At an open lecture at a leading software company some time ago, I made the comment: “Love is seeking the highest best of the other person; it is not about your own interests.” An employee caught up with me at the end and inquired: “Is that kind of love possible?” I gave her an illustration of a mother who takes care of an ailing child—sacrificing her own comforts and well-being to ensure that the child is comfortable. This young lady thought for a moment and quipped: “Perhaps the mother does it because it is her own child.” She was suggesting that the reason for the mother’s selflessness is actually self-centeredness. A few years ago, a leading magazine in India carried a cover page article titled, “Twenty-five ways to be happy” written by a well-known columnist. Her very first point was similar: “Be selfish.”
Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, presents a darkly selfish story within the award-winning story of the kite runner: "That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and hardly shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms."(1)
On the contrary, it is heartening to read of many leading billionaires in the world who are setting a remarkable model on giving. Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates unveiled the largest philanthropic drive ever. They started a campaign to get the richest men and women in the world to give away fifty percent of the wealth to charity during their lifetime or after their death. Buffett has pledged to give away an unbelievable ninety-nine percent of his wealth.
With a similar altruism, the heroes and heroines of the terrorist attack at the Taj hotel in Mumbai were its employees. Putting their lives on the line, these men and women braved the attack, and although they knew where the exit points were in the hotel, they stayed back to rescue as many guests as possible. In the process, eleven of them paid with their lives. No wonder Professor Rohit Deshpande at Harvard Business School has made this example a case study on customer-centric leadership.
It appears that one camp seeks to be at the giving side and another prefers to be stay put at the receiving end.
The Bible says, “Greater love has no man (or woman) than that he (or she) lay down their life for their friends.” Jesus died on the cross in a supreme example of love for his friends, even friends who turned away from him, and ‘friends’ who had no awareness of what he was doing. He commanded his disciples to love their enemies and at a climactic moment near death, looked at his tormentors who crucified him and prayed; “Father forgive them.”
While we may all be guilty of self-centeredness, Jesus can make a change in our lives. Opening our hearts, he pours his love into our lives.(2) Jesus gave himself up for you and me and the best response we could exhibit is to give back our lives to him in gratitude, for it is far more blessed to give than to receive.
Neil Vimalkumar Boniface is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Chennai, India.
(1) Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2003), 31.
(2) See Romans 5:1-5.