We are, by our very nature, selfish. That's because our primary point of reference for our model of the world is ourselves. If we can step away from the positionality of our ego - our narcissistic delusion, our "I-ness" -- and manage to see things from the perspective of the people with whom we interact, this model of the world, and our relationship to it, can change pretty radically.
Relationships are transactional, but, because we are generally not reflexively altruistic societally - in other words, we tend to operate from the primally wired "It's all about me!" - we typically tend to see only our own side of the equation, and often to our peril.
A dear friend of mine taught me this lesson in grand fashion quite recently. She asked me to step away from my model of the world - a model built in part on shame, secretiveness and arrogance - and to take a look at a situation that I had created from the perspective of the other person. What I found when I did this was that these particular aspects of my model had shaped the situation in such a way that something that was, at first blush, rather benign was, in fact, destructive and harmful. A telling example of how ego clouds vision.
By taking another person's point of view, we broaden our own. In doing so, we become aware of not only our own actions, but the consequences of those actions. Understanding both action and consequence can lead us to ownership, and fortify our sense of personal responsibility because it puts us in a place where nothing is assumed and we are beholden to consider all sides of a situation.
There is an ethic in the wisdom teachings suggesting that when you look into the eyes of another person, you are looking at yourself. This is because, in looking into the eyes of another, you are looking into the eyes of God and you - we all -- are God. If you are looking at yourself, then you are acting toward yourself, which leads us to the question, "How would I feel?"
The level of sensitivity and compassion that this perspective breeds is enormous. It moves us from ego-centricity to ethno-centricity - from "me" to "us" -- and that, in the best of all possible worlds, can then lead us to geo-centricity, or "all of us". Ultimately, this reveals our humanity and the true spirit of service with the imperative "my actions are here to serve you" because, in the end, we're only here to help, not hinder, one another.
© 2010 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved