldn’t let me stay conscious. When I went to class the next day the teacher asked why I hadn’t done my homework. I considered telling him I was helping a friend with an emergency, but immediately in my head I was able to imagine what he would say: ‘Your grades have to come first. You friends will be there tomorrow. You knew this was due today, that’s no excuse’. So I just said I didn’t do it, hoping he wouldn’t press me for a further reason.
Initially I was astonished at myself for judging him so harshly, but honestly, I still think that’s what would have happened had I said I was helping a friend. I wanted to say “You don’t know what kind of chaos is going on inside my head right now – I’d rather miss this due date knowing this human is alive for one more day than ignore their cry for help, do my homework and wake up to hear that this person had killed themselves too!”. I’m not saying I saved their life, but I would still rather see them online the next day feeling sleep deprived and risk detention than get my homework done, knowing they asked for my help and wake up to a smaller chat.
Some people would say that giving up my sleep and risking punishment to help this person I’d never met was selfless; I didn’t think about that at the time, all I wanted to do was make sure this person knew that suicide wasn’t a good option. That they were loved and couldn’t blame themselves for their friend’s suicide. I think it was the right thing for me to have done. So why then, did I think that I would get into trouble for telling the truth about what I did? Why did I think that I would be told off for doing what I thought was the right thing? That is so sad. We are told in school that our studies have to come first. Things are a little better now and schools try to promote a balance between work and play, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough.
So I find myself asking the question, is selflessness dying out? I don’t think it’s appreciated as much as it should be. I didn’t want or need attention drawn to the fact I tried to help this person – in fact I was perfectly happy to give up my sleep to help without saying a word. I didn’t want attention to be on me for doing it, I didn’t think it was deserving of special attention. It was something I believed any decent human would do. But here I am, bringing attention to it. Because I think it’s so much worse for someone to value their own grades over someone else’s life. I am so sad that I was too afraid to tell the truth because I thought I would get in worse trouble than having no reason at all. So right now, I encourage you to help people. If anyone reaches out to you and needs help, drop that assignment. Never mind that sleep. Forget about that test. Because a life is so much more valuable than something as temporary as a grade.
Appreciate sacrifice and selfless people – they are standing up against everyone who says they’re outdated pleasantries. That isn’t easy to do. It’s so appealing to be told we should serve ourselves before others. It feeds into our selfish desires. To stand against that idea takes courage. Jesus calls us to love others as ourselves, to be servants in this world. What kind of servants are we to serve only ourselves and earthly masters instead of serving our friends who need our help? I know that I would feel so worthless if I reached out to a friend but they couldn’t help me because they were doing homework. Maybe that’s selfish of me and hypocritical since I’m trying to promote selflessness. But you may just save that person’s life, and that is worth any punishment the world can bring.

One thought on “Is selflessness dead?

  1. I’m really sorry about your friend 😦 that’s just hard. What you did for your other friend though is lovely, gotta be tough to help someone through! Grades are important but not so much as someone knowing they’re important.
    Selflessness is scarce in a culture where the polar opposite is campaigned to be seen as a “good thing” I know where your coming from.

    Liked by 1 person

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