Have you ever heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a selfless act”? When you think about it, there is truth to it. When we do something for someone else, there is often a great benefit to us. Either it makes us feel good to do it, which is a reward in itself, or we expect to be repaid in kind for it. So, what does it mean, then, when the ancient kabbalists tell us that our life’s work is to transform our selfish nature into a truly giving and selfless one? What does it mean to be selfless?
"What does it mean to be selfless?"
On the surface, the answer is that selflessness means giving to others. We might give our time, our advice, our money, or our love. But even our giving can come from a selfish place. Are we giving because we expect something in return? Are we helping someone because it makes us feel more in control? Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Do we think the Creator will reward us for it?
For most of us, we approach our spiritual work with purpose. Sometimes there is a physical purpose – we hope to meet our soulmate, to find the perfect job, to have a beautiful home. We know that the Creator wants to send us all of these things, we just need to do the work to merit those gifts. So, we dive into our spiritual work with that goal in mind. Other times, there is a spiritual purpose to our work – as we grow closer to the Creator, we know that our souls become more fulfilled. We do the work because we know our soul will benefit from it.
While it’s true that our spiritual work does in fact bring physical and spiritual blessings into our lives, when we focus on what we hope to gain, we connect to the act of receiving. In other words, it is not truly selfless because our attention is on getting instead of giving.
"Are we doing this to reveal Light in the world?"
True selflessness means doing work to reveal Light in the world with no intention of receiving anything for ourselves. It is important that we think about why we are sharing with others. Are we doing this to reveal Light in the world or are we doing it for ourselves? Reaching the level of total selflessness is not an easy task. It takes a lifetime or more to achieve this!
The most selfless entity that we can come to know and appreciate in our lives is the Creator. The Creator shares endlessly with us – without thought of gaining anything in return.
To ask what it means to be selfless is to ask how we can be like the Creator, and that is the real purpose of our spiritual work.