On the Corner of Selfish and Selfless

To what end are we traveling? How do we return trust and compassion to a world divided by self-absorption?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

—Book of Jeremiah, 29:11 from the King James Bible

The Book of Jeremiah is one of judgment and patience. Iniquitous behavior would be punished; sacrifices would be rewarded. Jeremiah spoke to people who were not listening, each a selfish isle to themselves. He exhibited courage in his solitary mission to convey an important message to the people who chose to ignore him.


Tammy Hader
Tammy Hader
Tammy Hader has no writer’s pedigree. With a BBA in accounting from Wichita State University, numbers are her history. The CPA exam was passed, because that’s what accountants are supposed to do, and thirty years later her accounting life ended with the desire to journey down a different career path. The compass turned toward words to create a new legacy beyond spreadsheets. Her nostalgic writing reflects on the past to explain the present and shine into the future the light of lessons learned. Growing up in a small Midwestern town, influenced by relationships, choices, consequences, and situations, her life is not unique. In her stories, you will recognize reflections of your own past, understand how you arrived at today’s version of you and gaze with her across the bridge into the future.

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  1. What a thought-provoking piece, Tammy! I love that this was born out of you being so reflective over something that, most of us, would have likely just read and not registered. Your thoughtful ripples will stay with me for some time. I’ll especially be chewing on: “Getting involved promises the most risk and the biggest reward.”

    • Thank you, Kimberly. I finding myself chewing on that sentence in many of life’s situations. For me, getting involved has meant being taken advantage of and having met a life long friend. As much as I try to be smart in reading situations, sometimes you just don’t know which way it’s going to go.

  2. Tammy Hader you’re such a fantastic story teller! 👏💙👏 I was hypnotyzed from the from to the last word 🤩

    I’m not a religious neither — I used to be for 90% of my life until experiencing an existential crisis, and figuring out the only divinity I want to believe in and for whom I’m so #grateful for my #awakening is a #pure #love one who would never #punish or #reward, who would only love and guide.

    I am a #spiritual. I just define it differently: Spirituality to me is the #selfawareness making it possible for us to diagnose our behavior, choices and thoughts in relation with the #spirit and re-write the #program.

    The spirit to me is the core part, the #universalcorrectprinciples original Center granted fairly to all human #beings at the moment of their conception by their parents; and which was only numbed by the life-time #conditioning!

    More to the point, not all of us are religious maybe. But, all of us are definitely spiritual whenever we start being #selfaware.

    Regarding whether one person is able of making a difference, I guess the chills I felt all over my body listening to this incredible story is a solid proof it is the case 💙

    • Thank you, Myriam. I am so glad my story resonated with you. I too prefer the idea of spirituality instead of religion. I believe one’s everyday behavior toward self and others is a significant indicator of who we are at our core. Whether the definition is being a Christian or being spiritual is less important than the behavior itself.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Tammy, first and most important, I admire you tremendously as a writer.

    Second, apropos of the story you’ve shared here, I share these:

    Third, while I, too, am neither a terribly religious person nor a conspiracy theorist, a friend recently lent me this book, which I’m finding riveting:

    I’m reminded of it now because you used the terms judgment and patience to describe the Book of Jeremiah. Not many people equate the two or view them as being compatible, let alone necessary or mutually inconclusive. My hat is off to you for that.

    Finally, I agree with everyone who’s commented in this thread so far. If judgment and patience can be mutually inclusive, coexisting, so can selfish and selfless. What will be judged, and the true test of our patience, is how we manage and reconcile the two.

    My Spidey Sense tells me you do that thoughtfully and compassionately.

    Thank you for helping the rest of us do the same.

    • Thank you so much for your admiration and for the links you have shared. I’ll be sure to check those out.

      Very few things in the world are as simple as either this or that. We all have moments of selfishness and of selflessness. Judgment and patience are complementary companions. The harshest judgments I pass are when I see myself in selfish moments. Patience is necessary to allow forgiveness to foster growth. Honesty and compassion bridge the two.

      That being said … there are still those moments that all rational thought goes right out the window. Patience is lost, judgment is clouded, and for me, there’s usually a lot of cursing. 🙂 Nobody is perfect.

