With all the hardships that we go through in life, sometimes it is a tempting road to forget about other people and cater to our needs only. But being selfless goes a long way. It doesn’t just benefit other people but without even realising it, you might find yourself ion an unexpected path that had unfolded from your act of selflessness.

Just like everything in Islam, not one good deed – no matter how small – will go to waste and that includes being selfless.

Abu Ad-Darda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There is no Muslim servant who supplicates for his brother behind his back except that the angel says: For you the same.”  [Sahih Muslim 2732]

Selflessness means caring about other people’s needs before ours, sincerely. 

It is an act of charity as we don’t expect anything in return. But that doesn’t mean we disregard the appreciation that other people have shown to us.

Selflessness will not permeate into our values if we consider our feelings only in a certain conflict. Sometimes, the act of “being yourself” is put out of context. When someone is trying to call us out on our bad behaviour – especially if it affects not one person but many – the first instance that we might think of is “we are just being ourselves – take it or leave it”.

On the other hand, when we are the ones who are giving advice to other people: do it out of love and not judgment. The earth and the heavens are spacious and are made for us to understand each other – they are not tailored for one person only.

Being selfless in essence is being cooperative and tolerant without compromising our values and beliefs.

Practical tip: When you catch yourself being selfish, don’t be ashamed to apologise and learn a few things from the experience. When other people are being selfish, you can only do so much to give an unbiased advice and give them the space to decide what they think is true to their values.

We sometimes experience bad days, but that doesn’t give us the right to treat other people badly.

It’s difficult to put our frustrations aside and switch our happy button instantly– if anything, it is unrealistic. The least that we can do is not spill the stress to other people – especially those closest to us – when they least deserve and expect it. Our tone and body language matter; one doesn’t have to say anything to spark any negative vibes. We could simply storm into our room, lock the door and leave everyone in the house to wonder, “Have we done anything wrong?

When we treat people according to our moods, we are not being our authentic self. We are constantly giving in to our emotions although we might feel guilty at the end. It is easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Remember: we are not faking to be nice here; we simply need some space to breathe.

Practical tip: Communication is always key. When you are frustrated about something, explain this to your family member – you might be surprised when they are more understanding than you assumed them to be. You might want to channel that frustration creatively by painting, writing, sports, etc. If it’s serious, don’t be ashamed to seek help from professionals. And above all, find solace in God’s company. Always remember to seek protection from shaytaan – from anger and anything that would add fuel to the fire –  by praying to God.

Sometimes, you deserve to be selfish, too.

If there is one person I can think of who has every right to be selfish, it’s a mother – one who has sacrificed a lot, even when it means they will have to lose something they love to do or have. There’s no question that they would do anything for us.  The question that seems to be more fitting to a mother is, “What wouldn’t they do for us?”. The pure love of a mother to a child is truly beyond measures; one that no other role of a human being can ever comprehend.

Seeing an exhausted mother is a normal sight to children, especially a full-time working mother. It’s high time that we deliver actions rather than the mere use of good words to show the world how awesome your mother or father are.

Practical tip: For mothers and anyone alike, put aside a “me” time occasionally and explain this to your family or spouse as to why you need it. Otherwise, treat yourself with something rewarding and don’t feel guilty about it; you deserve it. To others, we should show some appreciation by helping around the house and not complaining about their shortcomings. Empathise and think about what it would be like to be in their shoes.

The other flip side to being selfless is one’s tendency to say “yes” to every task given, to a point where it becomes unhealthy. 

This usually comes from the fear of rejecting other people, even if that means it is going to suck our positive energy out and leave us becoming a doormat to some people – simply because we are people pleasers. This will affect our good intention to help and in the long run, turn us into a bitter person. Remember that we are not rejecting them; we are simply saying “no” to a task that is beyond our capability for now.

I also believe that putting our feelings first is not necessarily an act of selfishness in some situation. When we are dealing with abusive and toxic people, the healthiest way to deal with the situation is to walk away but pray for the best for them. Minimise interaction with them if you’re stuck. In a sense, we aren’t being selfish because we are saving ourselves from constantly getting hurt. It is our duty to spread goodness, but it is not our responsibility to “change” other people.

There shouldn’t be total selflessness, and what we aim for is a balance; there should be a liaison between our rationale and emotions.

Practical tip: Surround yourself with positive people who would likely to be the first person to lend you a hand when you are in a deep misery. Invest more time and energy to people who are always there to help.

Above all: be like the honeybees, not “shellfish” 

‘And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed, in that is a sign for a people who give thought.’ [Surah An-Nahl: 68-69]

Bees thrive in a community led by a queen bee. While each bee is indistinguishable in the human eyes, they are born to fulfill a specific role. Some clean the hives; some guard the hives; and some go out to hunt for nectar. And when landing on a flower, they’re so delicate and careful so that the flower wouldn’t be damaged. They will drop the nectar into the hexagonal cells – made from wax by the bees –  in the nest and fan their wings to produce honey. They do their “bee dance” (waggle dance) to show the coordinates of the flowers where the nectar is from, so other bees can go there and feed.

Human beings are the same: we thrive when we help each other and when we fulfill our roles and responsibilities. No one gets left behind.

Unfortunately today, there are people who are willing to do whatever they can to make money, even if it violates many aspects in a community that would otherwise be harmonious. Selfishness is one of the traits that has kept some large corporate companies blinded by money and profit; they exploit workers and the environment.

Although “money” was in the honey for the bees, they don’t exploit each other so one bee can have more than the other.  In fact, when they work together they can produce more honey than they need. So, humans can benefit from the honey too.

If we start working like the honeybees, we would surely go a long way.

Practical tip: Help anyone who are in need, be it in the form of money, time or energy. The effort counts.