Why Looking Out For Yourself Is A Noble Act
Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of flak, especially from friends and family, for always saying I look out for myself first before I look out for anybody else.
When I say “looking out for myself,” I mean the conscious effort to make rational decisions that lead to the greatest amount of happiness for me in the long run, as long as the actions resulting from those decisions do not involve the use of force or fraud against anyone else.
Long-term thinking is an important part of “looking out for myself,” because short-term pleasure can be self-destructive if not balanced against long-term effects. For example, if a guy commits armed robbery, the fruits of his crime may provide him with short-term pleasure. However, the long-term consequences—the stress of being incarcerated—are certain to cause him anguish that outweighs his short-term rewards. It goes without saying that merely thinking about the short term is not a sensible approach to living one’s life.
Everyone, whether deliberately or unknowingly, attempts to make judgments that result in more pleasure and less pain, yet such decisions are not always reasonable. To make reasonable decisions, you must be aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
If you want to make intelligent pleasure or pain decisions deliberately and consistently, you must increase your consciousness to a higher level of awareness. This, in turn, allows you to behave out of choice—your choice—the majority of the time.
Taking action based only on your own rational choices is at the top of your mental awareness meter, while taking action based on what others choose for you is at the bottom. If you’re in the habit of not basing your actions on your own reasonable choice, you’re out of control, and anyone out of control is hazardous to himself and everyone around him.
When people ask me if it’s moral to look out for oneself, I tell them that the first step in determining the answer to that issue is to exclude the unsolicited opinions of others. Morality—the character of right and wrong—is a very personal and private affair; therefore, no one has the authority to determine what is right or wrong for you.