  4. Thank you for this thought-provoking piece, Tammy. As someone who stands (almost) every Wednesday evening with three other people at the main intersection of my community with a Love sign and smiling, waving at all the people who drive through this intersection or have approached us to ask questions. Yes, we are only standing for Love. Yes, that simple. I know the power of one person (and the four of us) making a positive difference. Children have made their own “Love” signs that they then roll down their window and hold out the window as their parents wave and drive by. Many smiles, car horn beeps, even grown men who’ve approached us and gotten tears in their eyes after learning we are only standing and radiating love to our community and visitors. We’ve been doing this practice every Wednesday from 5 pm to 6 pm since September of 2018 with much joy. Between selfish and selfless lives purposefully, passionately self-aware and in contribution. Once my common cold has fully healed I plan to return to the intersection with my sign. My two favorite mantras are “self-care, self-aware, focus out” and “love always finds a way to love.”

    • Simply inspired, Laura.Such power in emanating and inviting love into our community and world. Thank YOU.

    • What a lovely thing for you and your friends to do for your community. Thank you for sharing your story with us and hope you feel better very soon.

  5. Tammy — Did the sign read “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you,” or was it the full biblical passage “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.—Book of Jeremiah, 29:11 from the King James Bible”?
    – If it was the former, I don’t know what I would have made of it, as I don’t know scriptures at all. That said, those words alone – to me – have a sort of ominous tone to them: judgment day is coming.
    – If it was the latter, I might have felt as I do now that the verse is imploring you to do good because in the end, God will see it and reward you. It’s not doing good for its own sake, but to be rewarded.

    What’s fascinating is your interpretation. I love where you took the experience of seeing something and making a message of it.

    • The sign was the shorter passage plus it said Jeremiah 29:11. It wasn’t a big enough sign for the entire passage. I hope it was meant to implore us to do good. This is why I’m glad I didn’t stop to talk to her. I’d rather be left to interpret it as a positive request instead of an ominous warning.

      At the time my thoughts were filled with sadness as I was dealing with a family crisis and watching my beloved orange tabby die. I think I needed a message.

    • Family crisis has worked itself out and all are doing well, thanks. I still miss my orange boy every day though. He was such a sweetheart. Hope you are doing well, too. It’s a bit crazy in the world right now.

  6. Tammy – One person can indeed make a difference – the lady on the corner made a difference in you! I make it a practice to smile and say hello to strangers, say good day to anyone wearing a name tag by calling them by name, to offer assistant to people in a checkout line, and smile at anyone who catches my eye. I hope it makes their day a little brighter – s little warmer – a little better – just because. Great article – thanks for sharing.

    • There is something about a smile. Such a simple gesture and yet surprisingly powerful and contagious. Thank you for sharing your difference making practices with us.

  7. Tammy, kindness, morality, and being less self-centered are all important. As far as one person making a difference is concerned I believe that yes you can. I am a religious person (an Orthodox Jew) so believe in what I am taught. I not preaching to you as everybody has their own feelings. Thank you for sharing your article.

    • A single stranger on a corner certainly made a difference for me. So I guess one person can make a difference. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Tammy, all it takes sometimes is one person to make a difference in your life or anybody for that matter. Thank you for your response to my comment.

  8. We must give up pigeonholing who and how we should be, whether selfish or altruistic. We must evaluate our choices from time to time: the situations and contexts determine how it is better to choose. The sooner we learn this, the better we will know how to behave.

    • I agree with Larry. Well said. Life is not as simple as being either selfish or selfless. We are complicated creatures and circumstances are part of the equation. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

  9. Tammy in life we travel many roads, meet many people. Perhaps selfish and selfless are not places we go but choices we make. The road I travel is not predetermined I have many choices along the way. With each choice you make, you go from innocence to wisdom and knowledge. Thank you for share such a thought provoking article. I look forward to reading more.

    • Yes, life is full of choices. Whether good or bad, our choices shape who we are. When it come to selfish behavior, in simple terms, we all have our moments. There are lessons to be learned from moments of selfishness. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Are there 2 roads – selfish and selfless, or, perhaps, there’s one road with space for both of them? In honoring our own needs, sometimes we are unknowingly acting in service of others (e.g., spreading contagious courage, abundant joy, perspective and possibility). Oh, I do believe that one person can make a difference, and that when any one of us chooses to act, we make the distance between the islands a bit smaller. Thanks for a thought and hear -full post!

    • Yes, we are not merely one or the other. Well placed selfishness can be a means of recharging the batteries, giving one strength to be more selfless. Distance can help us appreciate closeness. That sort of thing. Thank you for sharing your perspective with me.