The Selfless Life
Monday, February 6th, 2023
by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD
Every year I purchase a Lakota calendar that has a mix of great art and great information about various aspects of Lakota life, language, spirituality, and cultural values. When I turned the calendar to February, I discovered this month’s theme is “selflessness.” The next paragraph is what is written on the calendar for February.
“You must help others before you think of yourself. Help the widow and the orphans and those who have little to wear, little to eat, and no one to speak for them. Do not look down on others, or see those who look down on you, and do not let anger guide your mind or your heart. Be generous, be wise, and show fortitude so that people can follow what you do and then what you say.”
We live our best lives when we live a selfless life.
A selfless approach to life is somewhat countercultural these days. Our inclination is clearly to look out for “number one.” The individualism of US culture sometimes works against a selfless way of life.
At the same time, we strive to be a culture that cares about the widow and the orphan, and that sees every person as valuable and important. There are many within our individualistic culture that recognize the need to think and live a bit more like a collective culture where the task of everyone is to make sure everyone has their needs adequately met.
Lakota culture at its best does exactly that.
Imagine the impact on our psychological well-being that selfless living provides. There is something about the call to service that resonates in our human psyche. And when we engage in selfless service to others we discover a certain calmness within ourselves. It somehow feels right, and that leads to a feeling of significance, of purpose and meaningfulness.
If you are reading this and are a person of Christian faith, you might recall Paul’s line in one of his letters where he tells his readers to not look out for their own interests only, but also for the interests of others. In my experience, basically all good religious systems and all good psychological modalities encourage us to meet the needs of others because that is when we are at our human best.
If you need to work through your own struggles and challenges to free up your energy to better engage in a healthy selflessness, consider spending some time with a good psychotherapist. We have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton - who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.